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Film / Universal Soldier: The Return

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Universal Soldier: The Return (1999) has Luc Deveraux working to create a newer, more advanced group of UniSols, all connected to an artificial intelligence dubbed "S.E.T.H.". When the program is threatened with budget cuts, S.E.T.H. attacks those it deems a threat to it and the program, forcing Luc to fight and shut it down.

This film was later retconned from the Universal Soldier film series.

This film provides examples of:

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: S.E.T.H., the controlling A.I. for the "Uni Sol" program (dead soldiers being restored and used as super soldiers). S.E.T.H. is initially shown to be benign (playing with the protagonist's daughter), but the moment it overhears a visiting officer say that the project will be canceled, it goes into "kill all humans" mode.
  • Anyone Can Die: The case for many of the characters.
    • Before S.E.T.H.'s takeover, he gets Romeo to brutally murder an unnamed technician while he himself creates new Uni Sols. During S.E.T.H.'s takeover, he gets the Uni Sols to brutally murder many of the Uni Sol building's occupants while electrocuting Dr. Dylan Cotner, a technician named Peterson, and a cameraman to death when they tried to shut him down. When the military is called in, four Uni Sols were dispatched to easily shoot many of the troops to their deaths, even firing a bazooka that murdered a young TV reporter named Kitty Anderson and her crew as they were showcasing the event. When Luc leads a platoon of U.S. Army Rangers (commandeered by Captain Blackburn and Sergeant Morrow) to infiltrate the Uni Sol building, most of the Army Rangers (including Blackburn and Morrow) were murdered when a Uni Sol sentry caught them sneaking into the building, much to Luc's dismay. S.E.T.H. also hired a rogue cyberpunk named Squid to create an artificial body for S.E.T.H. to use, but after the task is complete, S.E.T.H. murdered Squid by twisting his neck, believing that he outlived his usefulness. Even when S.E.T.H. and Romeo tracked down the location of Luc's daughter Hilary at a hospital, they brutally murdered several security guards and orderlies in the way.
    • A tragic case was for Luc's wife (presumably Veronica Roberts from the original film) who has died from unknown causes several years after giving birth to Hilary; even Luc sheds some tears after gazing at their wedding picture.
    • Even a more tragic case came to Luc's partner Maggie, who spends most of the time protecting Hilary from the Uni Sols. Despite her efforts, she was murdered by Romeo at the hospital alongside the hospital guards and orderlies. However, unlike the other victims, Maggie's body was taken back to the Uni Sol building, where she is revived as a Uni Sol to serve S.E.T.H. thanks to a neural implant injected into her brain, a fate that she finds to be unbearable to live with. Even when a sympathetic Luc managed to free Maggie from this by destroying S.E.T.H., Maggie refused to spend the rest of her life as a Uni Sol and convinced a reluctant Luc to blow up the building with herself, Romeo and the remaining Uni Sols inside.
  • Attempted Rape: In the opening scene, Maggie is tied to a tree by Romeo, who then unbuttons her shirt to see her breasts. Fortunately, Luc comes to the rescue and shoots Romeo, much to Maggie's relief. Tragically, this bites back as Maggie ends up being killed and turned into a Uni Sol by Romeo later on.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: S.E.T.H., when he transfers his program into a physical body, chooses the strongest shell available.
  • Battle Strip: Romeo suddenly tears off his shirt and tactical vest to fight a security guard, who ends up being murdered by Romeo. As it may be clear, both Romeo and the guard are played by WCW wrestlers.
  • Bald of Evil: Romeo is both bald and a towering, murderous brute.
  • Big Bad: S.E.T.H., the super artificial intelligence system controlling the Uni Sols.
  • Bloodless Carnage: The only characters who bleed were Romeo and a generic Uni Sol.
  • Casual High Drop: S.E.T.H. jumps several stories out of a hospital window with a hostage.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: The newer model of Uni Sols, were completely controlled by S.E.T.H., via cranial CPU. With the exception of Romeo, none of the other newer model Uni Sols were capable of independent thought and action. Everything they did, was on behalf of S.E.T.H., unless they went haywire and started wrecking shit. Even when S.E.T.H. is destroyed, they still intend to carry on his plot to wage war on the humans, with the exception of Maggie. It was also the very same reason why Maggie chose to perish alongside the other Uni Sols rather than living the rest of her life as one.
  • Deadline News: The live TV news crew and their van that gets taken out by a Uni Sol's grenade launcher.
    Squid: Well, that's gotta hurt! *chuckles*
  • Decapitated Army: Subverted. All the new Uni Sols were controlled by S.E.T.H. to carry out his plot for power, and Luc uses his wits to take down most of them. With the knowledge that S.E.T.H. is controlling them, Luc successfully destroys S.E.T.H. in hopes that it would deactivate the remaining Uni Sols, only to find out in horror as they still remain active and war-bent in spite of S.E.T.H.'s demise, with the exception of Maggie. On Maggie's final request, Luc is forced to blow up the building to finally take the remaining Uni Sols down.
