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Movie Spoiler - Universal Soldier

Updated on November 5, 2010

Universal Soldier presents a tour-de-force of wooden one-liners delivered with all the emotion of 1980's era computer voice simulation software running on an IBM PC with 64 kilobytes of RAM. John Claude Van Damme saves the world from itself, violates the laws of physics, and contravenes international bad acting statutes.

Speaking of RAM, please make the acquaintance of SETH, a nearly sentient super computer characterized by a colorful globular visual interface replete with rotating tributes to MC Escher. He has a really really fast graphics card. SETH controls the Universal Soldiers via computer chips implanted in their brains. The UniSol are extremely buff guys and gals who were killed in battle, then given a second chance at genocide by the grace of SETH and his programmers. Perhaps the soldiers who actually survived battle would make better robot warriors, but SETH knows best.

SETH also provides day care services for Van Damme's young daughter. The innocent and the electronic live together in perfect harmony. SETH teaches her arithmetic. She may as well have a sign around her neck announcing to the world that she will shortly become a hostage. She may not be killed in the movie, but the movie killed her career.

At least, we think SETH knows best. 'He' executes a training simulation wherein UniSols chase Jean Claude through the back lots of Warner Brothers Studios. Our hero barely escapes with his life, saved only by SETHs intervention. The plot plods onward; UniSol developers are informed by a generic army guy that "the brass" has yanked funding from SETH and his army of implanted fighters. Naturally SETH gets annoyed. He uses his spare processing power to build more UniSols. He electrocutes the folks who designed and programmed him (all two of them). He locks out the power systems so no one can turn him off. It's all in a days work for a top secret Department of Defense bio-electronic integration project. Oversight wasn't in the budget.

While battling SETH, Jean Claude finds himself teamed up with the most clueless television reporter since Kent Brockman. For some unfathomable reason, she expresses unhappiness at being plunked into the middle of the story of the century. She's actually bothered that she can't file her report on time. She nags JCVD even as murderous UniSols pursue them through rooms of biological weapons. This unlikely duo of wood and wind finds time to wax philosophical over the stereotypical roles of men and women in society. She posits that he might be brainless since he earns a living as a soldier. He suggest that she might have been a cheerleader before finding work as a talking head. They find common ground and mutual respect as Van Damme matches wits with SETHs avatars. This movie fails on so many levels.

Movie Spoiler - Universal Soldier
Movie Spoiler - Universal Soldier

Other characters come and go throughout the movie. Most are so one-dimensional that they appear as a straight line when viewed in profile. Compared to the cast as a whole, the SETH computer provides an Oscar winning performance despite a remarkably tiny RAM footprint. JCVD has no such excuse. Ostensibly he works with a reasonable number of neurons and vocal cords, yet his lines carry the impact of Space Invaders on an Atari 800 in the Sahara Desert. He continuously omits crucial vowels and much-needed tonal variations: "Dying didn't improve his personality" becomes "Dying didn't mprv his prsnlty.". The viewer must mentally replay his dialog simply to grasp the basic meanings of the words. The craft service provided better deliveries. Perhaps the director was obligated to use the first take in every scene because SETH was hogging all the CPU cycles.

This makes more sense than Universal Soldier.
This makes more sense than Universal Soldier.

Ultimately Jean Claude defeats most of the Universal Soldiers. Unfortunately one of them was his girl friend who was co-opted by SETH during his takeover attempt. Eventually the rogue computer is shut down when a brave human soldier presses and holds the power button for 5 seconds. Unfortunately JCVD's little girl no longer has a study buddy. Finally the oblivious TV reporter get to reveal to the world the intimate secrets of Universal Soldiers. Unfortunately she has been transferred to Entertainment Tonight and no one takes her seriously. In the long run this movie consumes celluloid and offers at least meager entertainment. Unfortunately that's 103 minutes you'll never get back.


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    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 7 years ago from Ohio, USA

      @waynet: There's more than one UniSol movie? Isn't that some kind of human rights violation?

    • waynet profile image

      Wayne Tully 7 years ago from Hull City United Kingdom

      I've seen all the Universal soldier movies and the first one was the best and then what followed was a dire attempt at cashing in on another franchise that didn't need sequels.

      Van Damme needs the money however as he frequently does these straight to DVD films now and churns them out like a one man factory that produces ready meals!

    • billyaustindillon profile image

      billyaustindillon 7 years ago

      Excellent review nicomp - Not my cup of tea this genre either but I have that sneaking suspicion we would all say that even if we were watching them lol

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 7 years ago from Ohio, USA

      @drbj: Not watching this movie is the Green Thing to do. Save the Earth!

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 7 years ago from south Florida

      Although I generally enjoy watching Jean Claude Muscles on cable TV portraying an actor who knows absolutely nothing about acting, and does it impeccably, I think I'll miss this one due to your perceptive, spot on review.

      Thanks for saving me money at the box office and electricity at home.

    • dallas93444 profile image

      Dallas W Thompson 7 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

      I am not a fan of this genre... Well written hub. My book (fiction: based upon actual events)toys with the real life application of a rogue general that has a hidden agenda to manipulate his soldiers behaviors (this part is actual) with covert means and applications... The "professional, Universal Soldier" idea is frightening... Who are they answerable to? That is my angst: accountability.

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Never watched it. Anything with Jean Claude Van Damme or VinDiesel is immediately off my list of possibilities -- but thanks for writing about it so I now know what I missed. Lynda