Monday, July 10, 2017

Universal Soldier: Regeneration (2009) Review:

When the first Universal Soldier (1992) film came out, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren were very much in their prime of popularity. Both had been in their fair share of widely known movies and were often included into the same category as Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis. It was also the movie that had one of the earliest collaborations between the big name action stars aside from Rocky IV (1985). Later on the series went underground to TV sequels but did not fair well financially due to the lack of star power. A few years later, Van Damme came back to the series in Universal Soldier: The Return (1999) but it too failed horribly. The poor writing in general and silly nature of the end product felt nothing like the first movie. With that it was no shock that the franchise remained dead a good decade before producers thought maybe another film could be made. When they did, it was met with open arms but also rolling eyes. It was passable at best but not good.

"Uhhhh, I supposed to be punching him?"
Instead of being a third story time line to the original, one could consider this the first real sequel to Universal Soldier (1992). The reason behind this being that it completely ignores the events of Universal Soldier: The Return (1999) and has a more serious tone. The Ukranian Prime Minister's children have been captured by terrorist leader Topov (Zachary Baharov) and held in Chernobyl as ransom. Special forces are developing a plan to get them out but are stuck because Topov has teamed up with scientist Dr. Colin (Kerry Shale) from the UniSol project now known as Black Tower. On their side they have the next generation UniSol or NGU (Andrei Arlovski), an emotionless killing machine. After a few attempts it is decided by Dr. Porter (Gary Cooper), another scientist from the Black Tower project, to bring back Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme). However Colins has a backup and that's having Andrew Scott's body (Dolph Lundgren) on standby if a problem arises.

For a continuation of the original story, the writing is average at its greatest. Yet there are still a lot of unanswered questions. So what did become of Veronica Roberts (Ally Walker)? How is Andrew Scott's body intact after the finale of Universal Soldier (1992)? Again, the UniSol project was only known by a select group of scientists so where was Dr. Colins and Dr. Porter? These questions just begin to add up over time. Written by Victor Ostrovsky (in his only credit ever), the only thing in the script that is relatively untainted is the fact that Deveraux has been in rehabilitation since the end of Universal Soldier (1992). But as for development very little of what Deveraux feels is explained and his reconvening with Scott only triggers old memories. Nothing is explained as to how both of them feel. It even seemed at one point that Scott was thinking about something but he ends up getting cut short. Why throw in something that might work only to completely negate it?

There's also appearances from others like Corey Johnson, Mike Pyle, Emily Joyce and even son of the star himself, Kris Van Damme. Directing this feature is John Hyams, the son of director Peter Hyams. Hyams Sr. was the man behind 2010 (1984) and would later direct End of Days (1999). The direction here by John Hyams isn't that impressive. It's very linear in story structure. However when it comes action, the stunts and sequences are well staged. Much of the action that occurs throughout the running time are energetic by default and are very lively. The types of violence ranges from hand-to-hand combat, shootouts to improvised weapons. Also the interactions between Dolph Lundgren and Jean-Claude Van Damme are noteworthy to view. Since these two characters share a history together that boils both their blood, it's interesting to have the two meet in a situation that is very familiar to them. Andrei Arlovski as NGU is a competent fighter too but since his character has very few words, not much can be said.

Andrei Arlovski
Camerawork was managed by Peter Hyams, which was unfortunately disappointing. Seeing that Hyams Sr. has had previous experience in doing cinematography, it's surprising that here the look to this picture is so unappealing. With credits to movies like 2010 (1984), Running Scared (1986), Narrow Margin (1990) and Timecop (1994), the visuals to this film should've look at least okay. Instead many scenes have dull colors and the backgrounds look to much like everything else surrounding it. Music was another problem when viewing this sequel. Composed by Kris Hill and Michael Krassner, the music is just as forgettable. Featuring only a few different cues, much of the sounds are just electronic clicks and warps. There's really no main theme and the cues for various sequences are about as anonymous as they get. As far as it's known, not even an official release of the music has been announced. So it's even harder for a fan of the music to really enjoy it. Although it would be hard to say whether it's worth it or not.

Stepping up from the previous sequel, the script attempts to connect to the first film. Yet only a couple places does it actually work. Camerawork and music aren't that good but Dolph Lundgren and Jean-Claude Van Damme are fun watch on screen again and the action is good too.

Points Earned --> 5:10

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