UMD Movie Review: Universal Soldier

One of the true dumb summer action flicks, Universal Soldier does not intend to take itself seriously. It's filled with camp, terrible acting, and countless shots of giant things being blown up or destroyed. It's fun given the way the subject matter is handled, but hardly a classic.

An obvious attempt to capture some of the magic from The Terminator this little project, one of Roland Emmerich's first, is an obvious knock-off. The small budget didn't prevent them from capturing some impressive sequences, the opening scene on the Hoover Dam enough to create some epic scale in a film that has little. Action scenes are extended and completely overboard, adding a sense of camp along with comedy.

Casting couldn't have been better for two guys playing robots. Dolph Lundgren can't act at all, but he throws an incredible punch. Van Dame was just gaining some momentum, and most of his lines were cut short for the better. Ally Walker plays a similar role to Ed Furlong in The Terminator, and even looks like Linda Hamilton. She provides a small emotional pull and expected comedy.

It's not that anyone actually cares about deep, involving performances from Universal Soldier. Everything here is beyond stupid, and Lundgren's one solid piece of acting ends up being a comedy sequence (in a grocery). The film is one of those that just tosses in everything, and quickly becomes entertaining, at least long enough to lead the audience into the next brawl. If you don't expect much from it, you'll have a fun time. Do expect to feel like you're in familiar territory though. (** out of *****)

If you're giving it a shot, do so elsewhere than this UMD. To say this is a miserable visual presentation would be kind. Most noticeably, the picture has been cropped down from 2.35:1 to size itself with the PSP's screen. That's inexcusable, and so are the black levels that are non-existent. There's not a single frame of video on the disc that's accurate, and everything is either littered with compression artifacts or washed out to the point of where it becomes unwatchable. (*)

While the explosions won't look great, they'll sound like they should. The Dolby Heaphone track is the way to go. Simulating rear audio adds an extra boost to the depth, and makes for a nice listening experience. There are definitely moments where bass becomes overpowering and drowns out dialogue, but it's not important information being presented. The standard stereo option is nice, though by switching back and forth between the two options, you'll immediately hear the difference (assuming you have headphones of course). (***)

The single extra is an 18-minute feature on the making of the film. It was included on the special edition DVD and it's called Guns, Genes, and Fighting Machines. This is basic stuff, with both the actors and crew providing their memories from the shoot. There's a ton of praising here, and it gets annoying. There's some brief footage from the sets. (**)

Likely a copyright issue, it's funny to see "Play the Universal Soldier video game from Accolade" on the UMD case. Given the game appeared on the 16-bit consoles, that's just a little outdated. The less said about the game the better too.

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