20 April 2011

FWS Movie Review: Soldier (1998)

Soldier is a 1998 Military Sci-fi movie directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil), the script was written by BLADE RUNNER scriptwriter David Peoples, and starred Kurt Russel in the main role as Sgt. Todd-3465. Never heard of Soldier? Not surprising. It only made $15 million out of a budget of $75 million, and is difficult to find the DVD or even much information about it online. Soldier is often remembered in BLADE RUNNER circles as the "side-sequel" to that landmark sci-fi movie, and was penned by David Peoples, who co-wrote BLADE RUNNER and the epic western Unforgiven. His idea was to show the off-world combat between the nations of Earth using their combat skinjobs, (which is what the next BLADE RUNNER movie should be about) however, Soldier was rewritten so that it was no longer official tied to the BLADE RUNNER and only a few references still existed in the movie (look for the Spinner in the Arcadia 234 junk piles!). I first heard of Soldier when I was given The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Movies: From 1897 to the Present by C.J. Henderson for Xmas on year...there i discovered this film and Mr. Henderson gives the movie a three page review and talks about how great it was. I thought it may be worth watching since I was writing a BLADE RUNNER fan-fiction book at the time. It took me two weeks to find on DVD in the DFW metroplex...and I was fairly disappointed with the film once I actually watched it This blogpost was updated on 07/02/2014.   

Soldier is the story of Todd-3465, a victim of the ADAM project, were the US military secretly bred soldiers from birth to be flesh-and-blood emotionless automaton, that speaks only when spoke to, and always obeys orders. The film steers clear of the ADAM project subjects being Replicants and/or super-soldiers (mainly because the filmarkers were not allowed to legally tie Soldier to BLADE RUNNER).
For Todd's 38 years of military service he is shipped around the various wars on Earth and through space. After decades of military service, the next-gen ADAM soldiers show up on Todd's military vessel, and the brass dumps off the last previous model Todd onto a unsettled world that is being uses as a interstellar garage dump. There Todd meets a band of illegal colonists, and is unable to socialize with them...however when the military shows back up to train the next-gen soldiers with a live-fire exercise using the illegal settlers. Todd steps up, defends the colonists from the next-gen ADAM soldiers...his experience over their breeding...and then movie ends with Todd and colonists high jacking the military ship and heading off to another colonial world.

Despite my disappoint, there are elements with this 1998 film that are good. The tale of easily replaceable technology is one that should everyone understand, especially since with the invasion of the iPhone, and it is timely. The audience generally feels for Todd and the rest of the 1st Generation ADAM soldiers when they are just tossed out after the new shiny super soldiers are deployed. Soldier does have some interesting weapon choices, especially the Rocky Mountain Arms Patriot 5.56mm Pistol-Carbines.
The there is planetary assault uniform of the ADAM 2.0 soldiers are very cool and remind of the Sardaukar from the David Lynch DUNE movie. However, the best thing in Soldier is the acting of Kurt Russel. In the film, Sgt. Todd only as about 100 spoken words, 11 of them are "Yes Sir." This means that Mr. Russel, had to develop Todd through body language and actions, and lesser actor would have been unable to pull it off.  The talents of Mr. Russel really shine though when Todd interacts with the colonists on Arcadia 234.

Flat out, the vast majority of Soldier is just plain bad, like B-Movie bad. Stupid bad, not cheesy bad. The majority of the cast is so completely wrong for this film that they become painfully to watch, especially coupled with the bad dialog and undeveloped scenes. The middle of the film, where Todd is struggling to find his place in the community of the settlers is not too bad, but when the next-gen soldiers show up, the action scenes are so heavy handed and overcooked that it destroys the mystery surrounding the ADAM soldiers. These choppy, overboiling action scenes and the actions of the 2.0 ADAM super soldiers are pure 1980's action flick cheesy...and it moldy cheese at that. hem down to 1980's action films. According to the film, Todd-3465 an experienced combat veteran elite soldier, but he often picks odd weaponry that destroys the central realism of the film and betrays his training. All of this makes the action often cartoony in nature. I was often floored how badly the movie fit together and how the actions hammed it up, but then falls flat on its collective ass.

The real disappointment with Soldier is the waste opportunity for military sci-fi movie genre in general. Here was a big budget major-studio backed military sci-fi movie with the actor who crafted Snake fucking Plissken, Kurt Russel, as the star. He would crack out of the best great performances in his career, but it was a waste. Hell, even the title is great, but no one, I mean no one, saw this piece of shit then or even now, and I fully blame Paul W.S. Anderson for that. This movie was a waste of money, talent, and opportunity. It could have been good...even without having direct connection to BLADE RUNNERbut the decisions by the director were the fatal error of this film. Everything was there, but it just wasn't used. Rumors online point to him rewriting the David People's script and putting his own spin on the visuals and the dialog of the film. Examining Mr. Anderson's IMDb profile, I realized that I've hated everyone of his films, from the bullshit Resident Evil flicks to the remake of Death Race, and he simply ruined Soldier.

