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By Darren Johnson

Campus News and

Queue up “The Soldier.” This is the perfect movie for “It’s New to You,” as I doubt many people have seen it. Starring Kurt Russell, it bombed back in 1998, losing practically its whole $75M budget. In the UK, based on the horrible American showing and reviews, it went straight to video — the biggest budget movie ever to go straight to video in that country.

The world just wasn’t in the mood for sci-fi. The 1970s and ‘80s saw lots of great titles in the genre, from “Star Wars” to “Terminator,” and was worn out by the time “The Soldier” came out. As I wrote in a previous column, sci-fi does better during leaner economic times, and the late 1990s with Clinton and Lewinsky were prosperous and silly, not dark and minimalistic.

But sci-fi has had a renaissance in recent years, with the crappy economy and subsequent growth of long-form TV feeding us end-of-the-world aliens and zombies; and, now on Netflix, “The Soldier” seems to fit the times.

Yeah, back in 1998, 90% of newspaper reviewers didn’t like it, but tell me if this sounds that bad:

The US military raises a team of boys from baby to adulthood, totally conditioning them for warfare. They are raised much like the Spartan children in “300,” but with modern weapons. The project is wildly successful, as the team has a 20 year stretch of winning wars. Fast forward to Russell’s character, Sgt. Todd, at age 38, and he and his team are about to be replaced by a new team of soldiers. These troops are supposed to be even better than Todd’s team, as they have been conditioned harder and genetically modified. To prove the point, the smarmy commander comes in and has one of the new soldiers beat up three of the old soldiers, including Todd. Left for dead, and for PR reasons, the three bodies are scooped up and hauled off to a garbage dump on a remote planet.

Todd wakes up in a pile of trash on this wildly windy planet to find that there are people living there — a bunch of humans who crash landed on the planet long ago and made a village there. Todd — who only says 79 words in the whole movie — has trouble de-programming himself and fitting in and is eventually cast away. Meanwhile, the smarmy commander realizes there are people on the planet (though he doesn’t know about Todd) and decides to send his new troops in to kill everyone as trespassers as part of a training mission.

So the new troops arrive and Todd is the only one who can save the village. Does he?

See, how can a movie with a plot like that be bad? And the movie had enough money behind it where it looks good, too. So what if Russell isn’t a Chatty Cathy in the film? He does fine. In these lean economic times, we want our leaders to talk less and do more. That’s Sgt. Todd.

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