Soldier (1998 American film)

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File:Soldier (1998) poster.jpg
Soldier theatrical release poster
Directed by Paul Anderson
Produced by Jerry Weintraub
Written by David Webb Peoples
Music by Joel McNeely
Cinematography David Tattersall
Edited by Martin Hunter
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
  • October 23, 1998 (1998-10-23)
Running time
99 minutes
Country United States[1][2]
Language English
Budget $60 million[3]
Box office $14.6 million[3]

Soldier is a 1998 American science fiction action film directed by Paul Anderson, written by David Webb Peoples, and stars Kurt Russell, Jason Scott Lee, Jason Isaacs, Connie Nielsen, Sean Pertwee and Gary Busey. The film was released in the United States on October 23, 1998.


In 1996, as part of a new military training program, a group of orphaned infants are selected at birth and raised as highly disciplined soldiers with no understanding of anything but military routine. They are trained to be ruthless professionals, and all those considered to be physically or mentally unworthy are executed. The survivors are turned into ultimate fighting machines, but have no understanding of the outside world.

In 2035, at the age of 39, Sgt. Todd 3465 is a hardened veteran and one of the original test subjects, being one of the original 1996 infants, but his unit is about to be replaced by a superior one, and the original unit is likely to be deactivated. Colonel Mekum, leader of the original project, introduces a new group of genetically engineered soldiers, designed with superior physical attributes and a complete lack of emotion, except complete aggression. They are all virtually identical, bald, and wearing black suits, incapable of feeling any physical or emotional pain at all.

Captain Church, the commander of Todd's unit, insists on testing the new soldiers' abilities against his own. Caine 607 easily defeats three of the original soldiers, but Todd gouges out Caine's eye before he is defeated. Mekum orders their bodies disposed of like garbage, declaring them obsolete, and Todd seemingly dies when he falls from a great height; the body of a dead soldier actually cushioned his fall, and he is simply knocked unconscious. The remaining older soldiers are demoted to menial support roles, and Caine receives an artificial eye.

Dumped on Arcadia 234, a waste disposal planet, Todd limps toward a colony whose residents crash-landed there years earlier and are now scavenging supplies. As they were believed dead, no rescue missions have been attempted. Though they try to make him welcome, Todd has difficulty adapting to the community due to his extreme conditioning and their conflict-free lives. He is sheltered by Mace and his wife Sandra. Todd develops a silent rapport with their mute son, Nathan, who had been traumatized by a snakebite as an infant. However, Todd soon begins to experience flashbacks from his time as a soldier and mistakes one of the colonists for an enemy, nearly killing him. To make matters worse, in a later conflict with a coiled snake, Todd forces Nathan to face it down and strike back to protect himself. His parents disapprove of the lesson, unsure of how to deal with Todd.

Fearful, the colonists provide Todd with supplies and expel him from the community. Apparently experiencing strong emotion for the first time, Todd appears confused when he is overcome by loss and cries. A short time later, Mace and Sandra are almost bitten by a snake while they sleep, but they are saved by Nathan, who uses Todd's technique. Now understanding the value of Todd's lesson, they seek him to reintegrate him into the community, but the others resist.

The new genetically engineered soldiers arrive on the garbage planet, and, since the world is listed as uninhabited, Colonel Mekum decides to use the colonists' community as the target in a training exercise. The soldiers spot Mace and kill him just after he finds Todd. Though out-manned and outgunned, Todd's years of battle experience and superior knowledge of the planet allow him to return to the colony and kill the advance squad. Nervous that an unknown enemy force may be confronting them, Colonel Mekum orders the soldiers to withdraw and return with heavy artillery. Using guerrilla tactics, Todd outmaneuvers and defeats all of the remaining soldiers, including Caine 607, whom he defeats in vicious hand-to-hand combat.

