Sergeant Todd is the "an old model soldier" is disposed of in a trash heap on a foreign world.
This world is occupied by docile, benevolent, friendly people, whom survive off then heap.
The people find Sergeant Todd and assuming he is like them befriend him. Soon they find that he is engineered differently ad shun him. Todd also is confused as the people do not act like normal soldiers. And even they discard him.
The powers that be decide that these people would make perfect fodder for training the newer model soldiers.
The people ashamed of their shunning of Todd decide to invest time in him to teach him their ways.
But will he be able to change or at least understand their society?
Worse still will he become a bad influence?
Soon they find that they need his protection. Looks the planet is going to be used for war games and they are the vermin to be distorted.
Will and can Todd help?
Kurt Russell as Todd, takes this from what could have been a two dimensional future shoot-um-up and makes it a multidimensional story that one can relate to.
It is interesting how we use Sci-fi to mask or enhance moral tales to make them palatable.
Most movies that involve a super soldier, raised from an early age to kill, have an underlying political agenda, generally of repression. This movie doesn’t bother to spend any time with that. All we know is that there are human colonies scattered throughout space and there is one group that takes children directly from the crib and raises them to be powerful and efficient soldiers. To the maximum extent possible, mindless killing machines that never question their orders.
This organization sends their military units out to fight against others and all the viewer is aware of is that they also appear to be human. When an even better type of soldier is created, the Kurt Russell character (Todd) is forced to battle to the death with one of the super-duper soldiers. Thought to be dead, Todd is thrown in with the garbage and dumped on a planet supposedly reserved for refuse.
However, Todd is still alive and discovers a thriving human colony on the planet and he slowly learns what kindly human contact is like. For reasons that are unexplained, the unit of super-duper soldiers is sent to that planet with orders to consider all humans on the planet to be hostiles. In military speak in that organization that means kill them all on sight and with no warning. It is then up to Todd to defeat the entire military unit single-handedly if he is to save his newfound friends.
The lack of explanation regarding why the military units do what they do is both a simplifying and complicating factor. The reader has no idea why these military units exist and why they are ordered to kill innocent humans that can pose no threat. This simplifies the movie but keeps you wondering why things are the way they are.
The action is what you would expect in such situations, the attacking unit has incredible weapons and Todd must use all of his guile and skills to defeat them. Fans of movies like this such as Rambo and Arnold movies will recognize many of the tactics Todd employs. Personally, I would have preferred less of the space war action and more on the background of the society that would raise human killing machines and employ them so ruthlessly
on January 23, 2004
Kurt Russell as an action star? I know that sounds funny, but after you see this movie, you will believe it. I will admit, I thought this movie was going to bite it hard when it came out. I thought it looked cool, but it had "rental" written all over it. After seeing it years ago, I came away entertained. Which is all that really matters, if you think about it. Now that you can get it for a nice price, I would recommend checking it out.
Kurt Russell plays a bio-engineered soldier. He is chosen from birth and trained to kill. That is his only life he knows. He is shown gruesome violence as a young child. He is trained to have no mercy and no remorse. He is a killing machine made by some sort of government. They take children from birth and literally train them to become ruthless soldiers. When they get to their adult years, they are sent out on the battlefield. They are then the perfect soldiers. Of course, there are some downsides to this. They have no social skills. They have never had emotions toward other human beings. And this is where the movie seperates itself from being a 'B-movie'.
Over time, a new super-soldier is created. One that is literally made from the DNA up. This is where the conflict of the movie arises. Sgt. Todd's (Russell) squad is being replaced by a squad of advanced soldiers that are even better than Russell's. They are led by Caine (Jason Scott Lee). Lee plays a pretty decent villianous character. Even though he is just following orders. The orders are coming down from a higher ranking officer (played by Jason Isaacs). Isaacs seems to enjoy this role of playing the main villian. He never goes over the top, but he definately makes you not like him. Gary Busey actually plays a character that is NOT insane. He plays a general (or something) that is the head of the old soldiers. He is reluctant to switch over to the newer soldiers without them ever being tested in the field. Isaac's character overrules him.
