You are most likely familiar with the work of Roland Emmerich if you’ve ever indulged in an action film from the past three decades. This man is well known for his work, and he’s well worsened the action genre because he has been doing it for so long. Of course, just like many directors from the past, Roland Emmerich and his reputation aren’t as solid anymore, but back in the 90s and the 2000s, he used to be a huge name. He is responsible for some of the biggest names in the action-adventure genre, in particular some popular sci-fi films such as Independence Day, Godzilla (1998), The Day After Tomorrow, Stargate, and of course, Universal Soldier.
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Universal Soldier – the Movie Review
Jean-Claude Van Damme and the action genre go hand in hand when you look at the 80s and the 90s. Universal Soldier is a product of that era, depicting the tale of Luc and Andrew, two soldiers who ended up losing their lives. Their bodies are frozen and tested with a new technology that can bring the deceased back to life, as well as turn them into ruthless killing machines for the army to utilize for their own agendas. However, things begin to get spicy as the two begin to regain memories from their past life, and are unable to let them go.
Look, the work of Roland Emmerich has never been extraordinary. He has never told tales of any grand or moral message, in fact, almost every single one of his films is meant to simply entertain viewers. There is nothing more important to his films than the entertainment factor, and Universal Soldier is a prime example of that. This is a film so devoted to its action entertainer mindset, that it lets go of every single other filmmaking element that is important to make a decent picture.
Starting off with the writing here, every single piece of dialogue in this film feels like it was written by an amateur. Honestly, this was a trope back in the 80s and the 90s, where almost every action film would have main characters who were overly macho and would say things that didn’t make sense. However, throughout the film, it is implied that these two characters are intelligent, which takes away from the experience quite a lot and ruins the continuity.
There’s also barely any self-awareness here, the actors are acting their heart out in some of the worst performances of their lives. Jean-Claude Van Damme was never a great actor, but the performance here is abysmal even for him. Dolph Lundgren was also never a fantastic actor, but he does give a performance that’s slightly better than Jean-Claude Van Damme here. In fact, in the entirety of the film, the only good performance comes out of Ally Walker as Veronica Roberts.
Visually speaking, this film does have a decent aesthetic to it. It is a unique-looking film, with some really cool-looking technology and science fiction stuff going on. However, if we’re looking at the technical aspects of the filmmaking here, this is an ugly film to the very core. No matter how beautiful the aesthetic might feel, the cinematography will always keep it bogged down throughout the entirety of Universal Soldier.
The soundtrack is as generic as you would be expecting from a 90s action film, it’s a bunch of synths going on while there are explosions in the background. I can’t really explain it in any words that are better than that, synths and explosions.
In conclusion, Universal Soldier never really had any potential, to begin with. It was going to be a generic action film in the same line as any Robert Rodriguez film. Roland Emmerich Has always made sure that action comes first, and the story comes later. That formula has never worked, and it most likely never will, but it does lead to some highly entertaining films that you can laugh at.
- A ton of action goodness
- The film has a fun aesthetic
- Genuinely some of the worst acting
- Bad cinematography, the camera work is janky and the lighting is boring
- The soundtrack is generic
- Poor storytelling and direction