Another Forgotten Space Junkyard: Solider (1998)

In a search for forgotten space junkyard, I’d forgotten the Kurt Russell film Soldier. It’s not a great film but it is a curiosity. The cast is surprisingly good for a film that feels like the long tail of 1980s SF action movies that somehow reached into the late 1990s. You can see a young Connie Neilsen, Jason Issac and Sean Pertwee, as well as an underused Jason Scott Lee.

The film is connected to Blad Runner by the writer David Webb Peoples who conceived the plot as a kind of shared-universe story with Ridley Scott’s film which he co-wrote. The style and depth of the film are not comparable to Blade Runner but there are multiple Easter egg connections including references to locations like the Tannhauser Gate and apparently the wreckage of a Blade Runner vehicle in one of the junk piles. Thematically the connection is via Kurt Russell’s character, a bio-engineered super-soldier raised from infancy to be a killing machine. Not a replicant as such but the film works as if the soldiers are replicants.

Kurt Russell plays the titular soldier whose early life and career are shown in a clunky montage at the start of the film. He and his platoon are under the command of Gary Busey (being Gary Busey) as part of a nearish future space military whose purpose goes unspecified. Unfortunately, the arrival of Jason Issacs wearing a pencil moustache heralds the obsolescence of Kurt’s platoon – Issacs has a new model of a soldier who is even more soulless killing machines and has bigger muscles, epitomised by Jason Scott Lee. Busey is sceptical and so Issacs pits Russell against Scott Lee in a series of challenges. Russell is left for dead and is thrown in the trash…

Cut to Arcadia 234 – a junkyard planet! Kurt Russell is part of the trash being dumped on the planet but it seems he isn’t as dead as he might have first thought! Recovering sufficiently to survive being dumped from an automated trash-dumping spaceship, Russell eventually finds a community of castaways on the junkyard planet.

Arcadia 234 is a classic case of the future junkyard. The people who live there, recycle the junk into useful products. They themselves have been abandoned and forgotten. Russell’s character has literally been dumped there as an outdated product.

The visuals aren’t always convincing but there’s a nice establishing shot at one point which shows the remains of a big aircraft carrier in the background – which on a smaller scale is reminiscent of the ruined spaceships of Jakkuu in The Force Awakens.

Sadly Russell’s character struggles to fit in with the castaways, confused by his PTSD (sort of) and attraction to Connie Nielsen’s character (which is communicated by him staring at her creepily) and occasional violence. Just when things look bad for him, the space army people arrive on the planet for training exercises and Jason Issacs decides to kill the castaways for no particular reason. The rest of the film involves Kurt Russell klling the bad guys.

The film never quite makes good and never quite gets to cheesy-but-funny. The director Paul W.S. Anderson (not to be confused with way too many other directors called Anderson) has made better films but it isn’t unwatchable. There’s a sketch of a better film there but it feels like a Paul Verhoeven movie without the ironical/cynical/satirical bite. It wants to both be anti-war and anti-militarism and also be a bad-ass film about futuristic soldier fighting each other for the heck of it.

Still for 10 out of 10 for a junkyard planet.

16 thoughts on “Another Forgotten Space Junkyard: Solider (1998)

  1. It wasn’t bad that, in a b movie way.

    Another one that springs to mind is Hardware

    More a post apocalyptic Earth with scavengers. When a marine buys a scavenged military android’s head and gives it to his sculptor girlfriend, they then find out about its self repair function and hilarity ensures. Features both Iggy Pop and Lemmy in bit parts.

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  2. I recall that the movie Screamers takes place on a planet that seems vaguely junkyard-like, but it may have just been a war-blasted wasteland.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I just remembered another really bad “junkyard” movie: Moontrap, in which aliens try to invade the Earth by having robots use junk to manufacture themselves on the Moon.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This triggered a “This reminds me” moment regarding Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, a film which tries too hard to combine Mad Max with Star Wars and falls far, far short of its goal. An outsider rides into town, saves the girl, defeats the bad guy and rides away, not really having changed much at all. The special effects are really cheesy; something you’d expect from a 1930’s Flash Gordon movie. The Big Bad’s Big Bad weapons he shoots at the hero during the climax are roman candles, and the climactic fight takes place in a darkened warehouse with overly pretentious background miusic.