So, Russell is dumped like trash onto some planet that has been 'abandoned' (or so they think), and it only used for waste disposal. Upon waking, he is found by a group of outlanders who are living on the plant. They have formed a sort of colony and live peacefully without interference. It is here that Sgt. Todd must learn some human emotion and traits to live with normal human beings. Of course the bad guys want to test out the new brand of soldiers. They send them on (what they think) is a routine "sweep & clear" mission. Little do they know that Sgt. Todd is still alive and is willing to show them a thing or two.
This is an action movie with some heart to it. I thought this was going to be a Rambo-type movie with Russell in the lead role. I was wrong. He defends his new friends and fights for their survival. Along the way, he learns what it's like to care for other people. One of these people is a woman (the insanely HOT Connie Nielson). Her husband was one of the first to befriend Todd. After his death, he takes it upon himself to protect her and her son.
I liked this movie quite a bit. It's kinda low budget and it is an action film. It's not going to win any awards, but it's way better than I thought it would be. I was surprised how big Kurt Russell got for this movie. He only has like 10-15 lines the whole flick and he plays the 'commando' character well. Honestly, I would not pay $20 for this movie, but for $10 it's a steal. It's a fun, yet simple action movie with a nice side of emotion. When I saw the trailer, I was wondering why the hell Russell would want to do a picture like this. After seeing it, I know why.
Not many special features here to speak of. You get a commentary, production notes, and a trailer. That's it. You can find the movie for around $6.99 now, so I guess I can't complain about the lack of supplements.
on January 3, 2004
Boy, I'm sure glad I watched this movie _before_ I found out I wasn't supposed to like it. I don't understand the disappointment; this is a well-made and satisfying movie.
I've said before that Kurt Russell is an extremely underrated actor, and he proves it again here. This is a demanding role.
Sgt. Todd is a genetically-engineered supersoldier, indoctrinated from birth as part of something called the 'Adam Project'. A seasoned combat veteran, Todd is a highly trained killing machine who has never known any other way of life.
Yet during the movie, we're supposed to gather that he's starting to feel some 'normal' human emotions and having trouble reconciling his past with his present. Somehow Todd has to put all this across to the audience with a bare minimum of dialogue and an absolutely flat-affect delivery -- rather like Arnold in the _Terminator_ films, with the difference that Todd is _not_ a cyborg or robot, but a human being with a deep inner life that he doesn't know how to express.
I don't know who could have played the part other than Russell. I can't think of another actor who could manage to convey so much with an expressionless face and _also_ be believable as a pumped-up supersoldier. (And Russell is seriously pumped up for this film.)
The story is well-crafted, too. Written by David Webb Peoples, one of the screenwriters on _Blade Runner_, this film is conceived as something of a sequel to that one and partakes of its darkness and moral ambiguity. But for all that, it zips along nicely under Paul Anderson's direction (despite some overuse of slo-mo).
Oh, there's some derivative stuff that we can charitably regard as 'homage' if we like. There's a very heavy nod toward _First Blood_ (and in general a strong evocation of the U.S.'s treatment of Vietnam veterans). And certainly this supersoldier thing has been done before (although _Universal Soldier_, _RoboCop_, and _The Six Million Dollar Man_ were cyborgs rather than genetically engineered Uebermenschen). That just means we're dealing with a very good B movie rather than something breathtakingly new.
Some viewers have suggested that Jason Scott Lee isn't very effectively used in this film. I disagree; I think he's downright fearsome in his single-minded lethality. (As you'll learn in the first few minutes of the film, he's one of a team of _super_-supersoldiers that are supposed to render Sgt. Todd and his guys obsolete.)
The SF backdrop is interesting and unforced although not terribly well fleshed out. All I can say without spoiling things is that there's a planet in the Arcadia sector that Earth is using as a junkyard, and that there's a human society living on it that nobody on Earth knows about.
The rest of the cast does well (including Michael Chiklis). Watch especially for a nice job by Gary Busey. You'll probably also like the Joel McNeely score, which doesn't break any new ground (and certainly doesn't hoist the film to the stratosphere as David Arnold's does _Stargate_) but nevertheless does its job adequately.
