Soldier (1998)
October 24, 2020 10:07 PM - Subscribe

Sergeant Todd is a veteran soldier for an elite group of the armed forces. After being defeated by a new breed of genetically engineered soldiers, he is dumped on a waste planet and left for dead. He soon interacts with a group of crash survivors who lead out a peaceful existence. The peace is broken as the new soldiers land on the planet to eliminate the colony, which Sergeant Todd must defend.

From Wikipedia:
Soldier was written by David Peoples, who co-wrote the script for the 1982 film Blade Runner. Soldier is considered to be a "spin-off sidequel"-spiritual successor to Blade Runner, seeing both films as existing in a shared fictional universe. The film obliquely refers to various elements of stories written by Philip K. Dick (who wrote the 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, on which Blade Runner is based), or film adaptations thereof. A Spinner from Blade Runner can be seen in the wreckage on the junk planet in the film and Kurt Russell’s character is shown to have fought in the battles referenced in Roy Batty’s (Rutger Hauer) dying monologue: the Shoulder of Orion and Tannhäuser Gate.
The film was generally a critical and commercial failure on its release, and was directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, best known for the Resident Evil films (although he also directed the cult SF movie Event Horizon). For what it is, though, it's an excellent SF action flick, with Kurt Russell as a soldier who's raised to fight from birth, only to be literally thrown away when a new generation of soldiers is created. Note to Gary Busey fans/followers: contains Gary Busey.
posted by Halloween Jack (5 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
This is one of those movies where the world building is great and the plot resolution comes too soon, at least for me.

Todd gets dumped and he lands on an alien world and meets those there. They have themselves a nice little society going. Having seen this movie a few times over the years, I am always wanting to learn more about that society before stuff hits the fan.

As for Kurt's role as Todd, he does a great job of a man who has been raised from birth to be an unfeeling soldier. Todd doesn't learn to be a fully emoting human in two hours or whatever. After all, he's a soldier trained to say yes sir no sir from birth, not expound on his emotions. But he definitely has character development and Kurt's ability to show this personal growth through subtle expression is excellent.
posted by Fukiyama at 6:13 AM on October 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

(link to the TNG rewatch thread that inspired this post)

Looks like this is currently available to watch on HBO Max or to rent on Amazon US.

Like I said in the other thread, I think Kurt Russell takes this movie to another level. Partly it's just that unique charisma/it-factor/whatever it is that makes some actors more appealing to watch than others. But listening to him in the commentary track of the dvd made me appreciate how much of that is his deliberate craft. Like, this is a guy who has been working on film sets since he was a teenager, and while he's never made the jump to officially directing (aside from being the de-facto uncredited director of Tombstone after the original director was let go), he knows his way around the camera from both ends.

There were plenty of other actors of the time who could have pulled off the fight scenes & stunt work as well as (or better than, considering Russell broke his foot in the beginning of shooting). But it's all the muted expression of emotion that plays out from Todd's eyes and body that makes the movie memorable.
posted by oh yeah! at 6:45 AM on October 25, 2020 [3 favorites]

Agreed completely.

Sumptuous worldbuilding (although Todd surviving in the garbage hold and survives being dumped is absurd, but interstellar travel in-universe is one of its bigger flaws).

Russell's lack of effect is an integral part of the character. It's a major handicap to conveying character growth and learning to care about other people, and Russell managed to power through that.

The training/ competition scene, Russell sold the heartbreak of being "obsolete."

The final battle is kind of silly, but I loved the sets. The lighting was muted to disguise some of the shortcuts, but the movie doesn't feel muddy.

The flashbacks to past military engagements - what a love note to the Alien universe!

As for other actors - Russell's age (47 at the time) is just about perfect for the role, acting and action chops aside.

The (sexual/ not sexual) tension between Todd and the mother hit a sweet spot.
posted by porpoise at 12:17 PM on October 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

Oh, I'm so happy you put this up, because my fandom, let me show you it! I first saw this by myself and mentioned how much I loved it to my usual movie-going friend, who was like, "I love it too!" so we went a couple times to the theatre, but we knew it wouldn't last long, and it didn't. It eventually moved up to a derelict second-run theatre about 40 miles north of where I lived, so my friend met me at work one night and we drove up in a torrential rainstorm just to see it again, because it often took a minimum of six months or more to get home video of a poorly received film at the time. The studio really abandoned it.

