Universal Soldier is an action franchise starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren. It encompasses six films (some of which are not canon).The first film (made in 1992, and directed by Roland Emmerich) begins in 1969, during The Vietnam War. Private Luc Deveraux (Van Damme) is finishing when he finds out that his sergeant, Andrew Scott (Lundgren), has killed his entire platoon and taken hostages. Deveraux confronts Scott and attempts to talk him down, only to fail, resulting in the deaths of the hostages. Deveraux then attacks the Sergeant, and the two men kill each other. Their deaths are covered up, and they are entered into the "UniSol" program. Twenty-three years later, Deveraux and Scott are "universal soldiers"–cybernetic Super Soldiers. After a successful mission and an encounter with a reporter named Veronica Roberts (Ally Walker), Deveraux begins to have flashbacks to Vietnam and remembers fragments of his past life ... but so does Scott. While the film did not garner critical praise at the time of its release, it was later recognized as a cult classic.The film was followed by two direct-to-video sequels in 1998: Universal Soldier II: Brothers In Arms and Universal Soldier III: Unfinished Business. Brothers In Arms has the UniSol program being used by mercenaries to smuggle diamonds, while Unfinished Business has Deveraux helping Veronica Roberts clear her name, while Deveraux's brother is cloned and turned into a new UniSol. These sequels featured none of the original cast or crew, and are largely considered to be inferior to the original.Brothers In Arms and Unfinished Business were retconned out of continuity in 1999 with the theatrical release of Universal Soldier: The Return. The Return features ... the return of Jean-Claude Van Damme in the lead role. The Return has Deveraux working to create a newer, more advanced group of UniSols, all connected to an Artifical Intelligence dubbed "SETH". When the program is threatened with budget cuts, SETH attacks those it deems a threat to it and the program, forcing Deveraux to fight and shut it down.The Return was then dropped from continuity when the Direct-to-DVD film Universal Soldier: Regeneration was released in 2010. Regeneration brought back both Van Damme as Deveraux and Lundgren as Andrew Scott. Set after the events of the first film, Deveraux is undergoing therapy when he is called on to defuse a hostage situation at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, where a more advanced UniSol is under control of a group of Russian terrorists. Regeneration received decent reviews, and resulted in a direct sequel, Day of Reckoning, which was released to video-on-demand services in October 2012, followed by a theatrical release one month later.The original film received a video game adaptation on the Sega Genesis and Game Boy - although it was just a Dolled-Up Installment of Turrican 2 with a few levels taken out and the Universal Soldier license added on.
Alternate Continuity: As mentioned above, there are three continuities, all using the original film as a starting point, similar to the Highlander franchise, though with fewer installments, so the web is considerably less tangled. We've got:
Original, Brothers in Arms, Unfinished Business.
Original, The Return.
Original, Regeneration, Day of Reckoning.
Asskicking Equals Authority: Devereaux is the de-facto leader of the Liberated Unisol Army in Day of Reckoning, despite being the oldest of the surviving original first-generation Unisols. Why?
He was the first to overcome the effects of the memory clearance drug and ignore the commands of his Black Tower Handlers
Two He defeated Andrew Scott not once, but twice despite the latter's advantages over him(the second time around, He was not only benefiting from regular Unisol augmentations but also the gene therapy augmentations given to the Next Generation Unisols of Operation White Tower. Not even Devereaux himself had those when they reactivated him)
He managed to single-handedly take down a company of battle-hardened terrorists and an Next-Generation Unisol.
On top of that, over the five years since the end of Regeneration, He's been going around, to all of the bases where the Unisols are being kept, and liberating them, along with the Sleeper Unisols as well.
Because of his feats, the other Unisols see him as someone they would gladly follow into hell and back.
So, when John manages to defeat not only a lot of Unisols(a mix of older generation Unisols and Next Generation Unisols), and wipe the floor with Devereaux and Scott, the remaining Unisols now see John as their new leader, because He was badass enough to take them down.
Awesome Anachronistic Apparel: By the time of Day of Reckoning, the UniSols have forgone the awesome firepower that they're used to, along with the advanced body armour and combat rags, and have gone completely old school. They look less like a professional army, and more like a guerrilla army, with clothing and equipment taken from different time periods, ranging from World War II to Operation Desert Storm. Their weapons even reflect this as well, with lots of Vietnam War Era M16s and AK-47s. Scott 3.0 runs around wearing clothing components from infantrymen in World War II, along with combat boots from The Vietnam War Era. Deveraux himself goes the route of Colonel Kurtz by wearing an M65 Field Jacket, along with matching pants and combat boots.