Oh -- and don't forget to be awed by the hauntingly gorgeous piece of music in Scene 11. It's 'Night Ride Across the Caucasus' by Loreena McKennitt and it's on her CD _The Book of Secrets_.
on October 31, 2003
You know, if anyone has ever read any of my other reviews, you'll realize that I've got a horrible pet peeve about movies that have a lot of potential and flop miserably. I don't think a movie has been made yet that exemplifies this more then Paul Anderson's 'Soldier.'
This movie REALLY could have been mind-blowing had it not been held back by Anderson's chronic lack of any imagination (see my other reviews of Paul Anderson's work). If this material was being molded by ANYBODY with any sense of vision or especially scope, this movie might have been as popular as the Matrix is now. 'Soldier' was CRYING to be done on a grand scale. How cool would it have been to have seen a huge 'Saving Private Ryan' meets 'Attack of the Clones'-type battle scene? Instead we get work that looks like it was done in a high school auditorium.
Look at things like the horribly dull set designs (not bad per se, but just no creativity), the poor lighting, the stereotyped lemming-civilian characters, and the clichéd villains. It's awful how phoned-in this movie just seemed.
The tragic part is that Kurt Russell was terrific in it and was just surrounded by people (actors and production crew alike) that just had no interest (or maybe ability) in trying to add flavor to the VAST RESOURCES they had at their disposal.
I actually cringe when I think about just how cool this could have been compared to the body of work that everyone seemed content to turn in.
on October 21, 2003
Paul W.S. Anderson's "Soldier" is a film with a fascinating premise. Unfortunately, that premise was never realized to its full potential. What could have been a gritty, science fiction equivalent of "Shane" is instead a derivative cinematic mess that is shockingly devoid of energy or conviction. Oh, what could have been.
Sgt. Todd (Kurt Russell) is a legend in his own time but faces obsolescence when a new generation of genetically-enhanced super soldiers arrive on the scene. When Todd is forced to combat Sgt. Caine (Jason Scott Lee), it becomes painfully apparent that he and his colleagues are inferior to their successors. Todd is left for dead on a junkyard planet but finds a new purpose for himself when he becomes the protector of the planet's inhabitants. Forced into a showdown with the soldiers that replaced him, Todd stands his ground and proves to the military commanders overseeing the battle that new is not necessarily better than old.
"Soldier" is an empty and hollow film which boasts some great visuals but little else. The film feels like a series of skits that were assembled with no transitions between them. Furthermore, the embattled populace that Todd protects is so thinly developed that we form no interest in their plight. When they come under fire, they strike the viewer as merely actors and actresses feigning panic. They do not come across as living, breathing cinematic characters who are being threatened by the situation at-hand. Thus, there is no vested emotional interest in seeing Todd save the day. Making matters worse is the wooden performance Lee delivers. The charismatic Jason Scott Lee from "Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story" (1993) is nowhere to be found here. His character is a bore and easily one of the least-convincing baddies of the 1990's. Russell tries his best to salvage the film but in the end "Soldier" winds up being one of those films that leaves you wondering to yourself why you dropped good money to see it.
on September 1, 2003
Written as sort of a sequel to Blade Runner (it takes place within the same universe) by David Peeples (Unforgiven, Blade Runner), Soldier is a rarity now days; it's a B-Movie masquerading as an A movie. I said it was a rarity because it also doesn't have any pretentions to be anything but that. Kurt Russell plays a man born and bred to be a ruthless, brutal soldier. When he's injured, he's discarded like yesterday's news on a planet where much of Earth's waste is dumped. When the latest genetically enhanced soldiers arrive to dispose of the inhabitants of the planet, Russell's character is pushed into action; he's discovered the barest hints of humanity and compassion that was always denied him before. He's taken to these underdogs and they to him almost as a family.
In many respects the plot for Solider could have been lifted from a Clint Eastwood Western. Here's The Man With No Name suddenly discovering an emotional core he never knew he had. He helps the less fortunate not because of pity but because he realizes he finally belongs. Russell's performance is masterful. While the Russell doesn't have much dialog, he manages to convey what makes the character tick with minimum discussion. Russell uses body language to communicate as much as the dialog. In many respects, he's a variation on the character of Rick Deckard from Blade Runner. He's a man of action that ceases to exist between assignments. This cypher like character suddenly discovers he is more than his past and his actions. In the process he rediscovers his own humanity. Soldier makes a complimentary piece to the Mad Max series.
