Universal Soldier (1992 film)

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Universal Soldier
Universal soldier ver1.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRoland Emmerich
Produced by
Written by
Music byChristopher Franke
CinematographyKarl Walter Lindenlaub
Edited byMichael J. Duthie
Distributed byTriStar Pictures
Release date
  • July 10, 1992 (1992-07-10)
Running time
102 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$23 million[1][2]
Box office$80 million

Universal Soldier is a 1992 American military science fiction action film directed by Roland Emmerich, produced by Allen Shapiro, Craig Baumgarten and Joel B. Michaels, and written by Richard Rothstein, Christopher Leitch and Dean Devlin. The film tells the story of Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme), a former U.S. Army soldier who was killed in the Vietnam War in 1969, and returned to life following a secret military project called the "Universal Soldier" program. However, he finds out about his past even though his memory was erased, and escapes alongside a young TV journalist (Ally Walker). Along the way, they have to deal with the return of his archenemy, Sgt. Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren), who had lost his sanity in the Vietnam War, and became a psychotic megalomaniac, intent on killing him and leading the Universal Soldiers.

Universal Soldier was released by TriStar Pictures on July 10, 1992. Despite mostly negative reviews, the film grossed $80 million worldwide against its budget of $23 million and spawned a series of films, including several rather poorly received direct-to-TV films: Universal Soldier: The Return, which has since been removed from the series canon, followed by Universal Soldier: Regeneration and Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning. The film is considered a cult film among fans and critics.[3]


In 1969, a U.S. Army team is ordered to secure a village against North Vietnamese forces. Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude van Damme) discovers members of his squad and villagers murdered, all with their ears removed. Deveraux finds his sergeant, Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren), who has gone insane and made a necklace of severed ears and who is holding a young couple hostage. Deveraux, who is near the end of his tour of duty, tries to reason with Scott, who executes the man and orders Deveraux to shoot the girl to prove his loyalty. Deveraux refuses and tries to save the girl, but she is killed by a grenade thrown by Scott. After shooting each other to death, Deveraux and Scott's corpses are recovered by a second squad and cryogenically frozen, their deaths classified as "missing in action".

Deveraux and Scott's corpses are reanimated decades later (but with their memories lost) and selected for the "Universal Soldier" (UniSol) program, an elite counter-terrorism unit. They are deployed via an Aero Spacelines Mini Guppy to the Hoover Dam to resolve a hostage situation. The team demonstrates their superior training and physical abilities against the terrorists, such as when GR76 (Ralf Möller) withstands close-range rifle fire. After the area is secured, Deveraux begins to regain memory from his former life upon seeing two hostages who strongly resemble the villagers he tried to save in Vietnam, causing him to disobey commands from the control team and become unresponsive.

In the mobile command center, it is revealed that the UniSols are genetically augmented soldiers with enhanced self-healing abilities and superior strength, but they also have a tendency to overheat and shut down. They are given a neural serum to keep their minds susceptible and their past memory suppressed. As a result of the glitch, Woodward (Leon Rippy), one of the technicians on the project, feels it may be better to remove Deveraux from the team until he can be further analyzed, but UniSol commander Colonel Perry (Ed O'Ross) refuses. TV journalist Veronica Roberts (Ally Walker), who was fired while covering the Hoover Dam incident, tries to get a story on the UniSol project in order to get her job back. Roberts sneaks onto the base with a cameraman, discovering GR76 immersed in ice, still alive despite normally-fatal injuries.

When her presence is noticed, Deveraux and Scott are ordered to capture her dead or alive. She flees to her cameraman's car, but they crash. Scott coldly murders the cameraman against orders before Deveraux stops him from shooting Roberts. Together, Deveraux and Roberts escape in a UniSol vehicle. Colonel Perry insists on preventing knowledge of the UniSol program getting out and sends the remaining UniSols to find Deveraux and Roberts.

Deveraux and Roberts flee to a motel, where Roberts discovers she has been framed for the murder of her cameraman. Deveraux collapses from overheating and has to take an ice bath. The UniSols completely destroy the motel but Deveraux and Roberts hide in a bed until they leave and steal a car. The couple flee to a gas station where Deveraux has Roberts remove a tracking device from his leg. They set a trap and when the UniSols arrive the gas station explodes. Colonel Perry terminates the mission after this failure and Scott's previously insane personality resurfaces, causing him to kill Perry and all but two doctors. Deveraux and Roberts sneak onto the command center bus and steal UniSol documents. Scott then takes control of the mindlessly obedient UniSol team, commanding them to kill Deveraux and Roberts.

Deveraux continues to regain his memories while Roberts tries to find out more information about the UniSol program. They go to a diner; Deveraux devours plate after plate of food until the waitress asks how he's going to pay for it all. When Deveraux looks blankly at her, she calls out Hank, the cook, who threatens him. However, Deveraux, though innocently saying he doesn't want to hurt him, easily beats Hank and every single patron who steps up to take him on. Using information from the stolen documents, Roberts gets in contact with a doctor linked to the program.

Roberts and Deveraux meet Dr. Christopher Gregor (Jerry Orbach) who informs them that the UniSol project was started in the 1960s in order to develop the perfect soldier. Although they were able to reanimate dead humans, they were never able to overcome the body's need for cooling. The other major problem is that memories of the last moments of life are greatly amplified; Scott believes he is still in Vietnam fighting insurgents. When Deveraux and Roberts leave the doctor's home, they are caught and arrested by the police. En route to jail, the police convoy is ambushed by Scott and GR76. A chase ensues, ending when the police bus and the UniSol truck both drive off a cliff in the Grand Canyon and explode, killing GR76. Deveraux and Roberts head to Deveraux's family farm in Louisiana.

