Universal Soldier The Return

USA 1999

Reviewed by Jamie Graham

Synopsis

Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

A military complex in the US. Luc Deveraux, sole survivor of a band of military cyborgs called UniSols (short for 'Universal Soldiers'), is overseeing a government initiative to design a new, superior breed of UniSols. Panic breaks out when the soldiers' central-intelligence computer, the Self-Evolving Thought Helix (SETH), develops an independent intelligence. Knowing it is at risk of being shut down, SETH relocates itself into a moveable host by commandeering the body of an elite UniSol. Supported by his fellow UniSols, SETH sets out to kill Deveraux.

Deveraux escapes the compound but not the unwelcome company of Erin, an assertive television reporter. Together they search for SETH, a quest that leads them to the home of Squid, the former technical genius of the UniSol operation. Squid, who was fired for harbouring dangerously radical ideas, helped to relocate SETH into his cyborg body. Deveraux tortures Squid for information, but SETH appears and kills his now-redundant helper. SETH then departs, only to up the stakes when he kidnaps Deveraux's young daughter and returns to the military complex. Deveraux and Erin enter the compound and fight off several UniSols before Deveraux and SETH match up for a final showdown. Deveraux gains a small advantage and flees the building with Erin and his daughter. The military forces blow up the compound and destroy SETH.

Review

There is a wonderful moment in Stand by Me when one of the quartet of young friends turns to another and asks, "Do you think Mighty Mouse could beat up Superman?" This childish delight at pitting two seemingly indestructible forces against each other - be they monsters (King Kong vs Godzilla, 1962), cyborgs (Terminator 2 Judgment Day, 1991) or real-life legends (Bruce Lee squaring up to Chuck Norris in The Way of the Dragon, 1972) - forms the basis of Jean-Claude Van Damme's first ever sequel, just as it did of the original Universal Soldier picture (1992) in which Van Damme took on fellow muscled import Dolph Lundgren. Not only were they two of Hollywood's leading action heroes of the time, but in their pre-Hollywood incarnations Van Damme and Lundgren were both European karate champions and rivals off as well as on screen.

Universal Soldier The Return may not be able to match its predecessor in terms of casting savvy - although one of the UniSol villains is played by the mountainous WCW wrestling champion Bill Goldberg - but it does boast a fearsome screen foe in the form of SETH, a parent computer that monitors the thoughts and 'emotions' of the UniSol army. SETH not only parades a preternatural intellect to rival 2001's HAL, but soon after orchestrating a cyborg uprising against their human creators finds itself a body worthy of such a brain. Subsequently, Van Damme's Luc Deveraux is confronted by a vastly superior opponent, a state-of-the-art android capable of outwitting, outmanoeuvring and outfighting him at every turn.

With the solid if unoriginal set-up bolted firmly in place, however, first-time director Mic Rodgers fails to deliver. Despite his vast experience as a stunt co-ordinator (on the Lethal Weapon series) and a second-unit director (Braveheart), his action sequences are filmed with little flair or imagination, and actually come off second best to those in Universal Soldier's other unofficial sequel Brothers in Arms, which went straight to video this year. Matters aren't helped any by a plodding script. The refusal to shape characters or develop relationships is endemic to the genre, perhaps, but a fatal lack of humour ensures that Universal Soldier The Return is a disappointing entry to the sci-fi/action-movie canon.