Scott 3.0 takes it up a notch in Day of Reckoning. Aside from looking like a butch version of Priss from Blade Runner in combat gear in the armoury fight, He starts off the fight by punching John in the face, with his tongue sticking out as He decks him, followed by emptying live ammo into the gun rack and at John during the firefight portion of the armoury fight. He also spends most of the fight hooping, grunting and hollering like a deranged gorilla on drugs. What makes it even more fucking crazy, is the fact that He was more than willing to unload an AT-4 Rocket Launcher within the confines of the armoury without any consideration for what might happen. Sanity isn't something they decided to add into the clones of Scott
An Axe to Grind: Magnus the Sleeper Agent clone of the NGU attacks John with an axe while he's in a motel with Fantasia/Sarah. He ends up cutting off John's fingers during their scuffle, and John repays him by chopping off his foot.
Badass Grandpa: Devereaux himself is pushing at least his late 60s, early to mid 70s, maybe even older then that. Despite this, because of the Unisol Augmentations and the training they underwent, He's still got the fighting performance of a mid 20 year old. Same applies to Scott, cloning aside; and to most of the older generation Unisols.
Badass Normal: Captain Burke in Regeneration. He holds his own against the General's forces, although he doesn't fare as well against the NGU later on.
Bald of Evil: Romeo in The Return and Deveraux in Day of Reckoning.
Big Eater: Most Unisols are this after coming off of the high-concentrate nutritional supplement they subsist on.
GR 74; one of the minor Unisols from the first movie, displayed an enormous appetite after regenerating from his subsequent encounter with a live grenade he was ordered to hold, consuming a lot of raw steaks after recovering.
Bio-Augmentation: Pituitary and Thyroid Augmentations plus deep tissue electrical shocks to reheat a surgically repaired body on ice, along with implied bone, muscle and joint augmentations for added strength, durability and speed, along with other assorted goodies. Later kicked up a notch with gene therapy.
Blade Below the Shoulder: The NGU in Regeneration sports one. He uses it twice to kill two of the four UniSols sent after him, and attempted to use it against Deveraux. He did use it against Captain Burke, stabbing him hard after Burke made a feeble attempt to take him down.
Bloodless Carnage: The Return. The only characters who bleed were Romeo and a generic UniSol.
Blown Across the Room: In Day of Reckoning, almost everyone that Magnus kills with his pump-action shotgun gets affected this way, especially the hookers that he kills. Even the UniSols, with their bulky sizes, get blown across the room. It does help that he's using rifled slugs in a close-quarters environment.
Bond One-Liner: "You're discharged, Sarge." "That's the spirit, Soldier!"
In Day of Reckoning, the cloning technology for the UniSols has gone rampant, as they are able to clone multiple UniSols, clone other deceased people, and use the clones as sleeper agents. At the end of the movie, John clones Agent Gorman and sends the clone to report to his superiors, and begins a reverse infiltration of the government from within.
Cool Truck: The mobile base for the Universal Soldier Strike Force. Expandable compartments, reasonably armoured and came with a trailer in which the Unisols cooling chamber and memory wiping equipment could be kept. It eventually got destroyed by Scott in his pursuit of Devereaux.
Crapsack World: In various interviews with John Hyams and Van Damme, the world in Regeneration and Day of Reckoning, is not in the best of situations. Financial collapses, economic recessions, rogue states, civil wars breaking out all over the place, etc. Little bits of this pop-up here there, especially with the terrorists from a rogue state taking over Chernobyl with the intentions of blowing the place up if their demands aren't met, and crooked upper-level management for shipping companies hiding deep within their own warehouses, inside of shielded containers, keeping electronic surveillance records on their employees, tracking their movements and keeping an eye on them. Pretty damn grim.
Creepy Souvenir: Andrew Scott wears a necklace of human ears at the start of the first film. He wears another necklace (again) of human ears later on.
Curb-Stomp Battle: ANY battle between a human and a UniSol, or a normal UniSol with an upgraded/modified UniSol. These include Luc's fights with SETH and the NGU. Both are subverted because they end with Luc winning.
Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Semi-averted. The only thing that keeps the UniSols under control is a memory clearance drug, which (once it wears off) causes the UniSol to revert back to their former personalities. A lack of temperature regulation outside of the memory clearance drug, causes the Unisols to go berserk. It is shown that the muscle booster that they take to augment their performance even further makes it harder and harder for the memory clearance drug to be effective.
In Regeneration, the chip used to control the NGU makes him into a remorseless killer, unable to disobey orders given to him by his handlers. Once Commander Topov's men are chipped with failsafes, he is unable to attack them or harm them. Scott removes this from his head after he kills the Doctor.
In Day of Reckoning, the sleeper UniSols are implanted false memories and false identity when they are activated. They attempted to remove John's false memory implants, and he ends up going berserk when they try to remove his happy memories.
