Friday, May 29, 2009

Shot Down In Flames

Soldier (1998)

Director Paul W.S. Anderson must be stopped. I’m not proposing killing him, merely that someone go back in time and prevent his parents from ever meeting and conceiving this douchebag.

His movies are often just blatant rip offs of much better movies: Event Horizon was Roger Corman’s Galaxy of Terror with a bigger budget, and Sam Neill in place of the giant raping worm; Resident Evil was a dimwitted videogamer’s version of George Romero’s should-be-trademarked Dead world; Alien vs. Predator – the less said about this piece of garbage the better.

Soldier is simply one man’s “vision” of fucking up The Road Warrior (with a little preamble that seriously cribs from Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers and its goofy fascist future propaganda, which came out the year before). Writer David Webb Peoples’ opener inexplicably shows children in 1996 being taken by The Fascist State (we know they are fascist because they all wear smart gray nazi wool uniforms) and raised to be nothing but SOLDIERS. They are taught the usual: pain is your friend, war is good, obey your superiors, crush da enemeese (Holla, Conan fans), yada, yada. Even the alphabet tape that runs across the top of their blackboards helpfully tells the tykes things such as H is for Harm, J is for Jerk, K is for Kill (I guess Reading, Riting and ‘Rithmetic are OUT!).

Then when our boy Sgt. Todd (Kurt Russell) is a man we see a compilation of his greatest victories, which almost made me fall out of my chair laughing. These are supposed to be the ultimate soliders – trained from birth to be unequaled warriors. They show this by having Russell and the others walk across various battlefields in the same stunted Frankensteinian manner, as if their legs were wearing splints. They move slowly, totally out in the open, never seeking cover or doing anything real soldiers might do. They go from campaign to campaign, culminating in them wearing space suits on some planet with Fortress of Solitude crystals poking out here and there. Kurt and the others are so bulked up they always walk as if they are wearing spacesuits - they act like they are in a 9 year old boy's idea of warfare! (I thought it should have been done with Russell walking on a treadmill in front of a blue screen or weatherman’s chroma-key backing, so they could superimpose the various locations behind him.)

After Jason Isaacs shows up playing the early 90s Jason Isaac role of the dickhead, Sgt. Kurt is quickly found to be obsolete, replaced by the new, DNA enhanced (with flames painted on his hood) Jason Scott Lee, looking really, really roided out (and he looked so tight as Bruce Lee).

From this point on it’s The Road Warrior rip off with the Sarge falling in with a group of people on the Garbage World (that’s right, in this stupid ass future, The Fascist State flies its garbage – including small things like aircraft carriers – to the other side of the galaxy. Seriously, there’s a spiral galaxy out in the distance.). The people look and live exactly like the Mad Max folks, scavenging and scrounging to create a life. But the production design and costuming is nowhere near as cool and inventive as the Mad Max films. It’s really second rate.

Then Jason Isaacs decides to hold training exercises on the Garbage World. No real good reason is given by the movie, it’s completely arbitrary. And when he’s asked what their soldiers should do if they encounter civilians Isaacs orders them to be treated as “hostiles.” See, Jason Isaacs in another total douche role.

Sgt. Kurt decides to stick with the Garbage Folks and help them protect their oil – oops, sorry, wrong movie -- protect their garbage so he takes on Jason Isaacs’ new breed of soldiers in the most boring battle and fight scenes I’ve seen in quite some time. They looked like lesser outtakes from Rambo II; in fact, at least one scene was cribbed from THAT movie with Kurt blending in with the metal and junk and only revealed with a flash of lightning. The final battle between Kurt and Jason S.L. is hilarious. How do we know it’s a FINAL BATTLE. It’s raining. There are explosions going off around them. Smoke fills the air here and there. And lightning is going off. (Guess they couldn’t just have them fight at a Steam and Flame Factory, this being a Garbage World and all.)

I guess when The Fascist State grooms its soldiers they don’t teach them how to speak, which is why Sgt. Kurt only uttered like 8 words in this movie. The rest of the time he was Mr. Stoic Face - Kurt Russell would have made a pretty good Terminator. Then again, with the serious bulk up and the buzz cut hairdo, the filmmakers made him LOOK like Terminator.

The visual effects look like something from Britain in the 1980s (and not the Britain that made Space: 1999 either). The starfield backgrounds look like something out of 1940s paintings. The ship that brings Jason Isaacs to Garbage World swoops over the camera at one point and it made me think of nothing so much as a few door locks cobbled together. When seen from above, the ship looks worse - like a shitty model thrown together by Italian kids who thought the spaceships in Star Crash were grandioso.

In case you haven’t guessed, this is a terrible movie, with not an original idea in its little celluloid head. It’s not fun to watch. Or interesting in the least little way. And Connie Nielsen keeps ALL her clothes on.

That last sentence shows you why Paul W.S. Anderson is a total moron.


  1. "Steam and Flame factory"--LOL!!

  2. Full disclosure: The Steam and Flame Factory is a Roger Ebert creation to account for the ridonkulous final fight scene locations for many an 80s film. The location looked industrial, but seemed to serve no other purpose but to generate steam and flame, and lots of it!

  3. Ahhh, that's where I had heard that before! I think the smoke and flame factory is where they make the "Fire and Brimstone 5000".