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Soldier (1998)

Left for dead on a remote planet for obsolete machines and people, a fallen hero has one last battle to fight. | guide

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Old Jan 2, 2003, 08:30 AM   #1
Kronocide
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This is not a bad movie, silly!

This movie plays like a Universal Soldier with a brain. It was written by David Webb Peoples, who also wrote the script for Blade Runner, The Unforgiven, Army of the 12 Monkeys, and Hero, among other movies, and he's usually very quotable.

To see what the difference is between this movie, and the same kind of story without the depth that Peoples brings, consider this piece of dialog:

Sandra: What do you feel right now?
Todd: Disciplin. Disciplin and fear.
Sandra: Fear? Now?
Todd: Always.

It's not a deep movie, nor a classic in any way, but it's infinitely more interesting than 90% of the sci-fi crap that comes out of Hollywood, including most major numbers.
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Old Jan 2, 2003, 12:42 PM   #2
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Re: This is not a bad movie, silly!

Ok, I have to go on and on here a bit. I've just read through about 15 reviews of the movie on the net, mostly in the major newspapers. Although I could write reviews of the reviews, with regards to accuracy, content, and interest in grasping the films meaning (*cough* New York Times *cough*) I won't.

But I'll say this. I think this movie is simply too clever for most reviewers. It doesn't contain the 8 numbered items they have on their review template, so they just don't get it. They assume that Todd (Kurt Russel), since he doesn't speak and keeps a stone face, is supposed to be a Rambo Type hard guy. They expect the protagonist to be good. Some silly people even look for "role models." That's a hoot, they obviously haven't seen any other of Peoples's movies.

Although I agree that Paul Anderson tries very hard to make this a mainstream action flick, he hasn't quite erased all meaning from the script. The movie could have been so much more, but at least you can see traces of a subtext, and that is more than we get from movies such as The 6th Day and even Minority Report.

And here it is, spelled out:

Todd is not Rambo. Todd is not hard in any action movie sense, and he's not "right." There are several hints that something else is going on throughout the movie, starting with the horrible scene where kids are forced to watch dogs tear apart a boar, but it becomes explicit in the dialog I quoted above.

The reason Todd is silent and don't express emotions is that he's damaged goods. He's a wreck of a man, broken. This is not a good thing in any sense, and it's what the film is all about. It's what happens to people who are exposed to that kind of conditioning, that is in principle not very far from the conditioning of real soldiers in some armies.

They don't become Rambos. They become Todds.

Todd is unable to interact or live with ordinary people. He is positively frustrating in his utter social incompetence (and that's an acting achievement on Kurt Russel's part, as far as I'm concerned), and there's nothing cool about that.

In the end, he pays back the villagers the only way he knows how, by killing. Unfortunately, this is also an excuse to end the movie with a long blood & guts action sequence (that many reviewers found to be the best part of the movie, go figure), so whatever meaning was there gets lost and after that we are handed a generic happy ending.

So, while the film lacks a lot, and Paul Anderson certainly didn't do it any favors, the subtext is there for anyone willing to see it. It's sad that the B Sci-Fi finish of the production so has convinced viewers and reviewers that all it can possibly offer is futuristic military action, that they refuse to look for something more. As a futuristic military action movie, it's not a contender (Aliens rule, OK). But with its emphasis on symbolism over realism (garbage planet??), and somewhat quirky but sympathetic messages, it may be one of those very rare undiscovered cult movies.
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Old Jan 3, 2003, 12:38 PM   #3
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Re: This is not a bad movie, silly!

Thanks for that devastating rebuttal. I see my error now.
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Old Jan 3, 2003, 02:15 PM   #4
Ivan
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Re: This is not a bad movie, silly!

Quote:
Todd is not Rambo. Todd is not hard in any action movie sense, and he's not "right."
...
They don't become Rambos. They become Todds.

Todd is unable to interact or live with ordinary people. He is positively frustrating in his utter social incompetence (and that's an acting achievement on Kurt Russel's part, as far as I'm concerned), and there's nothing cool about that.

Even thou I agree with a lot of what you said about this movie I must add something.

Actually Todd IS Rambo. But Rambo from First Blood, or Rambo 1. All the things you mentioned about Todd are valid for Rambo also. So I guess you should distinguish the Rambo in First blood and the idiotic action figure in Rambo 2 and 3. Actually Soldier is very similar with First blood because it also deals with the inability of specialized soldier to do anything else but kill. Just as you said their social skills are second to none because of the way they were trained. And when they stop being of use for the brutal assignments they were set out to fulfill they become social misfits. Crippled by violence that brings them a long lasting solitude.
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Old Jan 3, 2003, 02:53 PM   #5
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Re: This is not a bad movie, silly!

You're right about that, and I agree that there's a big difference between the first Rambo and the later ones. I haven't read the book but I can easily imagine that the book version is even clearer on that point, as it had even less reason to conform to Hollywood standards.

This is a grey area and mostly personal interpretation, but I think that the point is driven home more clearly in Soldier than in First Blood, and even Deer Hunter, to be honest, although those are better movies all things considered. And when Todd, clumsily, admits that he is always afraid, that makes a hell of a difference in my mind. It's a different, and pretty realistic, take on "toughness" (think dobermann dogs).

Like I said, it's very far from a perfect movie and I'm sure Anderson's goal wasn't to make any deep statements, but I think it's interesting that these issues are present, and illustrated--when they are illustrated--in a damn effective manner. And I think they are worth a mention in a review, so when I couldn't see anything about it anywhere, I wanted to bring it up.

Last edited by Kronocide : Jan 3, 2003 at 03:01 PM.
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Old Jan 3, 2003, 03:28 PM   #6
Ivan
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Re: This is not a bad movie, silly!

And I think it is great that you did. We are always in need of good quality reviews such as yours.

BTW Wellcome to the boards, and my first impression tells me that you could become a real "quality" poster.
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Old Jan 3, 2003, 03:32 PM   #7
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Re: This is not a bad movie, silly!

Thank you. I have to say I'm impressed that I get replies, and that there's an active discussion here, about a farily obscure film such as Soldier. I think I'll stick around!
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Old Oct 28, 2005, 06:14 PM   #8
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Re: This is not a bad movie, silly!

Quote:
Originally posted by Kronocide
Although I agree that Paul Anderson tries very hard to make this a mainstream action flick, he hasn't quite erased all meaning from the script. The movie could have been so much more, but at least you can see traces of a subtext, and that is more than we get from movies such as The 6th Day and even Minority Report.

And here it is, spelled out:

Todd is not Rambo. Todd is not hard in any action movie sense, and he's not "right." There are several hints that something else is going on throughout the movie, starting with the horrible scene where kids are forced to watch dogs tear apart a boar, but it becomes explicit in the dialog I quoted above.

The reason Todd is silent and don't express emotions is that he's damaged goods. He's a wreck of a man, broken. This is not a good thing in any sense, and it's what the film is all about. It's what happens to people who are exposed to that kind of conditioning, that is in principle not very far from the conditioning of real soldiers in some armies.

I'll admit I only saw it the once, and a very very long time ago. However, if that WAS the case then there was a serious miss-casting involved. Russell is known as the archetypal cheese-rough-round-the-edges-good-guy-faking-bad-guy-hero. Yes he was extremely stoic in the movie, but he didn't surpass himself, he was still 'Kurt Russell'.
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