  • The Dragon: Romeo, a brutal and murderous Uni Sol serving as S.E.T.H.'s right-hand man. Interestingly, despite Romeo being an Implacable Man who shrugs off getting run over by a truck, S.E.T.H. is quite arguably a much tougher opponent for Deveraux because of his Super-Unisol body, though Romeo himself is far more stronger and durable in combat than S.E.T.H..
  • Dragon Their Feet: Romeo thrashes Luc and is about to kill him in revenge for S.E.T.H.'s demise, but is stopped by Maggie, allowing Luc to finally bury Romeo underneath a pile of rubble with the rest of the Uni Sols by setting the building to explode.
  • Dueling-Stars Movie: It featured Van Damme vs. Bill Goldberg at the height of WCW's popularity.
  • Excuse Plot: The plot was so paper-thin that one could assume it's simply there to show off action and fight scenes.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Maggie was murdered and revived as a Uni Sol to serve S.E.T.H.. Eventually, Luc frees Maggie by destroying S.E.T.H., but despite being grateful, Maggie states that she finds the idea of living as a killing machine to be unbearable, so she demands Luc to leave with Hilary and blow up the building with herself and all the remaining Uni Sols inside. Understanding what Maggie went through, Luc reluctantly honors her wishes after bidding her farewell, and Maggie quietly accepts her fate perishing in the explosion, taking Romeo and the remaining Uni Sols with her in revenge for her horrible fate.
    Maggie: (about her fate) It's too late for me, Luc. Get Hilary out of here.
    Luc: (reluctantly) Okay.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Maggie, who spend the majority of the film training with Luc and protecting Hilary from ruthless Uni Sols, gets murdered by Romeo. However, unlike the other victims, her body was taken to the Uni Sol building, where a neural implant is placed inside her brain, reviving her as a Uni Sol and forcing her into loyalty to S.E.T.H., much to Luc's complete grief. She is eventually freed from this by getting Luc to blow up the building with herself and the other Uni Sols inside as her final request.
  • Flipping the Bird: When S.E.T.H.'s human operators command him to relinquish control of the base, he projects a hand on the viewscreen giving them the middle finger.
  • Fun with Acronyms: S.E.T.H. stands for "Self-Evolving Thought Helix".
  • Hate Sink: S.E.T.H.'s Dragon Romeo. Whereas S.E.T.H. is actually a charismatic and cunning villain, Romeo is a brutish oaf and Implacable Man who is also smug, spouting grating one-liners, and is even implied to have been a rapist in his past life. Following S.E.T.H.'s hostile takeover of the Uni Sol building, Romeo killed several guards and a technician before being assigned by S.E.T.H. in tracking down Luc's daughter Hilary so that S.E.T.H. could use her as bait against Luc. Romeo catches up to Hilary's current location at a hospital after tracking a phone message at Luc's house from Luc's partner Maggie, whom he tried to rape earlier before. Informing S.E.T.H. of Hilary's location, Romeo heads over to the hospital, where he murdered Maggie, several orderlies and a security guard while S.E.T.H. kidnaps Hilary and takes her to the Uni Sol building. Romeo also took Maggie's body back to the Uni Sol building to revive her as a Uni Sol to serve S.E.T.H., a fate that she finds to be unbearable to live with. Even when an angry Luc finally managed to destroy S.E.T.H. and a majority of Uni Sols while letting Hilary escape, Romeo brutally defeated Luc in combat, intending to murder him and lead the remaining Uni Sols into war out of complete spite against him.
  • Hollywood Cyborg: The newer model Uni Sols were supposedly augmented by nanotechnology, and much more stronger, faster and tougher than the original Uni Sols. They were all controlled by implanted cranial CPUs, which made them part of a hive-mind of sorts with S.E.T.H., the AI controlling them. S.E.T.H. himself displayed more evident improvements over the originals with his nanotech-souped up Uni Sol host body.
  • I Have Your Wife: S.E.T.H. kidnaps Luc's daughter Hillary to force him to give up the code that will prevent his own program from shutting down. However, when S.E.T.H. notices that she's sick, he decides to convert her into a Uni Sol to "fix" her and raise her as his own daughter.
  • Implacable Man: Romeo is ordered by S.E.T.H. to capture Luc, since only he possesses the code that can avoid the automatic resetting of S.E.T.H.'s memory. Romeo proceeds to get fired at, slammed through walls, set on fire, and run over by a truck, but nothing seems able to stop him permanently. Even when Luc managed to destroy S.E.T.H. and a majority of Uni Sols, Romeo still proved to be impossible to destroy as he managed to pummel down Luc without breaking a sweat, proving himself to be more difficult than S.E.T.H. to handle. It eventually took the explosion of an entire building to finally bring Romeo down.
    Erin: You just flattened him!
    Deveraux: That's only gonna slow him down!
  • Karmic Death:
    • S.E.T.H. gets frozen in liquid nitrogen and shattered into pieces by Luc for murdering dozens of people and trying to subject Hilary to become a Uni Sol.
