Universal Soldier appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. Despite a few minor concerns, this became a largely solid presentation.
Overall sharpness worked well, as most of the movie showed nice clarity and accuracy. A few softer shots emerged at times, though, usually during interiors.
While light grain cropped up during daytime exteriors, nighttime shots and interiors tended to feel a little “scrubbed”, so I suspected mild use of digital noise reduction. These sequences still demonstrated fairly good definition, so I didn’t think the transfer went overboard with DNR, but it still resulted in a slightly “too clean” image.
I saw no signs of jagged edges or moiré effects. Print flaws failed to become an issue.
The film tended toward a blue-oriented palette, and the tones felt pretty good. The disc’s HDR added some zing to the hues and allowed them to come across with fairly positive vivacity.
Blacks were reasonably deep, while shadows felt mostly fine, though slightly dinged due to the DNR. I would’ve preferred an image without tampering, but the 4K UHD still looked pretty good.
As for the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, it also presented inconsistencies, mainly relate to the soundscape. Soldier gave us an active mix that tended to use the surrounds too heavily during action scenes.
Quieter segments boasted appropriate balance but louder moments lacked the same qualities. This meant material from the rear speakers tended to overwhelm the soundfield during those scenes.
Still, this was a generally immersive soundscape. I wish the back channels didn’t overpower the front at times, but the mix worked fairly well most of the time.
Audio quality was relatively positive. Music showed fairly good range and pep, and effects boasted reasonable accuracy and clarity.
Speech became natural and concise. With a more balanced soundscape, this would’ve been a very good track.
How did the 4K UHD compare to the old Blu-ray from 2008? Though the 2019 disc switched from PCM to DTS-HD MA, the impact felt similar, so don’t anticipate any real differences between the two mixes.
As for the visuals, the 4K UHD brought superior accuracy, colors and clarity. Even with its quibbling issues, the 4K UHD became an obvious upgrade over the old BD.
The 4K UHD offers most of the same extras as the Blu-ray plus some others, and we get two audio commentaries. The first comes from director Roland Emmerich, writer Dean Devlin, and actors Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren. Recorded for a 2004 DVD, Devlin and Emmerich sit together for a running, screen-specific chat while separate remarks from the actors get edited into the final product.
Don’t expect much from Van Damme or Lundgren. I doubt they talk for more than five minutes and they give us only minor insights.
Don’t expect much from Emmerich or Devlin, either, as they fail to provide a lot of good material about the film. They tend to reflect on how much better the movie is than they remembered and they offer some decent basics, but a lot of the track lacks substance.
Also, Emmerich proves to be painfully inarticulate. This comes as no surprise to anyone who’s heard his prior tracks, but he remains a tough listen because of his rambling speech patterns.
I don’t like to criticize someone whose natural language isn’t English, but I’ve heard enough non-English natives to know that Emmerich takes this to a higher level. If you simply sipped an alcoholic beverage everytime he muttered “like, kind of”, you’d be blotto within 15 minutes. This turns into a mediocre track at best.
Not found on the 2008 Blu-ray, the second commentary brings another chat with Emmerich and Devlin. Both provide a running, screen-specific look at the same subjects from the other track.
And I mean that literally. If you flip between the two, you’ll often find virtually identical notes for the same scenes.
This makes the second commentary largely redundant, as its unique elements appear too infrequently to matter. Emmerich remains a problematic speaker, so expect many more utterances of “like, kind of” here.
Neither commentary gives us much, but the prior one probably works better. If you skip both, you won’t miss much, but if you opt for a commentary, pick the first one.
An Alternate Ending lasts 13 minutes, eight seconds. It goes down a darker path – and a more final one, too. It’s not a surprise they didn’t use it, since it’s more depressing – and it would’ve made sequels more difficult to achieve.
Some featurettes follow, and Guns, Genes and Fighting Machines runs 18 minutes, 54 seconds. It includes notes from Emmerich, Lundgren, Van Damme and Devlin.
“Genes” looks at the story’s path to the screen, cast and performances, Emmerich’s work on the set, stunts and action, sets and locations, and general thoughts. Some of the content repeats from the commentary, but this remains a fairly effective overview.
Finally, Tale of 2 Titans spans 14 minutes, 12 seconds and brings info from Van Damme and Lundgren. Both discuss their lives and careers. This turns into a decent look at the subject matter.
In addition to the film’s trailer, we wrap up with Behind the Scenes. This 15-minute, 28-second program features rough footage from the set. It’s a good look at the shoot.
Note that the trailer and the “Behind the Scenes” footage didn’t appear on the prior Blu-ray. However, the 2019 disc drops a “Trivia Track” from the earlier release. It wasn’t great, but it still should’ve been included here.
A second disc brings a Blu-ray copy of Soldier. It provides the 2019 transfer and doesn’t simply replicate the old 2008 disc.
That means it comes with the same extras as the 4K UHD. As far as I can tell, the 2019 Blu-ray exists only as part of this set and cannot be purchased individually.
As Roland Emmerich’s entrance into Hollywood, Universal Soldier comes with historical value. As a film, though, it lacks excitement or thrills. The 4K UHD provides generally good picture and audio along with spotty bonus features. Though the movie does little for me, fans will like the 4K UHD.
To rate this film visit the original review of UNIVERSAL SOLDIER