Universal Soldier is a 1992 American military science fiction action film directed by Roland Emmerich, produced by Allen Shapiro, Craig Baumgarten and Joel B. Michaels, and written by Richard Rothstein, Christopher Leitch and Dean Devlin. The film tells the story of Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme), a former U.S. Army soldier who was killed in the Vietnam War in 1969, and returned to life following a secret military project called the "Universal Soldier" program. However, he finds out about his past even though his memory was erased, and escapes alongside a young TV journalist (Ally Walker). Along the way, they have to deal with the return of his archenemy, Sgt. Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren), who had lost his sanity in the Vietnam War, and became a psychotic megalomaniac, intent on killing him and leading the Universal Soldiers.
Universal Soldier was released by TriStar Pictures on July 10, 1992. The film has a 33% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and grossed $80 million worldwide against its budget of $23 million and spawned a series of films, including several rather poorly received direct-to-TV films: Universal Soldier: The Return, which has since been removed from the series canon, followed by Universal Soldier: Regeneration and Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning.
Plot[edit | edit source]
In 1969, a U.S. Army team is ordered to secure a village against North Vietnamese forces. Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude van Damme) discovers members of his squad and villagers murdered, all with their ears removed. Deveraux finds his sergeant, Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren), who has gone insane and made a necklace of severed ears and who is holding a young couple hostage. Deveraux, who is near the end of his tour of duty, tries to reason with Scott, who executes the man and orders Deveraux to shoot the girl to prove his loyalty. Deveraux refuses and tries to save the girl, but she is killed by a grenade thrown by Scott. After shooting each other to death, Deveraux and Scott's corpses are recovered by a second squad and cryogenically frozen, their deaths classified as "missing in action".
Deveraux and Scott's corpses are reanimated decades later (but with their memories lost) and selected for the "Universal Soldier" (UniSol) program, an elite counter-terrorism unit. They are deployed via an Aero Spacelines Mini Guppy to the Hoover Dam to resolve a hostage situation. The team demonstrates their superior training and physical abilities against the terrorists, such as when GR76 (Ralf Möller) withstands close-range rifle fire. After the area is secured, Deveraux begins to regain memory from his former life upon seeing two hostages who strongly resemble the villagers he tried to save in Vietnam, causing him to disobey commands from the control team and become unresponsive.
In the mobile command center, it is revealed that the UniSols are genetically augmented soldiers with enhanced self-healing abilities and superior strength, but they also have a tendency to overheat and shut down. They are given a neural serum to keep their minds susceptible and their past memory suppressed. As a result of the glitch, Woodward (Leon Rippy), one of the technicians on the project, feels it may be better to remove Deveraux from the team until he can be further analyzed, but UniSol commander Colonel Perry (Ed O'Ross) refuses. TV journalist Veronica Roberts (Ally Walker), who was fired while covering the Hoover Dam incident, tries to get a story on the UniSol project in order to get her job back. Roberts sneaks onto the base with a cameraman, discovering GR76 immersed in ice, still alive despite normally-fatal injuries.
When her presence is noticed, Deveraux and Scott are ordered to capture her dead or alive. She flees to her cameraman's car, but they crash. Scott coldly murders the cameraman against orders before Deveraux stops him from shooting Roberts. Together, Deveraux and Roberts escape in a UniSol vehicle. Colonel Perry insists on preventing knowledge of the UniSol program getting out and sends the remaining UniSols to find Deveraux and Roberts.
Deveraux and Roberts flee to a motel, where Roberts discovers she has been framed for the murder of her cameraman. Deveraux collapses from overheating and has to take an ice bath. The UniSols completely destroy the motel but Deveraux and Roberts hide in a bed until they leave and steal a car. The couple flee to a gas station where Deveraux has Roberts remove a tracking device from his leg. They set a trap and when the UniSols arrive the gas station explodes. Colonel Perry terminates the mission after this failure and Scott's previously insane personality resurfaces, causing him to kill Perry and all but two doctors. Deveraux and Roberts sneak onto the command center bus and steal UniSol documents. Scott then takes control of the mindlessly obedient UniSol team, commanding them to kill Deveraux and Roberts.
Deveraux continues to regain his memories while Roberts tries to find out more information about the UniSol program. They go to a diner; Deveraux devours plate after plate of food until the waitress asks how he's going to pay for it all. When Deveraux looks blankly at her, she calls out Hank (Allan Graf), the cook, who threatens him. However, Deveraux, though innocently saying he doesn't want to hurt him, easily beats Hank and every single patron who steps up to take him on.
Using information from the stolen documents, Roberts gets in contact with a doctor linked to the program. Roberts and Deveraux meet Dr. Christopher Gregor (Jerry Orbach) who informs them that the UniSol project was started in the 1960s in order to develop the perfect soldier. Although they were able to reanimate dead humans, they were never able to overcome the body's need for cooling. The other major problem is that memories of the last moments of life are greatly amplified; Scott believes he is still in Vietnam fighting insurgents. When Deveraux and Roberts leave the doctor's home, they are caught and arrested by the police. En route to jail, the police convoy is ambushed by Scott and GR76. A chase ensues, ending when the police bus and the UniSol truck both drive off a cliff in the Grand Canyon and explode, killing GR76. Deveraux and Roberts head to Deveraux's family farm in Louisiana.
