Universal Soldier: The Return Preview

Dear Diary, Jamie writes, I know I haven’t written to you in awhile but I met someone. I know, very exciting. Less exciting? I met someone else. Classic Jamie, right? Anyway, I need some advice. On the one hand you have beautiful… actually now that I think of it I don’t know their names. Classic Jamie you know and love. So Demon #1 is beautiful and a lawyer, but also a demon. Demon #2 is beautiful but also a liar and still a demon. The choice is tearing me apart, like hooks into my flesh. What do I do?! Gah! Classic Jamie. But having talked it out with you I think I have my decision. I will just have to marry both of them and live forever in this puzzle box. It’s the only logical choice. Thanks Diary. With that Jamie looks up and find himself back in the alleyway where they cornered the Predator. “Wha… what?” He asks stunned. Patrick comes over and places a hand on his shoulder, “A gust of wind blew by and closed the puzzle box while you were writing for the last twelve hours.” Jamie nods, but can’t help but wonder if he could have found happiness in that demon world. Probably not… because they were demons. Suddenly light floods the alley and they are surrounded by police. “Freeze, Predator dirtbag! Wait… where is it?” Asks the Commander. Jamie and Patrick look at each other and toss the puzzle box into a nearby sewer. “That Predator won’t be bother anyone else, Commander. We made sure of that.” The Commander is impressed. First a multimillion dollar t-shirt business and now this. He approaches Jamie and Patrick, “ I have a new assignment for you. Ever heard of the Super Duper Commando Program?” That’s right! We’re crushing the Universal Soldier franchise by watching the only two qualifying films in the franchise. Weirdly this is actually the first and the fourth films made. That’s because after the first film they made a couple Universal Soldier TV movies before deciding those never happened and starting over again with a new sequel Universal Soldier: The Return. It’s just weird enough that I made sure to get the TV movies from my local public library so I could torture myself with them. This is the Chain Reaction part of the cycle as Xander Berkeley was in both Proud Mary and Universal Soldier: The Return. Perfect. Let’s go!

Universal Soldier: The Return (1999) – BMeTric: 76.8

UniversalSoldierTheReturn_BMeT

UniversalSoldierTheReturn_RV

(Oh shit, it was at 3.0 for a hot second there. It has “recovered”, although mostly because you can’t really stay below 4.0 without being a truly legendary film while accruing votes. This should be a truly dire experience. I’m excited.)

Leonard Maltin – 2 stars –  The muscles from Brussels is back and must stop an out-of-control super-cyborg from world domination. Derivative but not boring rehash of the original. Features two tough heroines, Schanz and ESPN fitness guru Tom, but it you’re threatened by the enlightened sexual politics, there’s also a gratuitous brawl at a nudie bar. In his acting debut, WCW superstar Bill Goldberg proves he has all the dramatic range of Foghorn Leghorn.

(WCW star. Check. An ESPN fitness guru. Check. Brawl at a nudie bar. Check. Uh, this might be the greatest thing I’ve ever read. My body is ready, but will my mind melt when I watch this? There is only one way to find out.)

Trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2SxMcP-UFo

(That looks way dumber than the original! It looks so bad. Just explosions, and guns, and stunts, and Michael Jai White … woof!)

Directors – Mic Rodgers – (BMT: Universal Soldier: The Return; Notes: A stuntman, and, I can’t believe I’m saying this, most notable for being Mel Gibson’s personal stunt double for over ten years.)

Writers – Richard Rothstein (characters) – (Known For: Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning; BMT: Universal Soldier: The Return; Universal Soldier; Notes: Died this year. He made the television series Deadly Nightmares.)

Christopher Leitch (characters) – (Known For: Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning; BMT: Universal Soldier: The Return; Universal Soldier; Notes: Worked with Rothstein briefly on Deadly Nightmares, which is possibly why he got the job at the time.)

Dean Devlin (characters) – (Known For: Independence Day; Stargate; Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning; Future BMT: Godzilla; BMT: Universal Soldier: The Return; Independence Day: Resurgence; Geostorm; Universal Soldier; Razzie Notes: Nominee for Worst Screenplay in 1999 for Godzilla; and in 2017 for Independence Day: Resurgence; and Nominee for Worst Written Film Grossing Over $100 Million for Independence Day in 1997; Notes: Advised the games company ZeniMax in the early 2000s, they own Bethesda.)

William Malone (written by) – (Future BMT: Supernova; BMT: Universal Soldier: The Return; Notes: He was the designer of the Michael Myers mask in Halloween!)

John Fasano (written by) – (Future BMT: Darkness Falls; Megiddo: The Omega Code 2; BMT: Universal Soldier: The Return; Another 48 Hrs.; Notes: Died in 2014. He began his career creating industrial films for IBM.)

