Dolph Lundgren and Jean-Claude Van Damme. When is the last time you heard those two names? I’ll bet it has been quite some time. Lundgren is the poor man’s Schwarzenegger, and Van Damme is best known as the Canadian action superstar that is long on physical talent, but horrid at dialog. These two team up in Universal Soldier, a film that is filled with as much action as possible, with as little actual story as possible. This is the action film equivalent of pornography… give the viewers what they want, and a…d a little story in at the end to loosely tie together all of the set pieces.
The story involves two excellent Vietnam-era solders, who die on the battlefield and are reincarnated as… what?…zombie soldiers?… many years later to become super-soldiers. Unfortunately, the two gradually gain some of their memory back from their past lives, remember that they don’t like each other, and go to war. Somewhere in the middle of all of this, a girl shows up. I was really shocked to see how much of this film was “borrowed” from the original Terminator film. For mindless action, this film has plenty of it. Just don’t expect to go into this and find anything resembling a cohesive plot.
The audio on this disc is fine, but there is also a big surprise waiting here. The regular stereo track sounds fine when listening to this film through the PSP’s speakers. It even seems to be a bit louder than most of these tracks are, though that may come as a result of the extreme amount of action packed into this film. The real treat here, though, is the presence of a Dolby Headphone track. This makes the audio a little flat when experienced through the speakers, but when viewers put on the headphones, the soundtrack just comes alive. This is my first experience with a Dolby Headphone track, and I was amazed at the difference. There is a richness and depth here that really does make the viewer feel like they are watching the film in a theater instead of on a 2.5-inch screen. Kudos to Dolby and Lion’s Gate for going the extra mile with the audio on this disc.
One of the big things that reviewers look for regarding the video quality on a release is the black level. The blacks need to be deep and accurate, with no hints of blue creeping in. There are no problems with blacks looking like blues on this disc, but the blacks do look a little more like grays. Lowering the brightness level on the PSP helps some, but the blacks are nowhere near as deep as I would like them to be. That can become annoying on a film such as this one, where many scenes are shot in dark environments.
UMD’s are notorious for being light on the extras due to storage size. This disc bucks the trend with a full 20-minute featurette on the making of the film. True, it is just your standard electronic press kit, but this one seems more interesting than most. It was actually pretty interesting to hear the real Van Damme and Lundgren talk comfortably about the shoot, as they are both so rigid in the film itself. This is a fine extra for a UMD title, and it really increases the value of this disc for me.
This disc really is a mixed bag. The film is pure action nonsense, but the soundtrack and the extras are impressive. If you disagree with me, and are a fan of this film, or if you are looking for some mindless action fun during your morning commute, this just might be the disc for you. However, if it were me, I would look for a film that I liked better that features Dolby Headphone audio encoding.
Special Features List
- “Making-of” Featurette