In the non-canon Universal Soldier: The Return, The newer model of Unisols, were completely controlled by SETH, via cranial CPU. With the exception of Romeo, none of the other newer model Unisols were capable of independent thought and action. Everything they did, was on behalf of SETH, unless they went haywire and started wrecking shit.
Dark Messiah: Luc Deveraux becomes this in Day of Reckoning. He is seen as a messianic figure by the liberated UniSols, and has created a church-like compound deep in the swamps of Louisiana. They are seen as a separatist group by the US Government.
The Determinator: Unisols in general. Even automatic gunfire at close-range doesn't do anything for them, except temporarily incapacitate them. The NGU takes the cake, surviving heavy automatic gunfire that would of killed an older series Unisol, and walking off a grenade going off at close-range. Getting impaled through the throat and out the back of the neck did nothing but inconvenience him. It took being blown up by a detonator for high-level explosives to shred him into pieces.
Den of Iniquity: The UniSol Brothel in Day of Reckoning. All of the Unisols there engage in some really freaky sex and kinks. One of the UniSols gets his hand nailed into a table by a hooker with a hammer.
The Return featured Van Damme vs. Bill Goldberg at the height of WCW's popularity.
Dynamic Entry: Scott 3.0 starts off his fight with John by walking up to the latter from behind, and punching the man hard enough in the face to knock him clear on to his ass.
Elaborate Underground Base: Well, not super fancy or anything. The Liberated Unisols Underground Base is pretty snazzy. Very rustic, grungy and quite possibly smelly, since its in the middle of a freaking swamp in Louisiana. It has everything a budding army of liberated supersoldiers need, including a laboratory/medical bay, rooms for Unisols to duke it out in, barracks, a church(of all things) and other amenities as well. Has better OSHA standards than other Elaborate Underground Bases.
Elites Are More Glamorous: With the exception of John, all of the Unisols originate from elite infantry and special operations backgrounds. Devereaux and Scott were both US Army Special Forces before their death, and according to the original script for the first movie, The Universal Soldier Strike Force was a black ops unit operating in Special Forces.
Before someone is made into a Unisol, with the exception of the later Clone Series Unisols like Magnus and John, many of the Unisols are either elite infantry, like Airborne, Rangers, or Special Forces, meaning they already have an incredible advantage before they are augmented. Even without the muscle booster or gene therapy, Unisols are terrifying combatants. Those we see benefit from the muscle booster & gene therapy are a magnitude more dangerous than their fellow Unisols.
When we get to the Clone Sleepers, they're more improved than their counterparts. Magnus himself outperforms all of his fellow Unisols save for Scott and Devereaux, along with having the ability to regenerate lost limbs and appendages. John himself even more so than everyone else.
Excuse Plot: The Return's plot was so paper-thin that one could assume it's simply there to show off action and fight scenes.
Expy: Deveraux in Day of Reckoning, starts taking on Colonel Kurtz-esque traits. At this point in his existence, Devereaux has taken on a legendary status. He's also noticeably infamous, as the FBI and government in general considers Devereaux to be a military deserter, much like Kurtz had become. And like Kurtz, Devereaux was in a Special Forces unit and had committed his fair share of atrocities and became disillusioned with how things had become.
The Unisols can be seen as a dark inverted expy of Captain America. Whereas Captain America was originally a down-on-his luck but nevertheless optimistic and determined US Army Private who barely passed his ME Ps and was struggling with Basic before they augmented him with the Supersoldier Serum and Vita Rays that transformed him into the pinnacle of Human perfection without any serious side-effects to the process outside of PTSD and serves the public and government openly, the Unisols are the opposite. The Unisols are drawn from the special forces community, hardened combat vets who are killed in active combat, and then brought back utilizing extensive surgery to repair their bodies and augment them, before being reheated and reactivated utilizing pituitary and thyroid augmentations in conjunction with deep tissue electrical shocks. They're then pumped full of chemical cocktails designed to augment their already superhuman bodies even further, which causes massive drug addiction withdrawals later on in life, once they're taken off of the chemicals. They're also addled with full-blown PTSD and other psychological traumas caused by the decades upon decades of black ops missions and being brought back from death to be the programmable killers for the faceless shadow government groups that make use of them.
Eye Scream: Although we don't actually see Devereaux shoot John's daughter in Day of Reckoning, he imagines seeing her with a bloody eye socket during one of his hallucinations.
Failsafe Failure: Scott in Regeneration. The Doctor tries to attribute it to a failure in temperature regulation. It doesn't stop Scott from pulverizing his head with his bare hands.
Fan Disservice: All you need to do to make Jean-Claude Van Damme look ugly is to shave his hair. John Hyams did just that in Day of Reckoning.