    If you must watch it, the only thing to do is submit it to the MST3K treatment. If you treat it seriously, you’ll do yourself harm.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I remember liking Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone quite a lot, when I was younger. It was definitely one of the better Star Wars wannabes of the 1980s. It also had a pretty good cast for a B-Movie Star Wars wannabe, Peter Straub as the titular Spacehunter and Molly Ringwald as a junkyard urchin he rescues. Both were pretty big names at the time and not normally associated with SFF films, so I wonder how they ended up in this film.

      Of course, I haven’t seen Spacehunter in twenty-five years or so, so it’s quite possible that the suck fairy has visited it in the meantime.


      1. I guess I was in the wrong phase of my liking SF journey, or perhaps my “exposure to B movies” level was saturated at the moment I watched it because everything about it triggered an immediate “not only no,but hell no” reaction.

        I would have liked to see what the actors could have done with a decent script which didn’t recycle every B-movie Western trope ever with half-understood SF buzzwords shoehorned into it.

        The joke about the cultists worshipping the Harley was worth a laugh though.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. SF films were very rare on German TV, when I was a teen and we had only three TV channels. And we hardly ever got top of the line SF, only second-third rate stuff or very, very old stuff like 1950s movies. No Star Wars or Mad Max (and as late as 1989, the head of one of the two main state channels said that they’d never show those horribly violent Hollywood movies), only Battlestar Galactica and Spacehunter. So maybe that’s why I am fonder of some not very good movies than I should be.


      3. The Suck Fairy visited it shortly after the opening credits. It was widely derided at the time. Nobody watched it except on cable or VHS late at night, preferably with chemical help.

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  4. I actually remember this film. For a B-movie cross between Blade Runner, Robo-Cop and Universal Soldier (itself not exactly a great movie), it’s not bad. It any rate, it was fun enough to watch on a Friday night in the late-night action movie slot.

    I remember that Sean Pertwee was in it, though he dies halfway through the film as far as I recall. That happened to him quite often in 1990s genre films, also see Event Horizon. However, I had completely forgotten that Jason Isaacs was in it. The poor guy always gets to play villains in Hollywood movies, does he?

    I wonder what someone like Paul Verhoeven could have made of a film like this. Alas, he opted to make Starship Troopers instead.


    1. I hadn’t realized Pertwee was in Event Horizon (which I only watched once because it scared me – I don’t handle horror well).

      Same director, I note.

      I wasn’t entirely sure Pertwee was dead in Soldier until he didn’t turn up again. I assumed he was just unconscious and Russell had left him hidden. But I guess he had to die so he could become a space dad.

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        1. I hadn’t realised he was in so many things. Having now watched Gotham (on your recommendation) where he has magically turned into his dad, he’s become a lot more recognisable in earlier roles.

          Liked by 1 person

      1. He died in Dog Soldier too, but who didn’t?

        At least he’s survived and probably will continue to on Gotham. He’s come close several times, but manages, because he’s Action Butler. Possibly my favorite Alfred.

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      2. Sean Pertwee is great as Alfred. And he looks so much like his Dad by now that it’s now my head canon that the Third Doctor spent several years posing as a butler to mentor a young Bruce Wayne and help him become Batman.

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      3. Oooh, that fits with the Doctor and Batman both traditionally eschewing guns.
        And Batman’s martial arts are so good because he learned Venusian aikido.

        One year for Halloween, Sean grabbed a cape, wig, and ruffly shirt from the “Gotham” wardrobe dept. and Tweeted the resulting look. Fabulous.

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