Universal Soldier Reviews
Universal Soldier si bien no es el debut de Emmerich, sí es una cinta que muestra ya parte de sus sellos como son la ciencia ficción en la cual nos muestra cuartos con pantallas y militares, pantallas con vistas de primera persona e imágenes distorsionadas o de un solo color o pocos colores y otra serie de detalles que distinguen a este director.
Además es la primer cinta de una serie en la que participan juntos Jean-Claude Van Damme y Dolph Lundgren.
La premisa de la misma es simple: la creación de un supersoldado y cuyo experimento resulta un poco fallido al "reclutar" dos soldados que son enemigos. Otros sello de las películas de Emmerich en el cual el elemento humano provoca una falla.
Es una entretenida cinta que mezcla las artes marciales con la ciencia ficción y es tal vez la mejor de toda la serie. No es una película imprescindible por lo cual no la califico de excelente, sin embargo tiene sus buenos momentos y además de reconocer el buen trabajo de Emmerich como director y que ayuda a reconocer su estilo.
The first time I watched Universal Soldier I found myself very frustrated with the film for squandering a talented duo of action stars on a story which essentially took elements of Terminator 2: Judgement Day and wasted their fighting skills. Because of this, I had lower expectations when going into Universal Soldier the second time which seemed a lot more sensible. As a result, I admit that I enjoyed the film significantly more the second time around. But at the same time,I can still accept Universal Soldier's long distance from perfection.
The story in Universal Soldier is a very thin one since the science fiction gimmick behind it is a simplistic concept, serving solely for the sake of the action front. It's weird though because after a while, you forget why all the action is occuring. And when you stop to think about why, you realise just how mindless the story is. There is clearly no focus on the script in Universal Soldier, but you couldn't expect that in all fairness. And so when it ends up delivering a thin story with a lot of cheesy dialogue, cheap attempts at humour and melodramatic supporting characters, the result is predictable without being all that effective.
As common sense would dictate, the value of Universal Soldier rests in its assets as an action film. Jean-Claude Van Damme is surely my second favourite action star of all time, and Universal Soldier gives him a larger budget to be working with without it being overblown. And Roland Emmerich proves his worth by knowing what to do with it. If you look closely at the story, there are very few locations actually used in the film. However, the natural scenery of them all is easily convincing as is the slight touches to the production design and costumes. But most importantly, the budget is primarily diverted into the action of the film which proved to be better than I remembered. Universal Soldier is one of Roland Emmerich's earliest films from before he was given budgets big enough to make his works overblown and packed with visual effects, and it proves his worth in terms of staging practical stunts because the action is full of shootouts and explosions for the more high profile scenes while there is strongly choreographed combat during the more intense moments. This makes Universal Soldier a solid action film and an effective Jean-Claude Van Damme martial arts vehicle while also bringing out the best in Dolph Lundgren. There is also a strong level of blood and gore put into them, quantity which is effective enough to be realistic and dramatic and yet not excessive.
And all the action is captured with competence. The more high profile action scenes capitalise on wide angled cinematography which capture the large scale of the stunts and make the dramatic effect of the action all the more exhilerating while the close combat scenes are shot with perfect angles to emphasize the stature of those involved as well as their technique. The editing is also very solid because it is quick to add tension to the experience yet slow so that viewers can comprehend what is happening, effectivlely finding an ideal balance.
And the cast in Universal Soldier prove to be mostly an effective fit.
Jean-Claude Van Damme's skills rest in his abilities as an incredibly flexible martial artist, but Universal Soldier condemns him to playing a role where most of what he does is stiff robotic movements for the sake of the character. However, he does prove to have some strong action moments which capitalise on his skills for all kinds of martial arts. The film allows him to throw his kicks and flex his muscles at his own will while putting him in some high profile situations, effectively proving that he works well with larger production values. In terms of acting, it seems more appropriate that he plays a cyboyg because it puts him in a robotic role and has him act as such, and since Jean-Claude Van Damme is a limited actor it seems highly appropriate. Though the dialogue is cheesy, Jean-Claude Van Damme's cheap gimmicks match up to it easily and his handsome demeanour makes him a treat for the eyes as much as his entertaining martial arts skills. Jean-Claude Van Damme doesn't hide anything as an actor in Universal Soldier, he simply focuses on kicking all the ass he can and has no problem succeeding in the process.
Dolph Lundgren is significantly better suited to his part in Universal Soldier. Though the man is not the greatest actor, he certainly has an appealing build which has often been compared to Frankenstein. Because of this, he has the perfect stature of a standover killer. Dolph Lundgren approaches the hollow and simplistic nature of Sgt. Andrew Scott with the best intentions, and as a result he creates an intense antagonist for the film. Dolph Lundgren's genuine tension in the intro scene is actually a little frightening, and he carries that level of antagonism across the entire film in his intense stare and deep line delivery. He even puts a sadistically comic spirit into the part to create a deadpan comedic touch, lightening his screen presence from its dark roots and being effectively entertaining. But all in all, Dolph Lundgren's performance rests on his physical status in the role. Dolph Lundgren has the appropriate intimidating stature and a strong ability to grasp his weaponry, as well as a strong fighting spirit. Seeing him go up against Jean-Claude Van Damme ultimately did prove to be a satisfactory experience, and though Jean-Claude Van Damme put up a better fight, Dolph Lundgren delivered a more solid performance.
Ally Walker however, does not offer anything of value to Universal Soldier. Veronic Roberts is supposed to be the human character of the story and some of the comic relief, but she is ultimately sketched so thin that the result is far from appealing or humourous. In actuality, Ally Walker just ends up an annoying presence because her character is so heavily an archetype and yet has to do all the talking as the fully functioning human. Ally Walker has little gimmicks to offer in the role and instead attempts to play the part really seriously, ultimately failing to breathe any life into the already doomed thin melodrama of the film.
So Universal Soldier is thin on plot, but it has plenty of stylishly practical action under the precision of director Roland Emmerich collaborating with Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren which lets it succeeds as an effective guilty pleasure.