The film uses the action and science fiction genre for a springboard to examine a lot of different themes and issues but, make no mistake, it is still an ACTION film. The stunts are well choregraphed and the visual effects effective but it isn't drenched in the CGI we've come to expect movies of this type to have.
The DVD transfer is very good as is the audio quality. The extras includes commentary by director Paul W. S. Anderson (Event Horizon, Resident Evil), a theatrical trailer, production notes and both the wide and full screen editions of the movie. My only complaint is the fact that writer David Peeples isn't given any room for a commentary track. Since he's truly the author of the film (and it was intended as a sequel of sorts or companion piece to Blade Runner), it would have been very interesting to get his take on the finished product.
Solider isn't Citizen Kane nor does it pretend to be; it's like many of the classic B-Movies of the 50's to the 80's (most notably The Terminator)in that there's far more than meets the eye going on here.
on April 15, 2003
This is one of the great, unsung science fiction films of recent times. The story revolves around a future where soldiers are segregated and trained from the crib to be merciless, killing machines. Kurt Russel, in a great performance, plays one of these soldiers who are soon to be replaced by a genetically enhanced new breed of soldier. Sgt. Todd 3465 (Russel) is believed killed in a training exercise and disposed of like yesterday's garbage on a waste-disposal planet. He survives, finds refuge amongst a colony of planet refugees, and tries to fit in.
This is, on a very rewarding level, a tremendous action film. Russel's nemesis in the film, Sgt. Caine 607 (played by Jason Scott Lee) is an imposing presence, and the fight scenes between the two are excellent and convincing. The special effects and battle scenes are impressive as well, and really transport you to a harsh, bleak, metallic future.
On another level the film is about the discovery of emotion in the highly trained soldier as he tries to fit into a more normal society. Russel is simply outstanding in the roll, doing an incredible acting job. He speaks a total of about 20 words in the whole film, but his internal struggles are always clear and very moving.
This "learning human emotions" trick is one several science fiction films have attempted, and most are embarrassing and painful to watch, dripping with sugar and sap. "Soldier" excels in this department as Russel makes the shift from killing machine to feeling man in a subtle, believable way. The film is just very, very well done and well written. The acting is fine all the way around, and the dialogue is completely absent of those wince-producing moments films of this nature often have.
Over time, this has become one of my favorite movies. I have watched it several times with increased enjoyment each time. I have quoted dialogue from this movie on more than one occasion, particularly the moment when Sgt. Todd tries to express his feelings, and all he can verbalize is "fear . . . discipline."
This movie is carefully crafted, intelligent, and hugely entertaining from the opening credits onward.
on December 28, 2002
In Soldier, Kurt Russel plays the soldier of the future, one of many raised from birth inside a brutal military training regieme to be the perfect soldier, in an age of space travel and goverments whose militaries kill indescrimanately (well, in that regard, I guess nothing had changed much). Russell and his fellow soldiers are physically powerful, experienced in warfare, and whose only experiences are, battlefields, combat training, and barracks. But upon reaching middle age, Russell and his commrades suddenly find themselves replaced and ultimately degraded by a new generation of genetically engineered and ultimately superior uber-soldiers. Russell's character, Todd, after a confrontation with one of the new soldiers, is left for dead on a planet that's little more than (litterally) a garbage dump and the only inhabitants are a group of shipwrecked colonists who become the first real friends he's ever had. To be honest, I would have never considered renting this movie if not for the talented presence of Kurt Russell because he never disappoints and in Soldier he simply overwhelms you with his performance. Depsite a paucity of lines, he brings his character powerfully to life almost soley through facial expression. While a great soldier, the martial upbringing of Russell's character has left him almost completely without emotion, and watching him deal with emotional situations which he's never experienced was some truly great acting on Russells part. The actions scenes, while not overly immaginative, are also well done and quite brutal, with Todd in one scene gouging out the eye of an opponent while fighting on hanging chains 50 ft. off the ground. His final hand-to-hand confrontation with one of the uber-soldiers (appropriately named Cain) was nicely done for the most part. While the plot of the movie itself is little better than an episode of Battlestar Galactica, Russell and a resoundingly talented supporting cast imbue it with a lot more substance than one finds in other films that have won Oscars. I won't guarantee you'll like it, but even if you don't, you'd probably have to admit (if you're honest) that Russell and the rest of the cast do a wonderful job.
