With a short and pretty straightforward title, Soldier is a sturdy nineties action science fiction movie. It was envisioned as a huge movie backed by a $60 million budget and starring Kurt Russel, who trained for the role over 18 months. Kurt didn’t want to do steroids and this is the reason why it took so long for him to bulk up. According to the director Paul Anderson, who shot Event Horizon while Kurt was getting ready, they were going for that space western vibe. However, what you want and what you end up having are two completely different things. At least in this case, as the production ran into various problems. David Webb Peoples, of his Blade Runner glory, wrote a pretty dark and gloomy script. Actually, the two movies exist in the same universe and if our homeboy Todd went to Earth, he would bump into Deckard.
And I’m sure if the director was anyone else but Mr. Mortal Kombat, we would get a much, much better movie. Not because Anderson is a bad director but because of the clash between all the pulpy action and brooding atmosphere. This messed with the general tone of Soldier and relegated it to a solid section of the nineties movies, away from the cult classics. Although it did gain a cult following over the years. The production design was great and the main story has enough potency to keep you engaged throughout. I just loved the huge futuristic military vehicles and the setting on the garbage planet. Much like in another great movie Alien 3, and their Fury 161 we will be visiting a similar planet Arcadia 234.
Todd 3465 has known nothing but the military environment all his life. Trained from an early age, he’s been in many different wars and skirmishes around the universe. Now, 38 years old, he’s nearing the end of his service as the younger and more ruthless recruits are coming onto the scene. They’re part of a special program headed by Colonel Mekum, a merciless man looking only for results. After being beaten and left for dead, Todd finds himself on a desolate planet full of trash. However, it will turn out that it’s not as desolate as he thinks.
Soldier touches upon many different and very intriguing concepts. Just touches, to be clear, as it remains firmly focused on Kurt’s stoic face and action. However, if you want to contemplate various moral issues, you’re free to do so. I think this was that initial direction I was talking about earlier. But again, I can’t shake this commercial vibe it puts out. It’s not as fun as the Universal Soldier that came out some six years earlier. On the other hand, what it lacks in the entertainment department makes up for in the setting and atmosphere. Not to mention Kurt’s magnificent and subdued performance that set the tone of the movie perfectly. Without him in the lead role, this movie would be just another nineties B sci-fi extravaganza, despite all of Anderson’s tricks.
Finally, if you’re looking for similar movies, I recommend you start with Outland, space western done right. From there you can move on to Kurt’s classics like Escape from New York, Escape from L.A., and Stargate. Make sure you don’t miss Starship Troopers, another nineties military-themed science fiction movie. I know these are a bit older movies, so if you’re craving juicier effects take a look at Alita: Battle Angel, Dredd, and RoboCop.
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Writer: David Webb Peoples
Cast: Kurt Russell, Jason Scott Lee, Jason Isaacs, Connie Nielsen, Sean Pertwee, Gary Busey, Vladimir Orlov
Fun Facts: Kurt Russell’s son Wyatt Russell plays him as an eleven year old.