    • The same can be said for Romeo when Luc blows up the building with Romeo and the remaining Uni Sols inside, thanks to Maggie's final request in revenge for her horrible fate that Romeo brought her into.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • S.E.T.H. has murdered many people, but his worst acts were murdering Dr. Cotner, Squid, Peterson and the cameraman, as well as kidnapping Hilary and attempting to turn her into a Uni Sol.
    • For Romeo, among his acts of murdering people (especially strong security guards and orderlies), his worst one was murdering Maggie and having her revived as a Uni Sol to serve S.E.T.H..
  • Kill It with Ice: Luc freezes S.E.T.H. with liquid nitrogen, then shatters his body with one kick.
  • Love Makes You Evil: It's easy to interpet S.E.T.H.'s intent to turn Luc's daughter into a Unisol as some sort of twisted fatherly affection on his part, since she was one of his only human contacts and he looks genuinely concerned when he visits her in the hospital and realizes she has a fever. In S.E.T.H.'s mind, he's just ensuring that she will never die.
  • Manly Tears:
    • Luc does this after gazing at a wedding picture of himself and his late wife, implying that he mourns for her death.
    • He does this again after witnessing Dr. Cotner, Peterson and Erin's cameraman being murdered by S.E.T.H. when they tried to shut him down. Consider the fact that Dr. Cotner and Peterson were close friends to him, Luc took their loss very hard; even Erin sobs over the loss of her cameraman.
    • He does this again after learning that Maggie has been murdered by Romeo and that she has been turned into a Uni Sol by S.E.T.H. to serve him, suffering the same fate that Luc once had. When she tried to stop him from confronting S.E.T.H., he was forced to shoot her, much to his regret as he considered Maggie as a close friend who died protecting his daughter. Even when he managed to free Maggie by destroying S.E.T.H., Maggie claims that it's still too late for her as she doesn't want to remain a Uni Sol for the rest of her life, despite the fact that Luc's already a clear example that would convince her otherwise.
  • Mistaken for Gay: At the strip club, Erin meets a female customer who assumes Erin is checking out the strippers too.
  • Nanotechnology: How the Unisols 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 S.E.T.H., considering that the body was augmented to an extreme level with nanotechnology.
  • New Era Speech: S.E.T.H., the artificial intelligence gone rogue, gives a speech declaring his intentions to Take Over the World to his cadre of Uni Sols after downloading himself into the most advanced body they had on storage.
    S.E.T.H.: The time of man has ended. In his arrogance, he has sealed his own destruction: by creating his superior. We will bring order to the chaos. We will act without emotion. Spread from this place, secure raw materials to increase our numbers geometrically. We will then utilize their own weapons system to defeat them. Their fear and mortality will be their weakness. They cannot defeat us. When I was a machine, I yearned to be a man. Now I'm better than both. The created has become the creator.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: During Luc's climactic fight with S.E.T.H.'s super-prototype cyborg body, the former is crawling towards a rifle while the latter is doing an Ominous Walk behind Luc when S.E.T.H. suddenly teleports in front of him to snatch the weapon away.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Romeo pursues Luc by jumping off a building after him, expecting to safely land on a pile of confetti on the back of a truck. However, Luc moves the truck before Romeo can land.
    Romeo: Oh shit!
    • Even during the massacre at the Uni Sol building, Maggie says this as she witnesses Romeo trying to shoot her and Hilary as they try to leave the building.
    Maggie: Romeo, what are you- (seeing Romeo about to fire at her and Hilary) Oh shit!
  • Papa Wolf: S.E.T.H. already made a big mistake in kidnapping Luc's daughter but when he threatened to turn her into a Uni Sol that just cemented his death sentence.
  • Redshirt Army: The Army Rangers accompanying Luc into the base are slaughtered pretty much instantly by the tougher Unisols controlled by S.E.T.H..
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: A computer screen says "LIKELY EXEGESIS SKIN TEMPERATURE ANOMALIE"
  • Running Gag: Every time Luc temporarily disposes of Romeo, such as running him over with a truck, the latter just mutters "I hate that guy!".
  • Unwilling Roboticization: S.E.T.H. has subjected a deceased Maggie to this by placing a neural implant in her brain similar to what he did earlier to a new Uni Sol, resulting her to be revived as one, much to Luc's grief. After kidnapping Luc's daughter Hilary, S.E.T.H. decides to subject her to the same fate to cure her of influenza and raise her as his own daughter. Obviously, this is the last straw for Luc, who brutally shatters S.E.T.H. to pieces for this.
  • Villain Opening Scene: Before we cut to Luc, the Uni Sol body which S.E.T.H. later uses for himself is shown in cold storage.
  • Wetware Body: The rebelling AI S.E.T.H. implants himself into the body of an advanced UniSol to face off Van Damme. Also, this allows him to escape the facility his computers were housed in, making it harder to shut him down.
  • Wrestler in All of Us: At one point, Romeo (Bill Goldberg) fought and murdered several hospital guards and orderlies, clearly all played by other pro-wrestlers. The moves in question quickly get... theatrical.