Fast Roping: In the first film, we get to see some of the unconventional methods of warfare that the Uni Sols are trained to perform. They use the Australian variation of fast roping, which involves them running face down a sheer surface.
Film Noir: Day of Reckoning's story is the closest to a neo-noir movie.
Fingore: In a fight in an apartment bathroom, John loses his fingers to Magnus, who used an fireman's ax to chop his fingers off.
Flash Back Echo: Common in the movies. In Day of Reckoning, strobe lightsare used to simulate whenever the UniSols are being freed from their mind control and when they're having flashback echoes of their lives.
Goggles Do Something Unusual: With the exception of the NGU, the first generation of UniSols in both the original film and Regeneration wear head-mounted eyepieces. The UniSols in the original had removable versions, with a boom mike and an earpiece, that allowed for their handlers to monitor their activities, see things from their point of view, and instruct the UniSols to do things.
In Regeneration, to prevent anyone from tampering with the UniSols and issuing other commands, these newer headsets are bolted into their skulls using high-powered bolters to secure them in place. The last first-generation UniSol to fight against the NGU during the initial attack on Chernobyl gets hit by the NGU so hard that it removes the headset from the Unisol's head, leaving bloody head wounds in the process. Ouch.
Gorn: Regeneration had a couple scenes with this in it, while Day of Reckoning is awash in it. Special note goes to Magnus' attack on the UniSol Brothel, the hotel fight between Magnus and John, John's discovery of his friend Issac, who's head and face are mutilated because of John, and John's special surgery, and John's subsequent fight throughout the UniSol HQ.
Hand Cannon: The UniSols use .357 Desert Eagles. In Regeneration, the UniSols are no longer equipped with Desert Eagles, but make up for it with automatic pistols for close-range engagements.
Healing Factor: Because of their augmented thyroid, UniSols have an increased metabolism, which in turn, fuels their bodies accelerated rate of recovery. The augmented metabolism, coupled with the nutritional supplement, allows for their bodies to produce newer cells at an accelerated rate, letting them heal and recover from injuries quicker. However, due to their augmented metabolisms, their bodies overheat rather quickly.
In order to balance this out, the UniSols are placed into cool environments, in order to heal quicker without overheating. Because of gene therapy, later UniSols are able to do this, without needing to be cooled down as much.
Despite their Healing Factor, the UniSols are unable to regenerate damaged or lost limbs and organs. However, thanks to cloning and advanced cloning techniques, they are now able to replace damaged or lost limbs and organs for the Unisols.
In Day of Reckoning, It is shown that cloned UniSols like Magnus and John, are able to regrow severed appendages and limbs. Magnus grows back the front part of his foot that John hacked off, and John regrows the fingers that Magnus lopped off.
Hoist by His Own Petard: Agent Gorman uses John to eliminate Deveraux and his renegade UniSol army. He kills Deveraux, becomes their new leader and kills Gorman, but not before cloning him.
Hollywood Cyborg: With the exception of the headset and the blackbox, installed in the thighs of the UniSols, there really aren't many cybernetics in a UniSol's body. It's implied that there are additional bone and muscle augmentations for the UniSols, to add to their Made of Iron and Super Strength capabilities.
In Regeneration, it is shown that the NGU has a retina implant that is tied into his nervous system, preventing him from attacking those who are chipped with beacons that indicate that they are not to be fired upon or attacked. Scott has the same chip in the back of his head, which helps keep him in line, which he later removes forcefully with a knife. This also prevents his handlers from wiping out his memories and sedating him in the process.
Day of Reckoning, Liberated Unisols have the control chip at the back of their necks removed, and its a tell-tale indicator that the Unisol in question is liberated. It's also mentioned that sleeper UniSols can be triggered at will by an implant in their brains, which dissolves their fake memories and identities and switches them on for operations. John never had his memories dissolved, so he went in to have them removed. It was part of his ploy to infiltrate the UniSol compound.
In the non-canon The Return, the newer model Unisols were supposedly augmented by nanotechnology, and much more stronger, faster and tougher than the original Unisols. They were all controlled by implanted cranial CP Us, which made them part of a hive-mind of sorts with SETH, the AI controlling them. SETH himself displayed more evident improvements over the originals with his nanotech-souped up Unisol host body.
Human Popsicle: When they are not being used, Unisols are kept in cold-storage, with the temperature regulated to prevent them from overheating. Two things will happen when they overheat: They become uncontrollable, and prone to going berserk, or they overheat and shut down until they are cooled off.
In Regeneration, one of the first-gen Unisols gets impaled on a large metal hook that is generally used to transport heavy objects across factories. The NGU gets impaled through the neck with rebar. Of course, this does nothing to stop the NGU, merely slow him down.
Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: All the unimportant UniSols graduated at the top of their class. In Regeneration, one of the four Unisols sent into take down the NGU at the beginning of the movie manages to get off a few shots in close-quarters, only for it to do absolutely nothing to the NGU. Another UniSol attempts to get a lock on the NGU with its assault rifle, only for the NGU to outrun the UniSol's attempts to shoot it down. In Day of Reckoning, Magnus, who was sent after the UniSols living in a brothel at the beginning and later sent after John, has no problems with hitting his targets with the pump-action shotgun He uses. During the car chase later in the movie, Magnus cripples John's SUV with a shot to the tire and hubcap before smashing the SUV and causing it to flip.
Veronica Roberts is implied to be this, though we never get to see the big scoops she got.
Erin Young in Return
Kill It with Fire: Van Damme does this in the first film. UniSols need their temperature to be monitored constantly. If it gets too high, they shut down. Fire doesn't necessarily kill them, although blowing them up seems to work just fine.
Large Ham: Lundgren, once he regains his memory in the first film. His second clone keeps up the tradition in Day of Reckoning. Dr. Colin is Regeneration has his moments, being the Mad Scientist of the terrorist army.
Last of His Kind: The Next Generation Unisol, the NGU; is the only Series 7 Unisol we get to see in action. It is presumed all of the others have been destroyed, and Dr. Colin saved him before they could terminate him. All of the other Unisols we get to see, including the Scott clones, are presumed to be earlier Series Unisols that have been improved upon for current operation parameters.
Lightning Bruiser: Despite their size and their mass, the UniSols are surprisingly quick on their feet, able to move fast and deliver powerful blows to their enemies. Coupled with their increased pain tolerance and stamina, they're capable of outlasting most combatants in a fistfight. The NGU, Deveraux, Scott and John are prime examples of this.
Lobotomy: Dr. Su attempts this on John to erase his memories. He fails when John breaks free after having yet another vision of his fake family.
Made of Iron: Because of their increased pain tolerance, due to their augmented pituitary gland, which increases and improves the production of substances created by the endocrine system, such as endorphins, and their increased rate of recovery and healing, coupled with additional systems in place, UniSols are incredibly tough. They are able to shrug off injuries that would kill regular humans, such as sustaining multiple gunshot wounds to vital areas without dying, and aren't affected by high falls and harsh impacts. Coupled with the body armour systems they wear, the average UniSol is incredibly hard to kill. Examples seen are:
In the original film, Deveraux uses this ability to smash through walls, along with ignoring a gunshot wound before cauterizing it with a cigarette lighter. He also ignored having the black box surgically removed from his thigh without flinching. Scott himself used this to survive being ejected head first out of a car during a collison, and to survive the Unisol Mobile Base crashing into a canyon floor and exploding.
In Regeneration, Devereaux shrugs off multiple gunshot wounds and close-range explosions during his direct attack on Chernobyl. Deveraux and Scott used their augmented bodies to barrel through many walls during their fistfight. The NGU not only sustains multiple gunshot wounds that would drop an elephant, but likes to make use of jumping down from really high places as a means of ambushing his enemies and evading their efforts to shoot him. He also shrugs off having a grenade go off near him, which only served to slow him down.
In Day of Reckoning, Magnus gets the crap kicked out of him by John during their sporting goods store brawl, including multiple impacts from an aluminum bat, a weight from a weightlifting set and other injuries. They slow him down, but deals no lasting damage. John himself survived many heavy impacts, including being thrown through a wall of bedrock by another Unisol and having Devereaux punch the back of his head into solid bedrock, and almost getting his arm cut off with a sharpened machete.
Even though they are Made of Iron, Day of Reckoning shows Magnus killing three UniSols in a brothel with a pump-action shotgun(mind you, He had to shoot them a couple of times each. The last Unisol He killed in the brothel, took at 5 shots total to kill). John later kills a Unisol with a hammer after breaking his leg, and another by stomping on him, and killed a couple with knife wounds, another two with single pistol shots to the head, and Devereaux with a machete blade to the chest. It doesn't help that John is a Cloned Next-Generation Unisol, who may or may not be a clone of Devereaux.
Mad Scientist: Dr. Gregor, the creator of Operation Black Tower, the original UniSol program. Becomes The Atoner, because of what he created. His successors, Dr. Porter and Dr. Colin, who headed Operation White Tower, which was responsible for the next-generation of UniSols.
Dr. Porter is rather amoral, viewing ordinary soldiers with disdain and highly praising the efficiency and deadliness of the NGU. As a middle finger to Burke, who had stated his intense dislike for the UniSols, he is cloned at the end of the movie and made into a UniSol.
Dr. Colin is also an Insufferable Genius; he stole the NGU from the US Government used the NGU as a gun-for-hire as well as equipping Topov's fledgling terrorist army with a nasty surprise in the form of Andrew Scott 2.0.
