I haven’t seen the reboot, but I have no strong feelings on it or II.
I don’t see why II is hated if it is. It’s a pale shadow of the original, but a fun enough special effects comedy by itself.
Universal Soldier- Future blockbuster helmer Roland Emmerich’s first Hollywood feature, a 90s Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle. A tolerable mid-budget Terminator knock-off about re-animated soldiers. Emmerich has yet to master the more-is-more aesthetic he’d later wield in films like Independence Day; by today’s standards, the pacing is slow and most of the action sequences are dated and lack much bite. Dolph Lundgren has fun as the psychopathic villain, but the requisite car chases, stunts, and fights are primitive by modern standards. Still, Emmerich is already developing his mixture of action and comedy, and it’s mildly interesting genre fare.
Universal Soldier: Regeneration- Straight to DVD (though shot in scope), director John Hyams, son of veteran journeyman director Peter Hyams, here the director of digital photography, makes this DTV fare way, way, better than it has any right to be. Eschewing Emmerich’s blockbuster silliness to play by his own rules, Hyams and Hyams shoot in Bulgaria like most Nu Image productions, but the grimy industrial parts of the city they choose-with the look of burnt out train tracks and abandoned chemical plants-have a bleak beauty. Having filmed documentaries about MMA fighters, Hyams casts them in the lead roles, and his fights and action sequences, in contrast to Emmerich’s slapstick, are quick, lean, and brutally violent. JCVD returns as a damaged shell of his former self, as does an unnerving Lundgren. Mix in some Bourne-esque car chases and shootouts, and you’re left with a brutal, utterly relentless straight-to-DVD sequel that’s better than it needs to be or has any right to be.