After Deveraux is reunited with his parents, Scott appears and takes the family and Roberts hostage. A brutal fight ensues, and Scott's use of muscle enhancers enables him to beat Deveraux mercilessly. Roberts manages to escape, only to be seemingly killed by a grenade thrown by Scott. Deveraux grabs the muscle enhancers Scott used and injects himself. Now evenly matched, Deveraux fights back and is able to impale Scott on the spikes of a hay harvester. Deveraux then starts the machine up, grinding Scott to death. Roberts is revealed to have survived the explosion, and she and Deveraux embrace.
Cast[edit | edit source]
- Jean-Claude van Damme as Private Luc Deveraux / GR44
- Dolph Lundgren as Sergeant Andrew Scott / GR13
- Ally Walker as Veronica Roberts
- Ed O'Ross as Col. Perry
- Eric Norris as GR86
- Leon Rippy as Woodward
- Michael Jai White as Soldier
- Tommy "Tiny" Lister as GR55
- Jerry Orbach as Dr. Christopher Gregor
- Tico Wells as Garth
- Robert Trebor as Motel owner
- Gene Davis as Lieutenant
- Drew Snyder as Charles
- Joanne Baron as Brenda
- Allan Graf as Hank
- Joseph Malone as Huey Taylor
- Ralf Möller as GR76
- Kris van Varenberg as Young Luc Deveraux (uncredited)
- Rance Howard as John Deveraux
- Lilyan Chauvin as Mrs. Deveraux
- Ned Bellamy as FBI Agent
Production[edit | edit source]
Filming[edit | edit source]
Principal photography began in August 1991. Carolco, the company that produced the film, was having financial troubles and hoped that the film's box office return would keep them afloat.
At the 1992 Cannes Film Festival, Van Damme and Lundgren were involved in a verbal altercation that almost turned physical when both men pushed each other only to be separated. On his website, Dolph Lundgren confirmed that it was just a publicity stunt to promote the film. It was the last film that used the multi-channel surround sound format, Cinema Digital Sound.
Release[edit | edit source]
Home media[edit | edit source]
Alternative ending[edit | edit source]
The Special Edition DVD release features an alternative ending which starts shortly after Scott takes Deveraux's family and Roberts hostage. As Deveraux grabs a shotgun in the kitchen, the front door opens and he sees his mother at the door before Scott shoots her to death. In the final fight between Deveraux and Scott, Deveraux does not use Scott's muscle enhancers. Shortly after grinding Scott to death, Deveraux is shot by his "father" before Dr. Christopher Gregor and his men appear.
Gregor explains that he used Deveraux to entrap both him and Scott, and that Deveraux was staying with people posing as his parents. He then has his men shoot Deveraux, but, before Deveraux dies, the police and Roberts' news crew arrive. The news crew douse Deveraux with a fire extinguisher to stabilize him while Dr. Gregor and his men are arrested. Roberts is given the microphone to cover the arrest, but she loses all composure while on the air, dropping the microphone to comfort Deveraux.
Several days later, Deveraux is reunited with his real parents. The film ends with a eulogy narrated by Roberts, who explains that Deveraux rejected all life-prolonging medication before dying a natural death.
Reception[edit | edit source]
Box office[edit | edit source]
Universal Soldier opened in theaters on July 10, 1992 where it grossed $10,057,084 from 1916 theaters with a $5,249 per screen average. It opened and peaked at No. 2, behind A League of Their Own's second weekend. Grossing $36,299,898 in the US and Canada and $44 million internationally for a worldwide gross of $80 million.
Critical response[edit | edit source]
Mainstream critics dismissed it as a Terminator 2 clone, or as a typical, mindless action film. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an approval rating of 33% based on reviews from 33 critics. The site's consensus states: "Universal Soldier unites a pair of veteran action stars behind a potentially intriguing premise, but on this battlefield, entertainment value is largely AWOL." On Metacritic it has a score of 35% based on reviews from 15 critics. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale. In a retrospective review, Drew Taylor from IndieWire said: "This movie rules. The introduction of the Emmerich/Devlin double-team, this high concept, moderately budgeted sci-fi action movie is a bouillabaisse of clichés that somehow manages to be a charming, funny, often positively thrilling B-grade treat."
Other media[edit | edit source]
Sequels[edit | edit source]
Main articles: Universal Soldier II: Brothers in Arms, Universal Soldier III: Unfinished Business, Universal Soldier: The Return, Universal Soldier: Regeneration, and Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning
Comics[edit | edit source]
NOW Comics published a three part comic miniseries based on the movie, running from September to November 1992. The adaptation was written by Clint McElroy.
Video games[edit | edit source]
During conversion of the video game Turrican 2 to the Sega Genesis, the publishers, Accolade, decided to cash in on the hype surrounding the film and rebrand the game as a tie-in. The spaceship levels from the original were replaced with 'platforming' levels set in a jungle, the player sprite was changed to look more human, as were some enemies. The resulting product received mostly negative reviews compared to the critically acclaimed home computer release.