Universal Soldier: The Return is a 1999 action/sci-fi movie directed by Mic Rodgers, who is otherwise known for being Mel Gibson‘s stunt double. It stars Jean-Claude Van Damme, Michael Jai White, and Bill Goldberg and is a theatrical sequel to Roland Emmerich‘s Universal Soldier. It disregards the previous two made-for-TV sequels starring Matt Battaglia, and was in turn retconned by Universal Soldier: Regeneration. This was also the last Van Damme movie to be released theatrically until 2007‘s JCVD.
Upon release the movie became a critical and commercial failure, earning a 5% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a one-and-a-half out of four stars from James Berardinelli and making only $10 million out of a $44 million budget.
Luc Deveraux (Van Damme), the sole surviving UniSol/Universal Soldier from the last movie, has become part of a research team for a new UniSol program, called "UniSol 2500". When the US government tries to shut down the program, the AI controlling said program, SETH (Jai White), goes rogue in an attempt to defend "his" own existence. In the process, he uploads himself into a "Super UniSol" (also played by Jai White), and orders the UniSols to take over the research facility and capture Deveraux alive, as he is the only man who knows a code that can stop his program from being permanently shut down.
When all attempts by the US military to retake the facility fails, it falls to Deveraux to stop SETH and the UniSols before he begins a crusade to exterminate humanity.
Why It Sucks
- Cringe-inducingly bad acting, especially from Van Damme.
- A weak and poor story that gets sidelined for action sequences that are at least well-done. This is made evident by the fact that the movie is very short (79 minutes without counting the ending credits).
- Deveraux is no longer a UniSol, taking away the main thing that made him an interesting character in the first film.
- The main love interest and Deveraux's assistant are both bland and generic characters, who could probably have been merged into the same character without any major changes to the plot.
- Poor CGI effects.
- Overuse of metal and rock songs that ended up becoming formulaic.
- Lackluster soundtrack.
- Absolutely ridiculous depiction of nanotechnology and supercomputers in general by today and 1999 standards.
- Poor lighting in some scenes. That most of the movie takes place in night doesn‘t help matters.
- The computer hacker who helps out SETH is incredibly annoying, and it actually comes as a relief when SETH abruptly kills him for no reason.
- A couple of good fight scenes between Van Damme and Michael Jai White.
- Bill Goldberg's character is pretty funny.