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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Roland Emmerich
Cast:
Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Ally Walker
Writing Credits:
Dean Devlin

Synopsis:
Soldiers who died in Vietnam get brought back to life as "super soldiers".

MPAA:
Rated R.

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 104 min.
Price: $14.99
Release Date: 11/4/2008

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Roland Emmerich, Writer Dean Devlin, and Actors Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren
• Trivia Track
• “Guns, Genes and Fighting Machines” Featurette
• “Tale of 2 Titans” Featurette
• Alternate Ending
• Previews


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RELATED REVIEWS


Universal Soldier [Blu-Ray] (1992)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 16, 2019)

Though it didn’t rake in big bucks at the box office, 1992’s Universal Soldier merits a place in cinematic history due to its creators. The film marked the first collaboration between director Roland Emmerich and writer/producer Dean Devlin, the team that would later score hits like Independence Day.

Some might not regard this as a cause for celebration, but I think the Emmerich/Devlin movies could offer brainless fun. A sci-fi tale, Soldier seemed packed with that kind of potential.

During the Vietnam War, Private Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and Sergeant Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren) get killed in action. Rather than end up in Arlington Cemetery, the military freezes their corpses.

Years later, these forces reanimate the men and turn them into super-powered “Universal Soldiers”, or “Uni-Sols”. With colleagues, they work to foil various terrorist plots.

Although the Uni-Sols shouldn’t remember their pasts, Luc starts to glitch and recall his history. Along with reporter Veronica Roberts (Ally Walker), Luc attempts to rediscover himself and also deal with the atrocities of the Uni-Sol program, all while the cruel, sadistic Andrew fights back against them.

Shades of RoboCop! While Soldier doesn’t play as a carbon copy of the 1987 classic, it definitely bears obvious similarities.

And it doesn’t stop there, as we see multiple reflections of the Terminator franchise as well. Indeed, given that Terminator 2 became a major hit the year prior to Soldier’s release, I suspect it acted as a heavy influence.

While I won’t call Soldier a total rip-off, it really does follow the Terminator framework in a lot of ways. It wouldn’t take much to adapt Soldier into a Terminator film.

Unfortunately, Emmerich is no James Cameron, and whatever popcorn talent he’d eventually show seems absent from Soldier. Good golly, how could a movie like this seem so persistently dull?

I don’t know, but in Emmerich’s hands, this tale of super-soldiers and violence becomes a real snoozer. Although we get plenty of big action scenes, none of them make an impact, so they seem inert.

Inevitably, Soldier pours on the cheese, and I don’t really mind that. Given the movie’s era and origins, it seems impossible for the movie to avoid a certain level of campy goofiness.

If Soldier boasted actual excitement, I wouldn’t mind. However, it never manages to boast even minor excitement, as all the fights and action add up to little.

The cast doesn’t help, as neither Lundgren nor Van Damme do much with their parts. Actually, Lundgren occasionally displays a little “bad guy charm”, but not enough to elevate the role,

Van Damme turns into a total dud as our lead. He tries to impersonate Schwarzenegger’s stoic automaton from Terminator but just comes off as inept.

I’ll not defend Emmerich as a great filmmaker, but at his best, he creates fun popcorn flicks. Unfortunately, Universal Soldier fails to find any sense of excitement or thrills.


The Disc Grades: Picture C/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

Universal Soldier appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though it came with some positives, the transfer suffered from self-inflicted wounds.

The main issue stemmed from digital noise reduction (DNR), as that technique scrubbed away all instances of grain. These left faces as shiny and odd, and fine detail evaporated as well.

Generally sharpness could be fine in daylight exteriors since those required the least DNR, but low-light shots suffered from a dull, bland impression because those came with the most noise removal. Overall definition tended to feel mediocre, and some mild edge haloes exacerbated the issue.

I saw no signs of jagged edges or moiré effects. Print flaws failed to become an issue.

Circa 1992 film stocks didn’t always boast the greatest colors, and the hues seen here could be a little heavy at times. The film tended toward a blue-oriented palette, and the tones felt decent but not great.

Blacks were reasonably deep, while shadows felt adequate, partly due to all that DNR. Superficially, aspects of the image felt positive, but too many problems came along for the ride.

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.

A few extras appear here, and we open with an audio commentary 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.

Also alongside the film, we can view a trivia track. It mixes movie notes with historical elements related to the flick’s events as well as 1992. It proves decent but not especially memorable.

Note that if you select the trivia track, the playback will default to a Dolby 5.1 mix that sticks you with annoying sound effects connected to the pop-ups. I was able to switch to the DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio via my remote, however, which meant I could view the trivia track along with the normal movie soundtrack.

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.

Two 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, 13 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.

As Roland Emmerich’s entrance into Hollywood, Universal Soldier comes with historical value. As a film, though, it lacks excitement or thrills. The Blu-ray brings flawed picture and audio as well as a mix of supplements. Soldier brings us a lifeless dud.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main