Follow TV Tropes


Film / Universal Soldier (1992)

Go To

Universal Soldier is a 1992 sci-fi action film directed by Roland Emmerich which subsequently spawned an action franchise.

The film begins in 1969, during The Vietnam War. Private Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) discovers that his sergeant, Andrew Scott (Dolph 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. He then attacks Scott, and both men die in the ensuing fight. Their deaths are covered up, and their corpses are turned over to the secret "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.

A novel adaptation was made to promote the movie. It 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.

This film provides examples of:

  • 13 Is Unlucky: Before he went rogue (and returned to his Ax-Crazy former persona), Scott was known as... GR13.
  • Action Prologue: Set during The Vietnam War.
  • All There in the Manual: The novel gives more details on the movie, such as the terrorists who stage a Hostage Situation in Hoover Dam as being of pro-communist background.
  • Ambiguous Syntax: When Scott thinks he's about to finish off Luc, he says "say goodnight, asshole". Luc then surreptitiously injects himself with Phlebotinum and says "goodnight, asshole" and kicks Scott's ass. Probably a Shout-Out to the apocryphal George Burns and Gracie Allen "Say goodnight, Gracie" bit.
  • Ax-Crazy: Sgt. Andrew Scott goes totally bonkers in 'Nam and murders his squad and a whole Vietnamese village, making for himself a necklace made from the ears of his victims before he is stopped by Pvt. Luc Deveraux, who also dies in the process. After dying and being turned into a Universal Soldier, he eventually recovers his memories and returns to his old, murderous habits to pursue his vendetta against Deveraux, who has also been turned into a UniSol.
  • Barrier-Busting Blow: Luc charges straight through the walls of at least three neighboring rooms in the motel as if they were made of cardboard. Unfortunately, he can't repeat the feat with a concrete wall.
  • Base on Wheels: The titular soldiers are based in a large expanding shipping container on the back of a semi. Originally a non-villanous example, as it is part of an experimental US military program. Later on, though, it gets taken over by Scott.
  • Battle in the Rain: The final fight.
  • Big Badass Rig: 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.
  • Big Eater: What Devereaux becomes after going rogue, as he no longer has access to the highly-concentrated nutritional supplement of the UniSol program.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Now that the sequels have been retconned, we have to assume the worst for Devereaux and Veronica. At best, they will have to live on the run from now on; at worst, they come forward, but no one is going to believe them about super soldiers and government conspiracies, no matter what evidence they have, and they are going down for multiple murders. At very worst, they will inevitably be cornered and killed by government agents who want to keep the UniSol program (and this whole disaster) a secret. Alternatively Luke just hides out at his parent's farm and Veronica strikes a deal with the government in return for her silence.
  • Bond One-Liner:
    • "You're discharged, Sarge." "That's the spirit, Soldier!"
    • Devereaux dispatches of Scott by shoving him into a wood chipper. When asked where Scott is, Devereaux replies, "Around".
  • Boom, Headshot!: Happens a few times. It's how Sgt. Scott kills one of the villagers in The Vietnam War scene, how the Unisols dispose of the first terrorists in the Hoover Dam hostage takeover, and how Scott kills Col. Perry., to name a few instances.
  • Bottled Heroic Resolve: Luc is only able to defeat Scott after he takes a dose of supersoldier serum.
  • Clock King: The general is one of these. Thanks to the superhuman abilities of the UniSols, he can accurately predict how much time it takes for them to swim a mile and a half, then comment that they're eight seconds behind schedule.
  • Creepy Souvenir: Andrew Scott wears a necklace of human ears at the start, in Vietnam. After he goes rogue as a UniSol, he inevitably makes himself another necklace of human ears.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: GR 13/Sgt. Scott meets his end when he's turned into mincemeat in a wheat thresher.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Except for Luc Devraux, the cyborg conversions didn't go too well, as only he was able to overcome his programming and retain some semblance of humanity. The villain, Andrew Scott, didn't, but he was pretty screwed up to begin with. In the latter's case, it's also subverted: when Luc visits the scientist who was involved in the original project before he resigned, the scientist points out that the bad guy still thinks he's in Vietnam. However, by the end Scott seems to have realized that the war is long over, and is only continuing to pursue Deveraux to destroy his life and kill his family out of spite.
