If you're a fan of Blade Runner, Ridley Scott's sci-fi masterpiece about a cop who hunts down androids in a gritty future Los Angeles, then you've probably seen Blade Runner 2049. But have you watched the 1998 Blade Runner sequel?
The movie Soldier, from director Paul W. S. Anderson and Blade Runner co-writer David Peoples, was envisioned as a "side-sequel" to Scott's movie. The adventures of Kurt Russell's Sgt. Todd were meant to exist in the same fictional universe, and the movie supposedly explored the lives of replicant soldiers in the off-world colonies.
The result of that plan is a fascinating mess of a movie that involves a comically silent protagonist, a planet covered in trash, Gary Busey, and a villain who wets his pants. It's a bizarre sci-fi movie that could only come from a truly misguided notion. Just be thankful the Blade Runner side-sequel isn't the only continuation of the original film's story.
Soldier might as well be a silent film, because its main character barely speaks throughout. Kurt Russell's super soldier Todd takes the notion of the "strong, silent type" to a whole new level. He only says 104 words in the entire movie, most of them in short sentences ending with "Sir." This weird narrative choice is especially painful because most of the movie takes place from his perspective.
The audience never gets to hear what Todd thinks of anything, how he feels, or his motivations. Most of his backstory is delivered in an overabundance of montage scenes depicting his childhood, the wars he's fought in, and the people he's killed. If your main character can't express himself, your story has a problem.
David Peoples, who co-wrote the script for Ridley Scott's Blade Runner with Hampton Fancher, envisioned Soldier as a spinoff or spiritual successor of sorts to the science fiction classic. The movie was supposed to take place in the same universe as Scott's movie, and show what was going on in the off-world colonies while Deckard was hunting down replicants back on Earth.
But the only thing really connecting the two movies is the appearance of a single spinner hiding in the junkyard planet of Arcadia 234. If you don't remember, "spinners" are what they call the flying cars in Blade Runner. That's not doing much to establish a supposed shared universe.
Yes, you can say it was 1998 and obviously movies don't always age well – but then you'll remember that the visually groundbreaking The Matrix arrived just a year later. Compared to the Wachowskis' visual feast, Soldier looks like a bad PC game. There's a reason why a movie about super soldiers in space barely has any shots of spaceships or even space. Not to rag on Paul W. S. Anderson's work, but his films always look like they were made on a tight budget. That is painfully true of Soldier.
Few sci-fi settings are more depressing or drab than waste disposal planet Arcadia 234. Kurt Russell spends the entire movie surrounded by garbage and covered in thick orange dust. Even the settlement itself – which was built out of wreckage found on the planet's undoubtedly smelly surface – is rather dull. Overall, Soldier is a spectacularly ugly movie.