I made fanvids (bad movies often make the best vids) and was in the process of writing an epic post-movie fanfic for it when my sister got sick, so I never did finish it, but now this is making me wish someone had nominated it for Yuletide so I could try to finish that thing. I was fascinated by the not-very-fleshed-out worldbuilding and wanted to expand on that, especially wondering what a society would do with the obsolete soldiers and the refugees once they reached a colony. My friend gave me the press kit she'd found on ebay as a gift, which was a treasure trove of cool factoids, including all the Russell film references made into his service record, like the "Plissken Patch."

It wasn't a good movie qua movie--there're plenty of issues, from the random unmotived slow-mo (with bonus random Loreena McKennit song!) to the over the topness of...well, everything, to the hilarious "we're filiming on the lot next to ER so a lot of the show's cast appears in the movie because it was easy to grab them." Jason Isaacs was as mustache-twirling as he's ever been as the villain, and then you've got Gary Busey being Gary Busey. But it still manages to rise above everything that should diminish it.

For instance:
-I actually counted how many words Sgt. Todd says and it's 78 (unless you count that awesome growl he makes over the comms during the final fight scene or grunts when he's fighting). I had been falling for increasingly taciturn characters over my years in fandom, and it was hilarious to me that I finally landed on someone who only speaks 78 words. (Me to my friend when we read an interview with Sebastian Stan about not having any dialog in Captain America: The Winter Soldier--"hey, you're no Sgt. Todd, don't complain!")

- Choosing to have him speak so little puts all that focus on Russell's body language and facial expressions, and he was really one of the few actors who could do that kind of a physical role (at an age where he would become believably obsolete) and has those kinds of acting chops. That scene where he trembles in fear because Connie Nielsen is giving him a hug is just amaaaazing, and the "you must feel something" with "fear...fear and discipline" was just! so! good! My angst-loving heart.

- Even though I loved Sean Pertwee's character, the loss of the first person to see Todd as human was a good motivating trigger for him, and saving Sandra and the boy as well. I really loved the way Todd develops through her concern and kindness and the child's curiosity and lack of fear about him, and that scene at the end, when all the obsolete soldiers are like "what is this thing?" at the kid and then "huh" when Todd picks him up was just ::chef's kiss::.

-I adore the reunion with the other obsolete soldiers because them standing around and acknowledging that hey, Sgt. Todd is back, what do you know is a silent head-nod and salute, which is the equivalent of a group hug by anyone else who wasn't a soldier.

- Mustache-twirling Jason Isaacs is always a fun Jason Isaacs. And Gary Busey pulling out the cornpone lines was sublime.

- I didn't know a lot about it before I saw it the first time other than it was a sort of sideways sequel to Blade Runner, but I loved the little callbacks like Orion and I squealed out loud when they said Tannhauser Gate.

- Again, Kurt Russell is just the best. (Please don't tell me if he's a dick in real life, because I try really hard not to know anything.) I have had a crush on him since I was a kid, when he was a kid and acting in Disney movies and on '60s TV shows. A friend and I drove down to see him when he was playing baseball in the '70s, and I never ever do things like this but I waited after the game to get an autograph, and he was just so nice to these two teenagers who he assumed were probably only there because of the Computer Wore Tennis Shoes or something. I did know a lot about baseball at the time, though, which helped. (I always thought his graciousness about Kevin Costner ending up with the role he helped shape, Crash David in Bull Durham, and then lost said a lot about him as a person.)

Now I have to go rewatch it. It's been a minute since I have, and all this is making me feel incredibly nostalgic.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 2:08 PM on October 25, 2020 [10 favorites]

I hope you finish your fanfic, kitten kaboodle! That was a delightful comment and I’ve never even seen the movie!
posted by clew at 11:31 AM on October 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

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