Universal Soldier

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Details At A Glance

Category Action Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1992 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 99:17 minutes Other Extras Cast & Crew Biographies
Featurette - Behind The Scenes (6:47)
Music Video - Body Count's In The House
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Director Roland Emmerich

Columbia Tristar
Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme
Dolph Lundgren
Case Transparent Amaray
RRP $34.95 Music Christopher Franke

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Dolby Digital 2.0 
16x9 Enhancement Yes Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 256 Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 256 Kb/s)
Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 256 Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English
Annoying Product Placement Yes, mildly

Plot Synopsis

    Universal Soldier marked the first American success for director Roland Emmerich, and paved the way for his other movies; Stargate, Independence Day and Godzilla. Like all his movies, it is short on plot and long on action. However, his earlier efforts tended to have better plots than his latter efforts, and this movie is at least mildly entertaining in parts.

    Jean-Claude Van Damme is Luc, a soldier in Vietnam who is killed. Dolph Lundgren is Scott, his Sergeant. In Vietnam, Scott went troppo and killed all the men under his command. However, a secret military program involving the genetic modification of dead soldiers results in them both being reborn as Universal Soldiers. Emotionless, strong and calculating, they are perfect killing machines. There's just one small problem. A tense hostage situation that opens the movie paves the way for both Luc and Scott to regain some of their memories, putting them both back in Vietnam. Luc just wants to go home. Scott just wants to kill Luc and will let nothing stand in his way.

    Some spectacular stunts and a few reasonable one-liners save this movie from being completely dull, but don't forget to leave your logic and your continuity at the door whilst you watch this strictly no-brainer.

Transfer Quality


    I almost shudder when it comes to writing about the video quality of Columbia Tristar DVDs since I find it hard to find sufficient superlatives.

    This transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced. It is a superb video transfer and is of reference quality.

    The transfer was razor sharp and crystal clear. Shadow detail was excellent and there was no low level noise.

    The colours were strongly rendered, almost but not quite to the point of oversaturation.

    No MPEG artefacts were seen. Some trivial aliasing which would easily escape notice unless I was specifically looking for it was the sum total of the film-to-video artefacts. There were surprisingly few film artefacts seen given the age of the movie.

    My only quibble with the transfer was that subtitles defaulted to ON.


    There are three audio tracks on this DVD - English Dolby Digital 2.0, surround-encoded, French Dolby Digital 2.0, surround-encoded and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0, surround-encoded. The default soundtrack is the English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack, which is what I listened to.

    The overall level of this movie was a little problematic. The loud sequences are very loud, and the soft sequences are very soft. I found myself adjusting the level up and down a little bit until I finally settled on listening to it at my usual reference level.

    Dialogue was always clear and easy to understand, though it often had a processed, ADR sound to it.

    There were no audio sync problems.

    The score by Christopher Franke was your typical action movie score, and did not particularly stand out in any fashion.

    The surround channel was very aggressively used for the action sequences, but was quite silent during the non-action sequences. This became mildly distracting at times, especially at the start of the action sequences, where your attention would be drawn to the very aggressive surround channel to the detriment of the on-screen action. Once the scene was established, however, it was very enveloping. Non-action sequences are strictly up-front-and-centre. Compared with a discrete 5.1 mix, sound placement was not very precise in the rear, as would be expected from a matrix mix.

    The .1 channel received lots of signal from my processor and aggressively supported the action sequences without calling attention to itself.


    This disc has an average selection of extras.


    This is a standard 4:3 menu, with no specifically remarkable features.

Theatrical Trailer

    This is presented in a 1:78 aspect ratio, non-16x9 enhanced with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound which sounds mono. Before the trailer starts, you have the option of selecting subtitles for the trailer.

Cast & Crew Biographies

    This is the first Columbia Tristar disc that I have seen that features a brief biography on the actor or cast member as well as their filmography, so this is a new addition for Columbia Tristar. They seem to have this habit of very slowly but surely adding in more extras as they proceed. This is good to see.

Featurette - Behind The Scenes (6:47)

    This is a little better than the average featurette of this type, and worth a viewing. It is presented in a 4:3 aspect ratio, with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound which sounds mono. Before this starts, you are able to select subtitles for this featurette.

Music Video - Body Count's In The House

    This is the music video to the closing credits song. It is also presented in a 4:3 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound which is mono.

R4 vs R1

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;     The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;    It is a pity that we did not receive the remastered 5.1 soundtrack on our version of this disc, however the original theatrical release was in matrix surround, and because we have received a 16x9 enhanced transfer, I am going to declare the Region 4 version of this disc superior to the Region 1 version of this disc.


    Universal Soldier is a mildly entertaining no-brainer actioner.

    The video quality is superb, and is of reference quality.

    The audio quality is very good, and very aggressively surrounding.

    The extras are reasonable.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Michael Demtschyna
27th August 1999

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-505, using S-Video output
Display Loewe Art-95 95cm direct view CRT in 16:9 mode, via the S-Video input. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Denon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital AddOn Decoder, used as a standalone processor. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Amplification 2 x EA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifiers for Left, Right, Left Rear and Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer
Speakers Philips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Yamaha B100-115SE subwoofer