  • Danger Takes a Backseat: Scott pulls this.
  • Did You Actually Believe...?: Invoked by Perry when he reveals to Woodward that the entire Universal Soldier operation was done without anyone in the Pentagon knowing exactly where the soldiers came from and they're in trouble if it gets out.
    Perry: Do you really think for one second those wimps at the Pentagon would allow the regeneration of dead soldiers, American soldiers?
  • Diner Brawl: An example in which the hero starts the fight, although not intentionally. Luc has just rediscovered food and orders multiple plates without realizing that he has to pay for it. You can imagine where it goes from there.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Lundgren, once he regains his memory.
  • Fanservice: Yes, as usual, we get to see Van Damme's naked butt.
  • Fast-Roping: We get to see some of the unconventional methods of warfare that the UniSols are trained to perform. They use the Australian variation of fast roping, which involves them running face down a sheer surface.
  • Groin Attack: Veronica does this to a cop that is trying to arrest her and Deveraux; explaining to the latter that she has three brothers.
  • Hand Cannon: The UniSols use .357 Desert Eagles.
  • Heroic RRoD: UniSols have superhuman strength, endurance and heal much faster from their wounds... at the cost of being unable to regulate their bodily temperature, meaning they'll overheat and die if they're not kept in cold storage between missions.
  • Innocent Innuendo: Deveraux and Veronica are hiding from the UniSols in a gas station. Van Damme promptly strips naked and asks her to "look for something hard". No, not that — he's talking about an implanted tracking device.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: Deveraux and Veronica manage to evade the UniSols hunting them at the motel by hiding in the same bed an unfortunate and terrified couple were having sex in before the shootout started.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Veronica Roberts is implied to be this, though we never get to see the big scoops she got.
  • Made of Iron: Deveraux uses this ability to smash through walls, along with ignoring a gunshot wound before cauterizing it with a cigarette lighter. He also endured having the black box surgically removed from his thigh without flinching. Scott also qualifies, having survived being ejected head first out of a car during a collision, not to mention surviving the Unisol Mobile Base crashing into a canyon floor and exploding.
  • 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.
  • More Dakka: Courtesy of Andrew Scott and his M60. The motel scene also features the Universal Soldiers pumping copious amounts of lead into said building.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Justified by mentioning that Deveraux's parents hail from France and spoke mostly French instead of English. It helped that Van Damme is actually fluent in French. The novelization also mentions that Deveraux grew up on the Louisiana bayou.
  • Pineapple Surprise: GR74 was ordered to hold a live grenade that was handed to him by Woodard, one of the Black Tower handlers. GR74 survived the explosion and underwent subsequent regeneration. Woodard himself wasn't so lucky.
  • Super-Strength: 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.
  • Terminator Twosome: An unusual example. Both 'Terminators' were frozen all the way back during Vietnam and what is making them go on a rampage in the present day is the memories of their emnity waking up.
  • Underestimating Badassery: The diner brawl begins with the chef accosting him, irate at Luc's inability to pay for his food. Luc informs the chef that he doesn't want to hurt him. This draws a bemused "You're going to hurt me?" response from the chef, who then decides to take a swing at Luc and is KO'ed a few seconds later. That alone would be enough to qualify for this trope, but it crosses straight into Too Dumb to Live territory when the diner's other toughs keep stepping up to attack Luc despite how effortlessly he can floor them, too.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Heat and overheating. For all their superhuman feats, UniSols very easily overheat and require constant cooling, or they end up in the state of a heat stroke and die for good. Which is a pretty glaring problem when you consider how much of excess body heat an active combatant generates.
  • Wham Line: From Scott once he regains his memories and goes rogue.
    Col. Perry: GR13! I said it's over!
    Scott: My name is Sergeant...Andrew Scott.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Veronica is framed for murder. The movie ends before she is able to clear her name.
  • You Are Number 6: All the UniSols were once normal (if badass) soldiers, but after being resurrected as cyborg super-soldiers, they are assigned numbers to replace their former names (GR13, GR74, etc). Only when Deveraux and Scott go rogue do they reclaim their names (and identities).