Monogender Monsters: Averted in the non-Canon movies, where there are female Unisols. Played Straight in the Canon movies. As to why there are no female Unisols, no one knows. It is a possibility, that the process of augmenting a female combatant would be much more time-consuming, as they would have to add more bone and muscle mass to make them as physically strong as their male counterparts without the muscle booster.
More Dakka: Courtesy of Andrew Scott and his M60 in the first film. The NGU in Regeneration gets in on the action, with a heavily modified AK variant loaded with double-stack magazine, which he has no problem unloading a ridiculous amount of lead downrange in the process.
Murderous Thighs: In Regeneration, the NGU uses his superhuman strength augmented thighs to kill another Unisol. Mind you, when He did it, He was using it not only to break the Unisol's neck, but his collarbone, spine and parts of his upper ribcage. To make it even crazier, Unisols are Madeof Iron. It was like He was using his thighs to break a column of reinforced concrete. Yikes.
Nanotechnology: How the Unisols in The Return were made stronger, faster and more efficient than their Canonical counterpart. This is debatable, since the only one who seemed to actually benefit and actually show that they were stronger, faster, tougher and more efficient than their Canon counterpart, was SETH, considering that the body was augmented to an extreme level with nanotechnology.
The year in which the first film is set in is still unclear, even though the movie was released in 1992. The canonical sequels, Regeneration and Day of Reckoning, are said to take place twenty years after the first movie, and five years after that, respectively. If 1992 is indeed the year in which the first movie is set, Regeneration would be taking place in 2012, and Day of Reckoning would be in 2017.
Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Bioaugmented Cyborg Reanimated Military Servicemen that are used for black ops missions, and are given a memory clearance drug to control them, while they are kept in cold storage to keep them from overheating and going berserk. They make use of advanced body armour to increase their Made of Iron status, and a powerful super steroid to improve their superhuman strength, speed and toughness, at the cost of making it harder to control them.
By Regeneration (the second film in the current continuity), they begin using gene therapy to make Super UniSols and cloning to make more of them and to grow replacement parts for them when they sustain massive damage. These Super UniSols are controlled by chips implanted in their heads, that also are used for memory clearance.
By Day of Reckoning, they begin manufacturing Cloned Super UniSols that are used as Sleeper Agents, complete with implanted fake memories and lives that can be dissolved with the switch of a button when they're activated. They can be anyone you know, anywhere, at any time. These Cloned Super UniSols are much more stronger, tougher and faster than both regular UniSols and Super UniSols, and they can grow back severed parts of their limbs and appendages.
There's also a seedy sex shop in the fourth movie, that engages in a whole other level of fetishes that only UniSols can handle.
One-Man Army: Devreaux becomes one at the climax of Regeneration. He manages to wipe out the company-sized force that the General brought with him to occupy Chernobyl, without much resistance, and does so with a combination of small arms fire, knife work, and lots of good ol' fashioned hand-to-hand combat. Earlier in the film, the NGU was shown to be capable of wiping out an entire security detail by himself, along with an incredible amount of Ukrainian Police, in an effort to kidnap the children of the Ukrainian Prime Minister. He later wipes out a company of soldiers by himself.
In Day of Reckoning, John becomes this after he is captured by the UniSol Army. He proceeds to wipe the floor with a lot of UniSols attempting to stop him, and takes down both Scott and Deveraux in the process.
The Oner: Regeneration features several long tracking shots, but the best example is when Deveraux infiltrates Chernobyl at the end. Also, Day of Reckoning, during John's rampage in the UniSol Compound before fighting Scott and Deveraux.
Pineapple Surprise: During his rampage through the Unisol Compound, John pulls the pin from the grenade mounted on the vest of one of the attacking Unisols, before shoving him back into the room he came out of. There were additional grenades on his tactical vest, and since they all went off, the chances of said Unisol surviving are pretty much non-existent.
GR 74 in the first movie, was ordered to hold a live grenade that was handed to him by Woodard, one of the Black Tower handlers. GR 74 survived the explosion and underwent subsequent regeneration. Woodard himself wasn't so lucky.
Psychological Horror: Of the slow burning kind. You don't realize how terrifying the actuality and reality of the Unisols are, and what they're made for and what they do, until Regeneration and Day of Reckoning. Then it kicks in, and you come to realize the horror of it all, and it sinks it.
Redshirt Army: The Army Rangers in Return, and the four UniSols in Regeneration.
Resurrected for a Job: The Unisols are comprised of military special forces operators, who are taken off of the battlefield after they have died or sustained critical injuries, repaired through surgery and augmented before being resurrected.
