Ossus Library Index Science Fiction Movie Index


Directed by Paul Anderson (1998, Warner Bros.)
Starring Kurt Russell, Jason Scott Lee, Jason Isaacs, and Connie Nielsen

After being replaced and discarded, a bred soldier decides to save his adopted community from a military invasion.



1 star+

November 4th, 2001 on TV  

I knew this was not going to be a great movie, probably not even a good one.  But the effects were decent, and though that isn't enough to make a movie good, I definitely didn't actively dislike it, either.  

Nothing in this movie really had to happen.  Every action and reaction was illogical, or at least twisted through some unnecessarily evil point of view.  Yes, I can believe a General would feel that his custom made soldier force would be better than the older models, but to simply replace them?  What about using the older ones as front-line soldiers.  They may be obsolete, but discarding them is wasting a lot of time, effort and money.  

When Sergeant Todd miraculously recovers in the garbage ship and plunges to the surface of a waste planet, he meets a group of people who crashed on this planet long ago, and who are simply trying to survive.  They take him in, but he proves to be too much for them, as he knows nothing except fighting.  They send him away, but call him back again.  

For some reason, he has no social skills.  What did he and his team do when they were not fighting?  Sit on their beds and stare at the walls?  A soldier who simply follows instructions cannot be effective.  They must be able to make decisions, and even though he shoots civilians to get to his enemies, he must be able to tell them to get to safety while he's shooting enemies. The reason the family he was adopted into called him back was because he taught their son how to kill snakes, which saved the father's life one night.

But the evil general arrives that day.  He doesn't recognize that anybody could be innocently living on this garbage planet as these people are.  His soldiers are told to hunt down these people and kill them all.  Fortunately, Todd is better than all of them.  I kind of liked his stealthy methods for killing them all, every single one!  But at the end, it was of course obvious that he would have to fight Caine one on one, to mirror the fight at the beginning of the movie in which they thought Todd had been killed.  Why he didn't just pick up a gun and shoot the man is beyond me (except from a movie-maker's point of view, of course).  

After everybody is dead, Todd leads the survivors to the ship, which he proceeds to take control of from the evil general.  Using what looked really fake, the general pees his pants at the sight of Todd, and is thrown out onto the harsh planet's surface.  I thought it would have been justice to leave those men to fend for themselves, but they are blown up by a "planet-killer" that they themselves planted to destroy Todd.  Won't the garbage company be angry that their dumping planet was destroyed?  For that matter, why dump the stuff on a solid surface planet at all?  A star or gas giant would crush the stuff and leave no residue.

There is a romantic sub plot that never gets fully realized here.  That's probably a good thing, as it was sappy even in what it hinted at.  The wife obviously fancies this muscular man who never talks (I don't think Kurt Russell spoke twenty words -seriously!).  And Todd definitely likes the look of her.  I really expected them to shrug off all their clothes and "do it" right in front of her husband.  Thankfully, that was avoided.  It would have made bad scenes worse.  But he will obviously adopt the kid and take the woman as his lover once they get to their new home.

This was an action movie disguising itself as a science fiction story.  But it had more SF in it than I expected.  The backdrop was a desolate planet, and soldiers taken and trained from birth to know nothing but killing.  But we never get to learn anything about this society.  Why were the wars being fought?  Why were soldiers even necessary?  Were they fighting other soldiers?  We never even get hints at the answers.  The society existed simply for the sake of something to put bullets in.  And there were way too many bullets.  

I didn't expect much from this movie, and it delivered about what I was expecting.  An entertaining diversion?  Not really.  An interesting idea, certainly, but put to the wrong use.  Show us the society, not the soldier.  Fewer bullets and more introspection.  Ah, well.  What did I expect, anyway...


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