'Universal Soldier: 4K Ultra HD'
(Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Ally Walker, Ed O'Ross, Jerry Orbach, et al / 4K Ultra HD + Blu ray + Digital / R / (1992) 2019 / Lionsgate Films)
Overview: Soldiers Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and Sgt. Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren) killed each other in Vietnam.
But their demise proves to be just the beginning for the U.S. government, which brings both men back to life decades later for a secret anti-terrorism program.
4K Ultra HD Verdict: Lionsgate Films continues to expand their 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray catalog offerings this month with the release of the widely-beloved sci-fi action classic, 'Universal Soldier' in the new 4K home video format on November 5th, 2019.
For my money, this 'Universal Soldier: 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital' combo pack's sharpness takes a fairly large step forward from others in their 4K Ultra HD catalog and even comes with HDR (High Dynamic Range) for the complete 4K Ultra HD experience, of course.
So, what we have is 'Universal Soldier' presented to us as a two-disc combo pack with a sheet for a Digital HD Copy.
Other stand out points you should know are:Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: Native 4K (2160p), HDR: Dolby Vision + HDR10, Aspect ratio: 2.39:1 and Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1.
Featuring Dolby Vision and HDR10 for brighter, deeper, and way more lifelike colors, as with most all 4K UHD's, everything that we watch features these qualities - but somehow, this film gloriously shines within them all.
Noticeably crisper with the overall clarity receiving an obvious boost here on this release, what's more is that it's enjoyably noticeable.
For as well as some new nuances to the somewhat drab palette courtesy of Dolby Vision we also get to witness sudden bright pops of color; like in the jungle scenes at the forefront of the movie, where bullets are flying in the densely-lit setting; but now with the new brightness, we get to see facial expressions, the redness of blood and well, it just all comes more vividly to life now. Which is amazing to see, in truth.
Indeed, the picture enjoys the fruits of the added resolution in terms of bringing out the aforementioned extremely fine facial and some of the yellow graded material (notably some scenes, much like the cryogenics lab where the bodies of the killed soldiers are kept and preserved, but suddenly - as we all know now - not as "programmed to obey" as everyone had first hoped they would have been!), their bodies now have a kind of honeyed amber appearance. Which is interesting, and at least a little different from the 1080p Blu-ray accounting.
As for the audio, well we have: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit.
Additionally, the 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack and Blu-ray feature Dolby Atmos® immersive audio mixed specifically for the home, to place and move audio anywhere in the room, including overhead.
Overall, this is a very strong 4K HDR Blu-ray presentation, and, for the most part, the audio track remains fairly similar to its DTS-HD counterpart; with much of the action occupying the surrounds with outstanding directionality and placement where effects flawlessly pan between the sides and rears.
Phew! OK, so, as for the movie itself, well, simply put, 'Universal Soldier' pits two '90s B-movie action titans (Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren) against each other in a sci-fi action epic, that while extremely dumb at times, manages to be an entertaining romp just the same.
The start of 'Universal Soldier' takes us back to 1969, to the Vietnam war: GI Luc Devereaux (Van Damme) tries to stop his crazed sergeant, Andrew Scott (Lundgren) from killing some Vietnamese villagers; in the ensuing mayhem, Devereaux and Scott end up killing each other.
Flash-forward to the present: Devereaux and Scott have been brought back to life - sort of - as part of the Universal Soldier program, an elite, top-secret outfit that goes around thwarting terrorists and whatnot.
Each of the Universal Soldiers ("UniSols" for short) have no memory of their past lives; they're basically zombie-like puppets following orders over a radio.
After taking down some terrorists at Nevada's Hoover Dam, Luc's memory is triggered and he has flashbacks to his previous life. One thing leads to another, and soon Luc is on the run with a plucky TV news reporter (Ally Walker) in tow.
However, hot on their trail are the rest of the Universal Soldiers because the commanders want to get their property back and keep the collateral damage to a minimum. But Scott views Devereaux as a deserter and a traitor and wants him dead (Hmmm, it seems like someone else is remembering the good old days!)
What follows from here are a series of gun battles, chases, vehicular mayhem, fist-fights, and massive explosions as Luc tries to figure out his past and get home, while Scott tries to spoil the party.
Everything is basically a setup for the inevitable big martial-arts finale between the two stars, and while the action in 'Universal Soldier' isn't revolutionary, it's well-staged and choreographed by director Roland Emmerich; and there's lots of it.
So, yeah, 'Universal Soldier' has some flaws, but being boring isn't one of them!
What else 'Universal Soldier' has going for it is a sense of humor, which helps gloss over some of holes in the Terminator-styled plot. Rather funny at times, thanks in no small part to Lundgren's over-the-top villain turn (he's surprisingly effective in the "heavy" role, gleefully giving it his all), 'Universal Soldier' would have been a considerably weaker movie if Lundgren wasn't in it, trust me!
Try not to laugh during Lundgren's big monologue in the grocery store though, but kudos to the director for allowing the store's muzak to keep playing during this Oscar-worthy clip!
Van Damme is funny too, albeit in a deadpan/earnest kind of way. He's more of the straight man in this one. A wise choice, as it keeps his wooden thespian tendencies in the background.
His scene in the roadside diner where he "just wants to eat" is probably the most humorous bit in the movie, in truth!
It's hard to tell how much of the comedy in 'Universal Soldier' is intentional, but an action movie with a sense of humor is only a good thing.
In closing, 'Universal Soldier' has a mostly-solid mix of action and laughs, but it does fall down in other areas; like plot and acting! The storyline is predictable, with its main themes being lifted from better flicks like 'RoboCop' and 'The Terminator,' and there are also logic gaps and plot holes that are kind of hard to ignore, but my goodness, 'Universal Soldier' is a mostly-effective action flick that should satisfy fans of movies like this to no end (still today!)
Anyway, that's that, for the most part, so now let's concentrate on the 4K Ultra HD's special features. As a lot have already been reviewed down the years, the one I'll choose to overview is the one with the best value to it, for my take.
The stand out, by a long shot is the brilliant Audio Commentary by Roland Emmerich, Dean Devlin, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Dolph Lundgren. My goodness this is a real riot of laugh out loud memories, on set squabbles being revealed, injuries sustained during shooting, when a stunt guy was used and when wasn't (which was rarely), and other behind-the-scenes cinematic gems from the director himself.
What you didn't know about this film could fill a library, trust me, as each one of the aforementioned people reveal things about the set, themselves, their fellow actors and director, and so much more about the making of 'Universal Soldier' that it will make your head spin!
It's a quite fabulous special feature bonus and it actually makes you want to watch the film again with the commentary track on just so you can catch each thing they mention in real time (actually knowing ahead of time what they had said, so to speak).
Available for the very first time in this absolutely stunning format, the 'Universal Soldier: 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack' will include audio commentaries, an alternate ending, multiple featurettes, and will be available for the suggested retail price of $22.99.
This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via 1080p and comes with the aforementioned Special Features of:
4K ULTRA HD / BLU-RAY SPECIAL FEATURES:
• Audio commentary by Roland Emmerich, Dean Devlin, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Dolph Lundgren
• Audio commentary by Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin
• “A Tale of Two Titans” Featurette
• “Guns, Genes, and Fighting Machines” Featurette
• Alternate Ending
• “Behind the Scenes” Featurette
Amazon Purchase Link
Original 'Universal Soldier' Trailer