Credits

Producers
Craig Baumgarten
Allen Shapiro
Jean-Claude Van Damme
Screenplay
William Malone
John Fasano
Based on characters created by
Richard Rothstein
Christopher Leitch
Dean Devlin
Director of Photography
Michael A. Benson
Editor
Peck Prior
Production Designer
David Chapman
Music
Don Davis
┬ęTriStar Pictures, Inc.
Production Companies
TriStar Pictures presents a Baumgarten Prophet Entertainment/IndieProd Company/Long Road production
Executive Producers
Michael Rachmil
Daniel Melnick
Co-producers
Richard G. Murphy
Adam Merins
Bennett R. Specter
Production Co-ordinator
Andrea Gabusi
Unit Production Manager
Michael Rachmil
Location Manager
Robert Callan
Assistant Directors
Albert Cho
Rebecca Strickland
Script Supervisor
Melinda Taksen
Casting
Rachel Abroms
Jory Weitz
Associate:
Gabrielle Berberich
Texas:
Barbara Brinkley
Toni Cobb
Voice:
The Reel Team
Camera Operators
Edward Morey III
Gary Jay
Brown Cooper
Steadicam Operator
Jim McConkey
Visual Effects
CRC Digital
Visual Effects Supervisor:
Ralph Maiers
Visual Effects Co-ordinators:
Gary Hall
Andy Atkins
Tony Deryan
Bruce Harris
O.T. Hight
Heidy Hughes
Eric Pham
Gabriel Sanchez
T.J. Morgan
Janet Quen
CGI Artists:
Dan Santori
George Ulmer
Casey Dame
Video/CGI and POV Display
E=mc2 Digital
Visual effects Supervisor:
Rob Morgenroth
CGI Supervisor:
Paul R. LeBlanc
Digital Artists:
Buddy Gheen
Mike Sabga
Effects Co-ordinator:
Brett Cody
Video Operator:
Rob Nelson
Visual Effects Editor
Bart Rachmil
Special Effects
Joey DiGaetano
Bobby Vazquez
Art Director
John Frick
Set Designer
Thomas H. Paul
Set Decorator
Donnasu Sealy
Costume Designer
Jennifer L. Bryan
Wardrobe Supervisor
Rondi Hillstrom Davis
Key Make-up
Keith Sayer
Robotics/Special Effects Make-up by
KNB EFX, Inc
Key Hair Stylist
Phillip Ivey
Main Titles Design
The Picture Mill
Opticals
Cinema Research Corporation
Music Supervisors
Jason Alexander
Micki Stern
Music Editor
Robert Garrett
Music Consultants
Sharon Boyle
John Houlihan
Soundtrack
"Awake" by/performed by The Clay People; "Never Felt So Much" by Diana M. Williamson, Allan Soberman, performed by Diana Williamson; "Saddam a Go-Go" by Brad Roberts, Dave Musel, David Brockie, Michael Bishop, Michael Derks, Peter Lee, performed by GWAR; "Remain Calm" by Brian Barry, Chris Ignatiou, Glen Diani, Eddie Stratton, performed by One Minute Silence; "Chaos" by Tim Skold, performed by Skold; "Bled for Days" by Wayne Wells, Ken Lacey, Antonio Campos, Koichi Fukuda, performed by Static-X; "I Don't Want to Be Alone Anymore" by Ray Benson, performed by Ray Benson, Lisa Tingle; "Magic #3" by Ted Hutt, Andrew Frank, performed by JACT; "Hatred" by Jesse Malin, Danny Sage, performed by D. Generation; "Fueled (Remix)" by/performed by Anthrax; "Crush 'Em" by Dave Mustaine, Bud Prager, Marty Friedman, performed by Megadeth
Sound Mixer
Pud Cusack
Production Mixer
Kathleen Cusack
Re-recording Mixers
John Ross
Joe Barnett
Dorian Cheah
Additional Mixing
Yuri Reese
William Smith
Supervising Sound Editor
Greg Hedgepath
Dialogue Editor
Jed Dodge
Sound Effects Editors
Lisle Engle
Paula Fairfield
Frank Gaeta
George Haddad
Michael Kamper
Michael Mullane
Roland Thai
ADR
Supervisor:
Robert C. Jackson
Mixers:
Michael Hertlein
Alan Freedman
Foley
Artists:
Ossama Khuluki
Diane Marshall
David Fein
Mixers:
C.W. Jones
Mary Erstad
Editor:
Lucy Sustar
Stunt Co-ordinator
Michael Runyard
Film Extract
Universal Soldier (1992)
Cast
Jean-Claude Van Damme
Luc Deveraux
Michael Jai White
SETH
Heidi Schanz
Erin
Xander Berkeley
Dylan Cotner
Justin Lazard
Captain Blackburn
Kiana Tom
Maggie
Daniel von Bargen
General Radford
James Black
Sergeant Morrow
Karis Paige Bryant
Hillary
Bill Goldberg
Romeo
Brent Anderson
2nd technician
Brent Hinkley
Squid
Woody Watson
RL gate guard
Jacqueline Klein
Betty Wilson
Maria Artita
Kitty Anderson
Sam Williamson
Hillary's doctor
Dion Culberson
drag queen
Pam Dougherty
60 year old woman
Heidi Franz
Erin's stripper
Barbara Petricini Buxton
female news anchor
Molly Moroney
pediatric nurse
Josh Berry
radio man
Mic Rodgers
big biker
Mark Dalton
lead RL guard
Gino Crognale
puppeteer
Certificate
18
Distributor
Columbia Tristar Films (UK)
7, 469 feet
83 minutes
Dolby digital/SDDS
In Colour
Prints by
DeLuxe
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011