After Deveraux is reunited with his parents, Scott appears and takes the family and Roberts hostage. A brutal fight ensues, and Scott's use of muscle enhancers enables him to beat Deveraux mercilessly. Roberts manages to escape, only to be seemingly killed by a grenade thrown by Scott. Deveraux grabs the muscle enhancers Scott used and injects himself. Now evenly matched, Deveraux fights back and is able to impale Scott on the spikes of a hay harvester. Deveraux then starts the machine up, grinding Scott to death. Roberts is revealed to have survived the explosion, and she and Deveraux embrace.

Alternative ending[edit]

The Special Edition DVD release features an alternative ending which starts shortly after Scott takes Deveraux's family and Roberts hostage. As Deveraux grabs a shotgun in the kitchen, the front door opens and he sees his mother at the door before Scott shoots her to death. In the final fight between Deveraux and Scott, Deveraux does not use Scott's muscle enhancers. Shortly after grinding Scott to death, Deveraux is shot by his "father" before Dr. Christopher Gregor and his men appear.

Gregor explains that he used Deveraux to entrap both him and Scott, and that Deveraux was staying with people posing as his parents. He then has his men shoot Deveraux, but, before Deveraux dies, the police and Roberts' news crew arrive. The news crew douse Deveraux with a fire extinguisher to stabilize him while Dr. Gregor and his men are arrested. Roberts is given the microphone to cover the arrest, but she loses all composure while on the air, dropping the microphone to comfort Deveraux.

Several days later, Deveraux is reunited with his real parents. The film ends with a eulogy narrated by Roberts, who explains that Deveraux rejected all life-prolonging medication before dying a natural death.



Principal photography began in August 1991. Carolco, the company that produced the film, was having financial troubles and hoped that the film's box office return would keep them afloat.[5]

At the 1992 Cannes Film Festival, Van Damme and Lundgren were involved in a verbal altercation that almost turned physical when both men pushed each other only to be separated. On his website, Dolph Lundgren confirmed that it was just a publicity stunt to promote the film.[6] It was the last film that used the multi-channel surround sound format, Cinema Digital Sound.


Universal Soldier opened in theaters on July 10, 1992 where it grossed $10,057,084 from 1916 theaters with a $5,249 per screen average. It opened and peaked at No. 2, behind A League of Their Own's second weekend. Grossing $36,299,898 in the US and Canada[7] and $44 million overseas[8] for a worldwide gross of $80 million.

Mainstream critics dismissed it as a Terminator 2 clone, or as a typical, mindless action film.[9][10][11][12][improper synthesis?] Based on reviews from 30 critics the film holds an approval rating of 27% on Rotten Tomatoes.[13] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.[14]

The film became a cult film among fans and critics. In retrospect, Drew Taylor from Variety said: "This movie rules. The introduction of the Emmerich/Devlin double-team, this high concept, moderately budgeted sci-fi action movie is a bouillabaisse of clichés that somehow manages to be a charming, funny, often positively thrilling B-grade treat."[15]


NOW Comics published a three part comic miniseries based on the movie, running from September to November 1992. The adaptation was written by Clint McElroy.[16][17]


  1. ^ "Van Damme very determined". Hartford Courant. Retrieved 2010-11-27.
  2. ^ David Wallace (20 Aug 1991). "A Man of Action: Will Van Damme Have Schwarzenegger's Kick? DAVID WALLACE SPECIAL TO THE TIMES". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2010-12-27.
  3. ^ https://www.indiewire.com/2013/06/the-films-of-roland-emmerich-from-worst-to-best-96613/
  4. ^ Jon Keeyes. "Universal Soldier 2". Cinefantastique. p. 21 – via Internet Archive. I was chopped down to basically one line in the beginning of the movie. I was not going to tell Jean-Claude that we worked together in the first one, but he remembered.
  5. ^ Willman, David (July 10, 1992). "Carolco Pictures Pins Hopes for Rescue on Its 'Universal Soldier'". Los Angeles Times.
  6. ^ "Official Dolph Lundgren Website: Universal Soldier (1992)".
  7. ^ "Universal Soldier Box Office". boxofficemojo.com. Retrieved 2012-11-12.
  8. ^ Groves, Don (February 22, 1993). "Hollywood Wows World Wickets". Variety. p. 85.
  9. ^ Turan, Kenneth (1992-07-10). "Van Damme and Lundgren Square Off in 'Soldier'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-08-23.
  10. ^ Maslin, Janet (1992-07-10). "FILM Review/Film; The Afterlife Of Muscular Automatons". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-24.
  11. ^ "Universal Soldier". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved 2010-08-25.
  12. ^ "Universal Soldier". Washington Post. 1992-07-10. Retrieved 2010-08-25.
  13. ^ Universal Soldier at Rotten Tomatoes
  14. ^ "CinemaScore". CinemaScore.
  15. ^ https://www.indiewire.com/2013/06/the-films-of-roland-emmerich-from-worst-to-best-96613/
  16. ^ https://leagueofcomicgeeks.com/comics/series/136895/universal-soldier
  17. ^ https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/adventure-zone-mcelroy-family-explains-new-graphic-novel-1127134

External links[edit]