Universal Soldier (1992 film)

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Universal Soldier
Universal soldier ver1.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRoland Emmerich
Written by
Produced by
CinematographyKarl Walter Lindenlaub
Edited byMichael J. Duthie
Music byChristopher Franke
Distributed byTriStar Pictures
Release date
  • July 10, 1992 (1992-07-10)
Running time
102 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$23 million[1][2]
Box office$95 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, 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. The film has a 35% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and grossed $95 million worldwide against its budget of $23 million and spawned a series of films: theatrical sequel Universal Soldier: The Return, alternative direct-to-video sequel Universal Soldier: Regeneration, standalone direct-to-video film Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, and two direct-to-TV films, Universal Soldier II: Brothers in Arms and Universal Soldier III: Unfinished Business.

It was the first film on-screen collaboration between Van Damme and Lundgren in the film series, who both later worked together in The Expendables 2 and Black Water, and their voice-roles in Minions: The Rise of Gru.


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, nearing 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, the UniSols are revealed to be genetically augmented soldiers with enhanced self-healing abilities and superior strength, but they also tend to overheat and shut down. They are given a neural serum to keep their minds susceptible and their past memories suppressed. Because of the glitch, Woodward (Leon Rippy), one of the technicians on the project, feels removing Deveraux from the team until he can be further analyzed may be better, 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 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 flees 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.

Using information from the stolen documents, Roberts contacts 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 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 impales Scott on the spikes of a hay harvester before activating the machine, which grinds Scott to death. Roberts is revealed to have survived the explosion, and Deveraux and she embrace.



In February 1990, Andrew Davis was hired to direct, and he also contributed to the screenplay. He was later replaced by Roland Emmerich, who brought on his creative partner Dean Devlin to rewrite aspects of the script.[4]

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, Lundgren confirmed that it was just a publicity stunt to promote the film.[6] It was the last film that used the multichannel surround-sound format, Cinema Digital Sound.

Home media[edit]

Universal Soldier was released via VHS and Laserdisc in 1992/1993 by Live Home Video, and was released via DVD in 1998 by Artisan Entertainment. The foreign releases from 1993 to 2001, are on DVD, Laserdisc, and VHS by Columbia TriStar Home Video.[citation needed]. The film was double-featured with Universal Soldier: The Return via DVD in Norwegian by Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment in 2001.

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 Scott and him, 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 douses 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.


Box office[edit]

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 number two, behind A League of Their Own's second weekend. Grossing $36,299,898 in the US and Canada[7] and $59 million internationally ($44 million via TriStar),[8][9] for a worldwide gross of $95 million.

Critical response[edit]

Mainstream critics dismissed it as a Terminator 2 clone, or as a typical, mindless action film.[10][11][12][13][improper synthesis?] On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 35% of 34 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 4.4/10. The website's consensus reads, "Universal Soldier unites a pair of veteran action stars behind a potentially intriguing premise, but on this battlefield, entertainment value is largely AWOL."[14] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 35 out of 100, based on 15 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[15] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.[16]

In a retrospective review, Drew Taylor from IndieWire 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".[17]

Other media[edit]


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.[18][19]

Video game[edit]

During conversion of the video game Turrican 2 to the Sega Genesis, the publishers, Accolade, decided to cash in on the hype surrounding the film and rebrand the game as a tie-in. The spaceship levels from the original were replaced with "platforming" levels set in a jungle, and the player sprite and some enemies were changed to look more human. The resulting product received mostly negative reviews compared to the critically acclaimed home-computer release.[20] A version of the game for the Game Boy was also released, while a Super Nintendo Entertainment System port was developed, but never released.[21]


Sequels and reboot[edit]

The two direct-to-TV sequels, Universal Soldier II: Brothers in Arms and Universal Soldier III: Unfinished Business were released in 1998, with Matt Battaglia cast as the titular character. A theatrical sequel Universal Soldier: The Return (which ignores the two television sequels) was released in 1999, with Van Damme reprising the role and Michael Jai White was cast as another role for the film, and the alternative sequels, Universal Soldier: Regeneration and Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, were released in 2009 and 2012, with Van Damme and Lundgren reprising their roles from the first film, ignoring the events of The Return.

A reboot was in development and Richard Wenk was set to write the film as of October 2018, which will focus on one resurrected soldier.[22][23]

Television series[edit]

In October 2011, writer Damien Kindler was set to write a TV series of the same name for FremantleMedia North America with producers from the original film Allen Shapiro and Craig Baumgarten attached to the project.[24]


  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. ^ Jon Keeyes (October 1999). "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.
  4. ^ "AFI|Catalog". catalog.afi.com. Retrieved 2022-02-24.
  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. ^ "U.S. pics at home and abroad". Variety. January 4, 1993. p. 56.
  9. ^ Groves, Don (February 22, 1993). "Hollywood Wows World Wickets". Variety. p. 85.
  10. ^ Turan, Kenneth (1992-07-10). "Van Damme and Lundgren Square Off in 'Soldier'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-08-23.
  11. ^ Maslin, Janet (1992-07-10). "FILM Review/Film; The Afterlife Of Muscular Automatons". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-24.
  12. ^ ROger Ebert. "Universal Soldier". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved 2010-08-25.
  13. ^ "Universal Soldier". Washington Post. 1992-07-10. Retrieved 2010-08-25.
  14. ^ "Universal Soldier". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved May 21, 2022. Edit this at Wikidata
  15. ^ "Universal Soldier". Metacritic. Red Ventures. Retrieved May 21, 2022.
  16. ^ "Cinemascore :: Movie Title Search". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on August 9, 2019. Retrieved August 9, 2019.
  17. ^ Taylor, Drew (2013-06-23). "The Films Of Roland Emmerich: From Worst To Best". IndieWire. Retrieved 2020-04-28.
  18. ^ "Universal Soldier from NOW Comics".
  19. ^ "How 'The Adventure Zone' Went from 'D&D' Podcast to Graphic Novel". 16 July 2018.
  20. ^ "Universal Soldier for Genesis (1992)". Moby Games. Retrieved March 28, 2013.
  21. ^ "Universal Soldier [SNES]". Unseen64. 14 April 2008. Retrieved March 28, 2013.
  22. ^ "A Re-Imagining of 'Universal Solider' Is In The Works With Richard Wenk Set To Write The Script (EXCLUSIVE)". Discussingfilm.com. Retrieved December 20, 2018.
  23. ^ Padraig Cotter (October 11, 2018). "The Equalizer Writer Is Rebooting Universal Soldier". Screen Rant. Retrieved November 29, 2021.
  24. ^ Anderton, Ethan (October 11, 2011). "UNIVERSAL SOLDIER Getting Rebooted for New TV Series and NATIONAL TREASURE Creator Plans BLOOD & TREASURE Series". Collider. Retrieved October 3, 2020.

External links[edit]