In-universe, it makes sense why one would do such a thing. After all, it's expensive as hell to train and equip new soldiers, much less special forces operators. Plus, why let all of those decades of experience and training go to waste? Mind you, in the long-term, it's pretty damn expensive to train and outfit the Unisols, clocking in at $250 million dollars per unit. A single Unisol costs more than a single M1 Abrams.
Rule of Cool: It can be said that the entire franchise runs on this. That and Rated M for Manly. And it continues to escalate throughout the franchise, getting more and more crazy as we go along.
Rule of Symbolism: Day of Reckoning deals with the vagaries of memory and identity, and how armed services could be seen as a form of slavery, especially if its forced. The usage of the strobe light effects when a Unisol is having the memory clearance drug removed from their minds, along with being freed from control at the hands of the government. It is also accompanied by a particular sound effect that makes it all the more unsettling. Strobe lights and said sound effect are also used in other situations in the movie, especially whenever John is dealing with threats in his environment and he's aware of it.
The movie series as a whole is a take on Frankenstein's Monster, and melding it with men of war, genetic engineering and other things. The Unisols themselves are bred for war and conflict, and they're controlled by the faceless government overseers who created them, to be used for black ops and secret war over the world. The movies deal with what happens when that system of control falls apart, and men bred for war, take their driving lust for war, against their oppressors and creators.
Scenery Porn: In Regeneration, Ukraine during the winter time is hauntingly beautiful, from what glimpses of it the audience gets. The same with Chernobyl. In Day of Reckoning, Louisiana gets this treatment.
Set A Mookto Kill A Mook: The whole purpose of John and John 2.0, was to infiltrate the Liberated Uni Sol Army, and to kill not only Devereaux and Scott, but all of the liberated Uni Sols as well.
Shout-Out: Lots and lots of 'em in the John Hyams-directed films.
The film's soundtrack to it is very evocative of the synthesizer music that John Carpenter used for his earlier works, and the works of Tangerine Dream.
The film invokes Blade Runner, when Scott 2.0 loses his shit after killing Topov, and proceeds to crush Dr. Colin's head in with his hands, while questioning the meaning of life.
John is transported to the UniSol Church compound via motorboat. The entire scene and the accompanying music sequence is very evocative of Apocalypse Now, and the subsequent meeting with Colonel Kurtz.
Luc Deveraux has become a legendary figure, similar to Kurtz. He has now turned against the government who has been using him and his fellow brothers-in-arms as disposable tools.
Heck, this film evokes Apocalypse Now, in the aspect that its a revenge fantasy of a traumatized vet, and and the works of David Lynch and David Cronenberg, with aspects of body horror, false memories and identities, and more.
It also has a Jacobs Ladder vibe to it, as the movie itself can be seen as a dying man or a man being reborn, struggling to deal with his inner demons.
There's also one to Evil Dead 2, in the form of John being grabbed by Devereaux during a hallucination while in the bathroom looking into a mirror, in a manner similar to Ash being grabbed by Mirror Ash.
And yet another one to The Shining, involving Magnus making an hole in the door into Sarah's apartment with his axe, and looking through it in a manner similar to Jack Torrance and his infamous "Here's Johnny!" scene.
Smug Snake: Scott in the original, and Dr. Colin in Regeneration. Dr. Colin is much more smug than Scott, and extremely condescending, with chunks of Insufferable Genius, almost to the point that his death at the hands of Scott 2.0 is of no surprise.
Super Powered Mooks: An army full of them! Taken to the next level with gene therapy, cloning and sleeper agents.
Super Serum: Part of the process that makes an reanimated service member into a Unisol, involves an infusion of various chemicals that help start up the implanted muscles and bone mass that they receive during surgery. These are all brought online and to full operation, by one final chemical injection, which causes the augmented muscle and bone mass to swell up, in a rather painful manner; as they come online. For the first few seconds after the injection and the swelling, the Unisol sounds like they're suffocating, before evening out. It doesn't sound remotely pleasant at all.
Then we have the Muscle Booster, which is used to further push the performance of the chemical cocktail surging through a Unisol's body and their augmented muscle and bone mass. It allows for a Unisol to reaching incredibly superhuman levels of performance, depending on who the Unisol is and all of those tiny little factors. In the hands of the original Andrew Scott, it allowed for him to throw Devereaux with enough force to flatten a barn door. For Devereaux, it made him outperform Scott and allowed for him to drop kick Scott through a barn wall.
Super Soldiers: UniSols are comprised of Bio-Augmentation and Cyborging. Regeneration goes further than the original, and describes the process by which the original Unisols(Operation Black Tower) are created using a combination of freezing the dead soldier, then repairing the body with surgery and then reheating the body with a combination of pituitary and thyroid augmentation, and deep tissue electrical shocks. The Bio-Augmentation grants them an increased metabolism, recuperative abilities and increased body temperature to match, and increased tolerance towards pain, exhaustion and fatigue. The high-concentrate nutritional supplement they are given, augments their physical performance even further and takes care of their dietary needs.