Should You Watch Soldier?
Soldier should have been good, but the rumored rewrites by director Paul W.S. Anderson, coupled with bad casting choices and completely stupid action scenes, doomed this military sci-fi movie to the forgotten realms of bad movies and the dollar bin at your local Wal-Mart! It is sad, really, to have Kurt Russel, the man who forged Snake Plissken, one of the greatest characters in Sci-fi, to have worked so hard to make Todd-3465 believable, then take his wonderfully acting job, and waste inside of this poorly executed film. Pity.


  1. I loved this movie.

  2. Please explain further on why. I would like to hear from a fan of the movie on why they loved it. I think the movie is broken. Purely broken.

    1. Oops I meant to put my post here sorry

    2. Why? The action sequences were terrible. The overall plot is great. The strength of concept in a heavily conditioned child-soldier maturing under the guidance of a fully equipped state is impossible to overstate.

      Todd-3465's truest beauty is his lack of ego. The surety of his purpose. When he refers to the mother of the snakebitten child as ''sir'' he has assigned a leadership role to her. In the simulation of this character's mind he needs a leader. This is the only time, after being cast down from the sky, that he is able to do what he is programmed to do. I liked that touch.

      His choices are typical of a doer. He teaches that child to handle itself. Teach a man to fish... feed him for a lifetime.


      This scene means so much. It is the best sequence.

      I also appreciate his lack of sexuality. This being is the pinnacle of civility on many levels. He obeys authority to the letter, although having the ability to break the rules. He could've leveled the entire village and made them his personal slaves. His mentality just isn't crafted for that.

      Having lived in an institutionalized martial setting, I appreciate the fear and mental controls that actually empower you to perform greater than you ever likely would alone. Group identity is a massive control. I completely surrender to it when I can. (despite being a great fan of Stanley Milgram, ha.)

      Great flick. It's qualities to the right eye act as a fine prism to view many matters. Needs overhaul.

    3. I totally agree with you here. To me most of the action and the "plot" in this film is pretty much BS, however its greatness isn't there. When I saw the film the first time I was under the impression that it was merely an episode of Todd's (and his team's) life. That to him, none of it really mattered in the face of his non-stop military career. That he lived through much more, even more interesting stories, that it was just one episode of a massive film that we could only imagine, and that he lives on after the film. That's how strong the acting from Kurt Russel and the pure concept of those super-soldiers appeared to me - that the film himself didn't matter, its only greatness being that there is Todd in it, a character so true you can only think he is alive somewhere. In truth, I watched it as a kid too, because I saw starship troopers and was scrolling through every military science fiction I could possibly get my hands on at the movie club, a passion that in fact, thanks to the impact that movies like Soldier had on me, made me come to this website two decades later. But what I wanted to say on this blog is this : what this movie left us is the Master Chief from Halo. Obviously people at Bungie saw this movie, and Eric Nylund, the author of the best Halo books, saw this movie. That's what inspired them in the first place. When you say that everything is there, and it only needed a better treatment, better story better screenplay... people saw this, felt it, and made it happen. That's how great the concept and the acting in this film are. When I read the Halo books in my teenage years, going through the training of Master Chief and the Spartans, everything was clear to me - I already knew him perfectly, I knew his logic and could even predict his actions, and I knew the relationship in his team, it was all crystal clear. Because I had already met Master Chief, in Soldier. That's it. That's why it stays so great for me - the actors and themes don't only seem to transcend the movie they're in, they actually did. Their story moved on in other sci-fi works, because somebody at Bungie saw this movie and thought to himself "that's it. That's who the main character in my own personal SF story is gonna be". A movie, especially an SF movie, mostly has value in the ideas and dreams it's giving you, and that's a movie that made me wanna dream, and to be frank, as a Halo fan, that's the only portrayal of Master Chief, with the Eric Nylund book, that I'm ever going to believe. For me Halo ceased to be Halo when it ceased to be Soldier. My opinion folks !

  3. I have loved this movie since I was a little kid I think Kurt Russell has done one of his best performances I've never seen anyone else pull off a character like this really enjoyed the interaction between Todd and the settlers I like the fact that he learned about softer emotions like trust and hope in the end he chose to defend the people I love the change in him from the guy who emotionlessly fought Cain in the beginning to the man who regretted killing Cain hope you understand what I am trying to communicate and apologized for any confusions or misunderstanding of what I love about this movie I am writing this afternoon being up almost 24 hours that is my excuse and I am sticking to it

  4. Thanks for the comment. Always love to hear from people that have seen this film. The performance from Kurt Russell is amazing and the best of his career. Those scenes with the settlers are also very good. As I said above, I just really, really wish that these scenes and this performance had been encased in a better film. The film suffered from the wrong director and some bad choices of actors to play off Kurt Russell. This could have a much better film.

  5. Like Nick Baxter wrote.

    I watched this movie when I was only 12-14 years old. It is a childhood memory. Same with Nick thoughts, I love how Kurt Russels character is showing emotion after so much time. And even shows how he is afraid all the time and shaking etc. I actually cried seeing this movie when I was 20+. I did not understand much of it when I was younger. But this movie has an heart touching story line if you really see its depths and forget about its action flick for a while. Kurt Russel is a such underrated actor and this movie is underrated as well. I hope they make a Squeal about it and Russell stills plays an old Todd.

  6. great movie , except for the mandatoey fist fight at the end..