Random Movie Monday Review: ‘Soldier’ Salutes with Bullets
“Soldier” starring Kurt Russell salutes with bullets!
At the end of the day, “Soldier” is good ol’ fashioned sci-fi action fun. After starting off like a sci-fi adventure preparing to have a deep emotional core and a wonderful character arc for the protagonist, the movie takes an abrupt turn at the halfway mark that sends it into a quintessential shoot-em-up action flick. There’s nothing wrong with that. Sometimes movies don’t need intricate stories and characters. Sometimes they just need to be fun with a satisfying ending. “Soldier” does just that, but throughout I kept finding myself wanting more and hoping for something I could truly sink my teeth into story wise. When I finally figured out that wasn’t going to work out in my hopeful favor, my mind’s eye shifted to the film’s technical aspects and artistic designs, which do not disappoint in the slightest.
Cinematics (Cinematography, Acting, Plot, etc.) – 3
First and foremost, everything from the scenic design, costumes, and special effects scream sci-fi, immersing the audience into a futuristic, post-apocalyptic universe. In this tale, things on Earth have gone bad, so the majority of the film takes place on a deserted planet, where the military, and probably other colonies, dump their trash and let it lay to waste. Some human survivors of a crash have taken refuge there, living comfortably off the waste brought from their home planet and probably others. So, right off the bat, you’ll see creative and interesting decorations, tools, objects, furniture, and rooms that surely were a blast to create concepts for. I applaud the design teams on this film, because even though the story was linear and predictable, everything is excellent to explore with your eyes.
The cinematography and editing are also factors worth talking about. The editing held together the chaotic, utopian, and cruel atmosphere shrouding every inch of this universe, especially during one of the opening scenes where the child soldiers have to watch three dogs massacre a bore. The camera work and lighting are for sure, by now, excellent features of masterful resumes, and even the use of some of the oldest camera tricks in the book come off as fresh and fun. The only drawback to both of these categories is the use of slow-motion. In little doses it works. “The Matrix” uses slow-motion, but mainly for fight scenes in small doses that enhance the product instead of plague it. During the multiple times slow-motion is used in “Soldier,” the technique is being used to emphasize on the grueling emotion a character is feeling, but the slow-motion ends up over-exploiting the characters’ pain, sadness, or suffering, making them come off as petty. A few instances of this isn’t too bad, but with how many times “Soldier” does it, especially during a montage scene with the most random selection of music, it falls flat and disconnects the audience.
The story starts off with an amazing introduction to the universe. The audience sees how these children are bred for war from day one, watch their training and ruthless upbringing, and then skip to the final product, which is a war-fighting machine that only knows how to follow orders and kill. Once a new breed of soldier is introduced, the best of the old batch, Todd (Kurt Russell) is thrown out with the trash. He’s rescued by the refugees, and then starts his journey of discovering what it means to live through his time with these poor but civilized people. This setup, to me, is perfect for an “E.T.” type story, except filled with excellent actions scenes instead. Everything is pointing in that direction, until the film gets to its midway point. Todd, being the PTSD-ridden soldier that he is, endures fear into the refugees because his talents may eventually bring harm to them. Within a matter of five minutes, Todd is excommunicated, brought back when the refugees learn the error of their ways, the new breed of soldiers attack, and one of the best characters gets killed. This weird and abrupt turn of events comes off as inappropriate to the integrity of the film, and I had to, mentally, retract a few steps to figure out what was going on. Eventually, you forget about the midpoint’s awkwardness and the film turns into an awesome action sequence. But for those first few moments after the midpoint, I was really confused and kind of disappointed the story was just going to be another superficial action tale. It does work for the film, yes, especially with how campy it is at times and how many sci-fi troupes they follow, but I still can’t ignore my initial disappointment.
Entertainment Value – 3
While it does turn into a shoot-em-up action film, I still enjoyed the heck out of the action scenes, the fights, and the artistic design. Did the strange mid-point throw off my want to re-watch “Soldier” one day? It did, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy my initial viewing. It was fun watching the obsolete soldier finally getting to take down his elite adversary in excellent and bloody fashion. Kurt Russel may not talk a lot in this one, yet he’s still one of my favorite actors. One look or eye twitch was enough for me to see the sorrowful human deep within this war-torn, semi-brainwashed soldier named Todd 3465. Without a word, Russell is able to show the audience exactly what Todd is feeling at every moment, even if some of the director’s choices might’ve over-emphasized on those emotions at times. His performance in “Miracle” is still my favorite, right up there with Snake Plisken in “Escape from New York,” but if I ever have to come up with a “must see” list of Kurt Russell films for one of my friends, “Soldier” will be on there.
Jason Isaacs, as Colonel Mekum, churns out an excellent performance as well, once again proving why he will always be remembered as a great bad guy in the world of Hollywood. You’ll hate him by the end of the film, and even though his two “sidekicks” aren’t necessarily deserving of their fates, it’s still satisfying to see the ultimate villain be taken down by his own stupidity. With that said, I wish there was more for me to talk about when it comes to how much the film has entertained me. But it all comes down to the fact that “Soldier” had the potential to be a deep and emotional journey, and was even set up that way, but in the end it’s just a fun popcorn flick with great cinematography, sweet editing, and incredible artistic design. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, although when a story has as much unexplored potential as “Soldier” did, my mind always wants the “What If” situation instead of what happened.
Re-Watchability – 1.5
I might watch this movie again for the fights, the props, and the scenic design, and even Kurt Russel’s performance, but other than that I probably won’t watch it again.
- Entertainment Value
At the end of the day, "Soldier" is good ol' fashioned sci-fi action fun. After starting off like a sci-fi adventure preparing to have a deep emotional core and a wonderful character arc for the protagonist, the movie takes an abrupt turn at the halfway mark that sends it into a quintessential shoot-em-up action flick. There's nothing wrong with that. Sometimes movies don't need intricate stories and characters. Sometimes they just need to be fun with a satisfying ending. "Soldier" does just that, but throughout I kept finding myself wanting more and hoping for something I could truly sink my teeth into story wise. When I finally figured out that wasn't going to work out in my hopeful favor, my mind's eye shifted to the film's technical aspects and artistic designs, which do not disappoint in the slightest.
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