Actors – Jean-Claude Van Damme – (Known For: The Expendables 2; Kung Fu Panda 3; Kung Fu Panda 2; Kickboxer: Retaliation; Hard Target; Kickboxer; Kickboxer: Vengeance; Sudden Death; Timecop; Breakin’; Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning; JCVD; Enemies Closer; Future BMT: Street Fighter; Derailed; Cyborg; Knock Off; Welcome to the Jungle; The Order; Double Impact; Legionnaire; Maximum Risk; Replicant; Inferno; Missing in Action; The Quest; Nowhere to Run; Pound of Flesh; Black Water; A.W.O.L.: Absent Without Leave; Last Action Hero; Bloodsport; BMT: Universal Soldier: The Return; Double Team; Universal Soldier; Razzie Notes: Winner for Worst Screen Couple for Double Team in 1998; and Nominee for Worst New Star for Bloodsport in 1989; Notes: Y’all know Jean-Claude. He was a karate champion in Belgium, including appearances on the Belgian team which won the 1979 European Karate Championship. After a successful fill-contact career he became an actor.)

Bill Goldberg – (Known For: American Satan; Looney Tunes: Back in Action; Future BMT: Ready to Rumble; The Longest Yard; BMT: Universal Soldier: The Return; Notes: Was a pro football player for a bit (he played for the Falcons, Rams, and Panthers). Had a horrible sounding abdominal injury which ended his career. He then became a WCW star, and even the Heavyweight champion!)

Heidi Schanz – (Known For: Se7en; The Truman Show; Future BMT: Virtuosity; Kiss the Girls; BMT: Universal Soldier: The Return; Notes: Was at one point a model, and has been in a smattering of television programs as well. Appears to have retired from acting in 2003.)

Budget/Gross – $40-45 million / Domestic: $10,667,893

(Oh that is terrible, although I’m somewhat skeptical that it actually cost that much. Considering the crew they had going and the cast besides (an older) Van Damme … where would the money even go!)

#87 for the Action – Martial Arts genre

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(Oooof worse than Double Team! This kind of came at a nadir of the genre. Possibly, this was a last gasp for testing Van Damme (and any martial arts) films in theaters.)

#43 for the Cyborg / Android / Robot genre

universalsoldierthereturn_cyborg

(Juuuust narrowly beats out Deadly Friend, which is atrocious. Basically the only super successful robot films recently were transformer films.)

Rotten Tomatoes – 5% (3/58): Universal Soldier – The Return fails on almost every level, from its generic story to its second rate action and subpar performances.

(Oh, that sounds delighful. And sub-10% is incredibly bad. Getting more excited. Reviewer Highlight: It’s actually the fourth entry in the series, after a couple of straight-to-cable sequels. That’s a lot of pulp to squeeze out of a concept that was fairly juiceless to begin with. – Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly)

Poster – Robo Soldier v2.0 (A-)

universal_soldier_the_return

(Gotta be honest with you… this is working more me. The balance, the sepia tone, the kooky font. Yes, yes, yes. Just a tad bit less going on… like what’s with the circle?)

Tagline(s) – Prepare to become obsolete (B)

(Am I a soldier in the scenario this tagline is commenting on? Why am I preparing? Shouldn’t Van Damme be preparing? Anyway, it’s short and comments vaguely on the premise, but not really all that clever other than a weak double entendre with obsolete.)

Keyword(s) – time bomb; Top Ten by BMeTric: 90.3 Alone in the Dark (2005); 89.7 Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997); 87.9 Street Fighter (1994); 85.7 Spice World (1997); 84.4 Movie 43 (2013); 84.0 RoboCop 3 (1993); 77.9 Torque (2004); 76.8 Universal Soldier: The Return (1999); 68.9 On Deadly Ground (1994); 68.4 Double Team (1997);

(Oh shit, we need to watch Street Fighter stat! Kind of a great list to be honest, a decent range, but also a few terrible films.)

Notes – The role of Romeo was originally intended for WWE wrestler “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. However, without notifying Steve, his agent turned down the offer of $55,000 to star in the film. The role was subsequently offered to WCW star Bill Goldberg, who accepted the role, for a fee of $250,000. When Austin found out about this, he expressed his anger to Vince McMahon for not letting him know about the movie offer. (Austin would have been better. I haven’t even seen the film and I know this)

Subsequent Universal Soldier films ignore the events of The Return, and outright contradict it in several ways. While still an official entry, it is no longer considered part of the franchise canon. (Reeeeeeally … I don’t believe you)

Michael Jai White (S.E.T.H.) also appeared in the original Universal Soldier (1992) as a soldier.

(At around one hour and eleven minutes) During the final fight sequence between Seth and Luc, when Seth finally breaks the termination code, the first part of the code is NCC1701, the same as the numbers that are on the outside of the Enterprise, of Star Trek fame. (Oooooooo I like that)

Was released theatrically despite the previous sequels having been made-for-television.

The last feature to be theatrically released starring Jean-Claude Van Damme until JCVD (2008). (Wow. It was kind of strange how abruptly Seagal and Van Damme retired into straight-to-DVD stardom)

(At around one hour and six minutes) When Bill Goldberg’s character Romeo tears his shirt off, and starts to fight with the security guards, he uses one of his signature wrestling moves, the spear. (natch)

Certain subterranean scenes were filmed in Texas, in the tunnels dug for the U.S.’s Superconducting Supercollider project. After the project was canceled in 1993, the tunnels were used as storage by Ellis County. (That’s sad)

William Malone was originally going to direct the film, but left just before the start of shooting due to creative differences with the producers, and was replaced by Mic Rodgers. (Hmmm Malone had at least a little more experience as a director, so probably unfortunate that happened)

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