Panicking, Mekum orders the transport ship's crew, composed of Todd's old squad, to set up and activate a portable nuclear device powerful enough to destroy the planet. He then orders the ship to lift off, leaving the squad behind. When Captain Church objects, Mekum shoots him in cold blood. Before they can take off as planned, Todd appears, and his old comrades recognize him as the ranking officer due to their conditioning. They silently side with him over the army that has discarded them, and they take over the ship. They leave Mekum and his aides on the planet and evacuate the remaining colonists. In a attempt to disarm the nuclear device, Mekum accidentally sets it off which kills him and his aides. Todd pilots the ship from Arcadia just ahead of the shockwave and sets course for the Trinity Moons, the colonists' original destination. He then picks up Nathan and points to their new destination, while looking out upon the galaxy.


Blade Runner

Soldier was written by David Peoples, who co-wrote the script for Blade Runner. By his own admission, he considers Soldier to be a "sidequel"-spiritual successor to Blade Runner.[4] It also obliquely references various elements of stories written by Philip K. Dick (who wrote the novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?", on which Blade Runner is based), or film adaptations thereof. A "Spinner" vehicle from Blade Runner can be seen in the wreckage on a junk planet that features in the film.[5]

There are also several dialogue references to events such as "Tannhauser Gate" from Blade Runner.

Production notes

The script was 15 years old at the time of production.[6]

Kurt Russell broke his ankle during the first week of shooting, so the entire production needed to be rescheduled. The film makers first shot scenes involving Russell lying down, followed by scenes of Russell sitting, Russell standing but not moving, and so on.[6]


Box office

Soldier was a box-office flop. Shot with a budget of $60 million, it performed poorly during its theatrical run, taking less than $15 million domestically.[3]

Critical reception

The film received mostly negative reviews upon its release, currently holding a 10% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes based on 51 reviews.[7] It was mainly criticized for its lack of character development and predictable script, but praised for its action scenes. Bruce Westbrook of the Houston Chronicle commented that "the action is handled fairly well, but it's routine, and there's no satisfaction in seeing Todd waste men who are no more bloodthirsty than he is."[8] Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly criticized the film's overuse of genre clichés, saying "any cliché you can dream up for a futuristic action movie, any familiar big-budget epic you can think to rip off, Soldier has gotten there first."[9] Michael Wilmington of the Chicago Tribune described the film as "a big, clanging, brutal actioner in which we search the murk in vain for the sparks of humanity the moviemakers keep promising us."[10]

Not all reviews were negative. Lisa Alspector of the Chicago Reader found the film to be enjoyable, calling Russell's performance "persuasive" and saying "this appealing formulaic action adventure displays a lot of conviction in its not-too-flashy action scenes and a little levity in the gradual socialization of Russell's character."[11] Similarly, Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times gave the film a rating of 3.5 out of 5 and called it "a potent comic-book-style action-adventure."[10]

Home media

DVD was released in Region 1 in the United States on March 2, 1999, and Region 2 in the United Kingdom on 2 August 1999, it was distributed by Warner Home Video. It was released as a double-sided disc, which included the widescreen version on one side, with full-screen on the other. Included on the disc was a film commentary. Soldier was released on Blu-ray for the first time in the U.S. on July 26, 2011.[12]


  1. "Soldier". British Film Institute. London. Retrieved November 10, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Erlewine, Iotis. "Soldier (1998)". Allmovie. Retrieved November 10, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Soldier (1998)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 30 January 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Cinescape, September/October 1998 issue
  5. "Ain't It Cool News: The best in movie, TV, DVD, and comic book news". 1998-08-17. Retrieved 2011-12-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 Source: DVD director's commentary.
  7. Soldier Rotten Tomatoes profile
  8. Soldier (1998) reviews | Rotten Tomatoes
  9. Soldier Review,
  10. 10.0 10.1 Soldier (1998) | Top Critic Reviews
  11. Soldier | Chicago Reader
  12. "News: Soldier (US - BD)". DVDActive. Retrieved 2011-12-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links