on November 7, 2002
SOLDIER is very good praxeological ("soft") speculative fiction in that it employs thoughtful extrapolation of sociological and psychological trends to establish the premises upon which it is based. What's more, anyone who decries Kurt Russell's work in this film betrays an ignorance of acting and a lack of good taste that fits the silly booger perfectly for a career as a newspaper movie critic. More punishing insult I cannot possibly offer.
The problem with this movie is that there are aspects of the production that beat the living hell out of us "hard" science fiction fen. Back in 1969, in his essay "Science Fiction: its nature, faults and virtues" (*The Science Fiction Novel*), Robert A. Heinlein made the following comment on the genre:
"A handy short definition of almost all science fiction might read: realistic speculation about possible future events, based solidly on adequate knowledge of the real world, past and present, and on a thorough understanding of the nature and significance of the scientific method.
"To make this definition cover all science fiction (instead of 'almost all') it is necessary only to strike out the word 'future.'"
In 1981, Heinlein followed up in "Ray Guns and Space Ships" (*Expanded Universe*) with:
"Science Fiction is speculative fiction in which the author takes as his first postulate the real world as we know it, including all established facts and natural laws. The result can be extremely fantastic in content, but it is not fantasy; it is legitimate -- and often very tightly reasoned -- speculation about the possibilities of the real world. This category excludes rocket ships that make U-turns, serpent men of Neptune that lust after human maidens, and stories by authors who flunked their Boy Scout merit badge tests in descriptive astronomy."
And that last particularly sums up the true science fiction fan's problems with SOLDIER. Posit a spacegoing civilization and tell me, please, that they would ever bother going through the expense (economic as well as thermodynamic) and bother of hauling refined metal and other salvagable scrap materials out of one gravity well and then carelessly dumping the stuff on the surface of a planet somewhere else (i.e., at the bottom of yet *ANOTHER* gravity well). Even if they were planning future colonization of that windy mudball, anyone but a mundane (or a dimwitted fan of "soft" sci-fi) would know that all that junk could be more efficiently and cost-effectively used in a microgravity environment (in other words: up in orbit) as raw materials for any contemplated new manufactures. Once you've achieved the technology necessary for spaceflight, it's simply easier and less costly to make most rough and finished goods in space than on a planetary surface. That's true today, and cannot be otherwise in the future.
The whole of this idiocy is summed up by the director's use of a particularly gormless background image: a bloody great aircraft carrier flopped over on its port side (apparently the *USS Franklin Delano Roosevelt* -- like you couldn't set the damned thing down on its keel?) with the island superstructure sticking up at a 45-degree angle. Yeesh.
SOLDIER is an entertaining movie, and I extoll Kurt Russell's work in this film. He is generally quite horribly underappreciated as an actor, and his professionalism -- here as elsewhere -- is beyond reproach. This having been said, would it have killed the silly sonsabitches responsible for the production values in SOLDIER to have gotten input from some people who understand "established facts and natural laws" and who aren't (like writer David Webb Peoples, director Paul W.S. Anderson, and production designer David L. Sawyer) total and absolute mundane cement-heads?
Note: One of the earlier reviewers mentioned that SOLDIER is set in the same plenum as the inappropriately-titled 1982 movie BLADE RUNNER (drawn, like so many of the past two decades' ghodawful dimwitted "skiffy" flicks, from the work of hack SF writer Philip K. Dick [1928-1982], who is the unspeakably mundane Modern Language Association's present-day darling, his signal claim to fame being a Hugo Award given for THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE , and who has been for the most part largely -- and rightfully -- ignored by hard science fiction fen). The reviewer's surmise is incorrect, as there are also in-joke references to a bunch of other sci-fi movies, including Russell's own ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and the Star Trek film THE WRATH OF KHAN.