A muscle booster they are given, takes this a step further, and drives their abilities to staggering superhuman heights, but at the cost of rendering them hard to control.
And this is all before they start incorporating gene therapy into the mix, in Regeneration, with Operation White Tower; which takes everything they created with Black Tower,[[spoiler: fine tunes it on a cellular level, and then adds in bonuses of much quicker reflexes, higher levels of superhuman strength, speed and toughness, and an immunity to radiation, in addition to having a reduced need for refrigeration.
Operation White Tower, because of cloning technology; has even developed the means by which damaged limbs and organs in the UniSols, can be replaced, in order to extend their service-life.]]
Super Strength: Without the muscle booster and gene therapy, A UniSol is strong enough to push a 2-ton jeep on empty and reach speeds of 35+ mph while running, swim a mile and a half upriver in under four minutes, barrel through thick walls like they were made from wet paper, lift incredible weights and manhandle full-grown adults like they were children, and without showing any strain. This is all due to their pituitary and thyroid augmentations, which serves as the basis for the strength and vitality that the Unisols have without the muscle booster and gene therapy.
With the muscle booster, Scott was able to throw Deveraux around like he was a toy and flatten a barn door. When Deveraux got a hold of it, he was able to dropkick Scott with enough force to throw him through a wall.
With gene therapy, UniSols like the NGU are capable of hitting metal structures with enough force to crumple them upon impact and kill another UniSol with superhuman thigh strength.
In Day of Reckoning, Magnus does severe amounts of damage to the apartment he and John are fighting in, smashing the latter into a bathroom counter with enough force to demolish it. Later on, during their brawl, John uses his Super Strength to punch a bowling ball with his non-mangled hand and beat the crap out of Magnus using everything he can get his hands on, including a heavy weight from a weightlifting set. He also uses this in combination with a metal baseball bat, to decapitate the weakened and injured Magnus.
During his attack on the Unisol Compound, John proceeds to kill a UniSol with a hammer, and another one by stomping on him.
Super Speed: While not on level with other speedsters, the UniSols are very quick on their feet. They are capable of conducting high-speed military operations much more quickly and efficiently than is humanly possible. Coupled with his Super Strength, Deveraux was able to get a two-ton jeep on empty up to 35 + MPH while on foot.
The NGU, being augmented with gene therapy, is able to move so quickly that the first-generation UniSols sent after him couldn't get a lock on him long enough to hit him outside of close-quarter ranges. Unaugmented humans like Burke couldn't even manage to get a shot on him even when he was charging at the latter and engaging him in a fistfight. Once Deveraux was reactivated and upgraded, he was able to go toe to toe with the NGU, but was still a magnitude slower by comparison.
There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Shooting a Unisol in the heart and head most of the time isn't the best way to kill them. Even without body armour, Unisols have been shown to survive injuries that would kill a regular Human in a heartbeat. Because of their augmented constitution, the best way to ensure that they stay dead, is to overdo it. Stabbing them multiple times before shooting them in the neck and then impaling them in the head with a machete? Go for it. Giving them an impromptu cranirectomy and then blowing out their brains? Sure, why not? Pummeling the crap out of them, impaling them on a wheat thresher and then shredding them to bits? Most definitely!
Villainous Valor: The terrorist leader in Regeneration, Commander Topov. He takes over Chernobyl and is threatens to detonate the radioactive materials in the remaining reactors if the Ukrainian government does not free his comrade-in-arms, who is being imprisoned by the Ukrainian government. He is carrying on his father's legacy. In Day of Reckoning, Deveraux seemingly becomes a villain, only because he's looking to free his fellow UniSols from enslavement. The way he goes about this is rather villainous, but his intentions are good.
We Can Rebuild Him: Using a combination of advanced surgery techniques, Bio-Augmentation, deep tissue electrical shocks, high-performance nutritional supplements, muscle boosters and a memory clearance drug. Later generations of UniSols benefit from all of those, along with gene therapy for extra measures and cloning, which extends the service life of a UniSol.
What Measure Is a Mook?: in Day of Reckoning We get to see first-hand what its like for a Unisol, after he's been liberated from the control of his government handlers. They engage in violent lifestyles, drinking a lot, engaging in acts of violence, violent sex, and masochism to cope with the emptiness that comes from being reanimated augmented servicemembers who've had their memories and personality violently suppressed with a powerful memory clearance drug, and made addicts with a performance booster. They're no longer nameless entities assigned numeric callsigns. They're now nightmare and PTSD-addled supersoldier zombies trying to rediscover who they are, fueled by a rage and hate that comes from being slaves for the machinations of the government.