Solo (1996) Recap

Jamie

Solo is just a robot who feels a little too much. So when his program prevents him from killing civilians as collateral damage, the US military tanks the project. But Solo escapes and makes his home in a peaceful village that needs his help. Can he protect the village and evade capture by the US before it’s too late? Find out in… Solo.

How?! Solo is the ultimate fighting machine… except for the whole part where his advanced AI system has taught itself to care about human life. ‘Dang,’ thinks the US military, ‘we can’t have this weapon caring about humans,’ so they scrap the project and set Solo up for a memory wipe. Sensing that this is the equivalent to a death sentence for him, Solo decides to escape and heads deep into the jungles of [insert anonymous Central American country]. There he finds a peaceful village who helps him get back up and running. The village is constantly terrorized by some anonymous rebels and Solo helps them learn how to defend themselves. This involves mostly montages and laughing. They successfully drive the rebels off, but this gets interest from the military. They send in an eeeevil black ops group who teams up with the rebels to overtake the village and hold Solo’s friends hostage. Returning to the village, Solo basically owns everyone cause he is a killer robot and is way faster and stronger. I mean, come on. He’s got robot muscles and junk… it’s really no competition. That is until the military drops in a new, advanced black ops killer robot and Solo is like ‘oh, shit.’ They do battle in an ancient temple where it looks like the bigger, badder robot is going to win, but they forgot one thing: love. Solo is able to use the uniquely human skills he learned from the villagers (like bluffing) to fool the eeevil android and kill him. Everyone assumes both robots died, but not so fast… methinks Solo may be out there somewhere laughing his robot ass off and loving life. THE END.

Why?! Why indeed. Solo just wants to live and to figure out what living means for him. In the book there is a lot of concern that he’ll end up basically being Skynet once he figures out that all the ills of the Earth are caused by humans so that’s why there is so much urgency to get out and kill him. It’s hinted that Solo loves amnimals and the implication is that if left to his own devices it’s actually more likely he would just become the greatest zoologist of all time because that’s his passion… which is kind of nice… until he figures out that humans are killing all the amnimals.

Who?! Probably the best aspect of the film is that the super duper badass robot they bring in after Solo kills William Sadler’s eeevil black ops character is a… William Sadler robot. First of all, not the most intimidating model of your killer robot. Second, is that a dual role I smell? Not too many films I can think of off the top of my head where someone has a dual role: one human, one robot. Nice.

What?! Is Solo a MacGuffin. That’s the question I have to ask… literally because I can’t think of anything else to do for this section. I mean, he’s an object of incredible power that everyone wants to get their hands on and his capture is central to the plot. That sure sounds like a Solo MacGuffin to me.

Where?! The book is very explicitly set in Nicaragua, but that is not made clear here. It’s definitely Mesoamerica given the spanish speaking population and the ball game that is shown being played, but given that by 1996 it no longer made sense for it to involve the Contras it seemed like they just left it ambiguous. D  

When?! Just like the location, it seems like when this is set is just an ambiguous present. The world is almost like a cartoon… there isn’t much in the way of reality to hang onto. Would have loved for them to give us a Mesoamerican specific holiday to really spice this part up. Alas. F.

Solo is based on a book called Weapon. The film follows the plot pretty closely, although the book goes much more in depth on the philosophy of what an AI machine like Solo might do when confronted with the ethical questions of war and is more of the time, being set during the  American anti-communist efforts using the Contras in Nicaragua. It started off pretty badly, but I rather enjoyed it by the end. Not a half bad beach read if you’re looking for a little techno-action. They really dumbed it down when it came to this (should have been straight-to-video) schlock. 1996 must have really been peak action if this managed to make it into theaters. You can tell a little by Seagal and JCVD. Just a mere two years later and they were in the straight-to-video realm after both releasing two (!) films in 1996. The script is bad, everything looks cheap, and they even whip out a crazy nonsense ending involving a robot William Sadler. At that point it seemed like even the director gave up. At least we had some explosions and the main character was a robot so there wasn’t an unnecessary love interest… although that would have been hilarious and great. In fact, I count that against the film. Patrick?  

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! When you think of action star, you think Mario Van Peebles. Let’s go!

P’s View on the Preview – The thing that really stands out for Solo is that the poster absolutely looks awful. Like, comically bad. Other than that I welcome the return of Mario Van Peebles who we last saw in Highlander: The Final Dimension I think. So yeah … he isn’t a great actor, or at least he was in some wild films in the mid-90s. The film seems like a borderline straight-to-DVD knockoff of Terminator 2. That has to be fun … right? What were my expectations? Basically a straight-to-video film from the mid-90s. Which can definitely be fun, especially with someone like Mario Van Peebles in the lead. But there is an outside shot it is just boring.

The Good – This is the type of straight-to-video film I would dig watching as a BMT Friend. Big robot arm guns, ripping off the plot of Seven Samurai, poorly directed action. Like, yeah, sign me up. Feels a bit like Sudden Death with Van Damme in that regard. There is probably a kind of worthwhile message about the US military-industrial complex hidden in there (as with so many films of the 90s). And the film can be funny at times. Best Bit: Light 90s action.

The Bad – Some reviews suggest Van Peebles is okay, but I really don’t get it. He’s acting like a robot, sure, but it feels like either a play off of Arnold in The Terminator without being an enormous bodybuilder, or just a “beep boop I am a robot” schtick from a cable movie. The storyline is generic and boring, and the twists at the end are obvious. The acting (including Adrian Brody) is awful as well. It is hard to point at a single thing (the explosions maybe?) and say it was done well. This film feels like a straight-to-video film because that is what it is. They just accidentally released it to theaters for some reason. Fatal Flaw: Looks like garbage.

The BMT – In some small way this is exactly what BMT is meant to do, find those forgotten films, resurrect them, and mine them for BMT gold. There is no gold in these hills. I have no interest in watching this film again. I have no interest in recommending this film to anyone. Even trying to search for a related bad movie for the You Just Got Schooled section was basically impossible, the only possible analogues are garbage like Runaway starring Tom Selleck. Did it meet my expectations? No, sadly. Most straight-to-video films from the 90s are amusingly entertaining in some small way. There is nothing here. As I feared, the film is merely boring. Pass.

Roast-radamus – Very very borderline Setting as a Character (Where?) for … Central America I guess? There are definitely some Mayan ruins in the film. It isn’t a great setting, but it is a character. It does have a pretty great Worst Twist (How?) for the eeeevil colonel not being the final boss after all, instead a robot version of him with a gun arm is! That’s fun. The film is a BMT I think, just because of Peeble’s bizarre performance and the improbable elevative of the film above its seemingly inevitable straight-to-video quality.

Sequel, Prequel, Streaming – So after the original’s origin story for Solo I think the sequel needs to get serious. And what could be more serious in these trying times than a hard boiled Washington political drama? Solo is elected as a Senator representing Florida (which is where he settled due to his snake wrangling abilities). Our robot friend is trying to revamp a flagging VA office, but gets wrapped up in a scandal when his field reports are leaked to the press. Can Solo navigate the minefield that is modern political discourse to figure out who is trying to take him down? Find out in Solo Goes the Washington. Twist ending, the President is a robot, the ultimate military weapon: a robotic Commander in Chief, which sets up the finale to the trilogy, President Solo.

You Just Got Schooled – There wasn’t anything that popped out to me that seemed like a good Schooled movie this week. With Hall of Fame inductions coming up I think I’ll start skipping it in lieu of watching some of those during the week.

Cheerios,

The Sklogs

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