A couple of days ago I was looking for something to watch on Netflix, having finished the latest run of series and having experienced a sudden death of the family blu-ray player halfway through Taboo. I stumbled on Soldier, which Mrs. Hatboy had added to our list because it looked like the cheesiest action sci-fi ever.
Spoiler: It did not disappoint on any level.
So, while I am still wondering whether I want to link this up to the Stargate or the Escape From franchises, I will say that it was a rich full evening’s entertainment and cultural enrichment. I am of course lying but it was still funny.
Soldier delivers pretty much exactly what it says on the box. The year is 2036, or eighteen years from now, and super soldiers bred and trained in 1996 are now forty years old and obsolete. A new breed of super soldier is making them all look bad, and Gary Busey is
the crusty old sentimental mass-murdering war criminal the hard-nosed general trying to keep his soldiers in action. He fails, the soldiers are put on retirement maintenance duty, and Kurt Russell (assumed dead) is taken to a garbage planet.
Let’s just pause for a moment to enjoy the idea of a garbage planet. Such a wonderful resources-to-benefit ratio. And the sheer reusability of some of that stuff on
Wall-E Earth Waterworld Absolom Fiorina 161 Arcadia 234, absolutely worth the effort of transporting it there rather than using it for other stuff. Let’s also keep in mind at this point that we have missed the Back to the Future franchise future by a significant margin, and now have 18 years to achieve the Soldier future. Complete with interplanetary, possibly even intergalactic colonisation. No pressure.
Anyway, what we end up with is a hilariously contrived Rambo / Terminator / Predator / Demolition Man plot where the evil modern soldiers go trainin’ on the garbage planet completely randomly and decide to destroy the peaceful villagers who live there for some inane reason, and Kurt Russell (who got creamed even with a three-to-one advantage against a single v2.0 soldier) taking on the entire division of twenty. I won’t spoil it by telling you how it plays out, but it neither surprised nor disappointed.
The main questions I was left with at the end of the movie were: How can a test run of a set of next-generation super soldiers go so hysterically wrong (you’ll know what I mean if you watch this movie, I mean how does it get to the point where the commanders of these two absolutely-disciplined groups of soldiers had no recourse but to leave a counting-down nuke on the planet and try to run away, not to mention one of them having to shoot the other)? And what is the point of breeding and training super soldiers who will shoot through a civilian to kill a hostile? At that point, why are you fighting a ground war instead of bombing the fuck out of the place from low orbit? Oh right, because USA. I forgot.
This in turn raises another somewhat meta-question, which is: What is it in the USian cultural psyche that results in stories like this over and over again? This sentimental clinging to the old in the face of the modern upgrade, even when it’s murderous super soldiers? This insistence that War is Hell, but soldierin’ is noble as fuck and cool as shit? Just for another example, a while ago we watched Battleships – and what happened in that one? Everything went to shit but then a bunch of old crusty veterans in an old crusty veteran ship saved the day rather than all simultaneously falling and breaking a hip (and I include the ship in that). It’s just so fucking cheesy.
Look, I don’t want to get into it too much. And I certainly don’t intend this as a slight against the military and this was just a fun action movie that isn’t exactly a load-bearing construction. In fact, if anything, I approve of the idea of an elite soldier whose murderous ability is tempered with experience, wisdom, and humanity (for various definitions thereof), and a military leadership that would place value (both tactical and emotional) on those characteristics. In fact, you could say my latest novel explores the precise theme of “outmoded engineered super soldiers with heart,” so that’s why this struck a chord with me. I just found the whole conflict of the movie to be fascinating in its unselfconscious schizophrenia.
Still, a lot of fun. I mean, you should have figured that out already when I described it as a hilariously contrived Rambo / Terminator / Predator / Demolition Man plot just now, but let me spell it out for you. The movie itself was made in 1998, which now I think about it is pretty old and yet nowhere near as old as this movie looked with its 80s motifs. It’s very easy to forget that 1998 was quite a long time ago.
Soldier was in the trough between waves. It came too early to make it as a nostalgia throwback, and too late to join its true peers. But there it is. I give this six and a half litres of bicep oil out of a possible Dylan You Son Of A Bitch.