Book Review: SOLDIER: FROM SCRIPT TO SCREEN Reclaims Paul W.S. Anderson’s Sci-Fi Actioner

4 out of 5 stars

Some movies are embraced by critics and audiences on release, while others gain respect over time. Gaining respect over time is what has happened with Paul W.S. Anderson’s, Soldier, a $60 million sci-fi action film that was ignored by audiences on its release in 1998, grossing just $14.5 million at the U.S. box office. Derided by critics, the film became a footnote in star Kurt Russell‘s filmography and remained largely forgotten. However, over the years a faithful minority has championed the film and the cult around Soldier has slowly grown  – and now Danny Stewart’s, Soldier: From Script to Screen, finally gives it the respect it has long deserved. Stewart’s book offers an exceptional look at the making of Anderson’s film, with input from a slew of the film’s production team. At the centre of it all is a fascinating interview with Soldier‘s screenwriter David Webb Peoples – it’s a conversation that adds real context to the film’s origin and writing. What was once seen as a throwaway action pic now resonates as something totally different, offering up parallels to George Steven’s 1953 classic western, Shane

Written by Peoples as a response to seeing James Cameron’s The Terminator, Soldier shares DNA with Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (which Peoples co-wrote) because Anderson and his production team ensured the film included easter eggs that showed both titles take place in the same universe. That may not have been the writer’s intention, but it makes for an interesting ‘sidequel’ to Scott’s sci-fi classic and this has helped Soldier endure over the years.

Packed with interviews with everyone from Production Designer David L. Snyder and Make-up Artists Steve LaPorte and Peter Montagna to Film Loader Eric Dyson and Visual Effects Supervisor Van Ling (as well as everyone else in between), Stewart’s book has recollections from a vast amount of behind the scenes talent. It’s a real nuts-and-bolts look at filmmaking, delving into corners that many other making-of books fail to venture into. It’s more than enough to make up for the lack of Kurt Russell and Paul W.S. Anderson  – although the latter’s passion for the film means that he’s understandably still reeling from its failure a quarter of a century on. 

Not just content with interviews with behind-the-scenes talent, Soldier: From Script to Screen also includes guest essays by John Hansen, Mark Stratton and John Kenneth Muir which deliver even more context and understanding – and that’s before you throw in an afterword by Paul M. Sammon, the author of the excellent, Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner. There’s a vast amount of material here for Soldier fans to trawl through – which makes sure the book is essential reading. 

Soldier has been ripe for reappraisal for years – and now Danny Stewart’s, Soldier: From Script to Screen means that Paul W.S. Anderson‘s film finally gets the respect that it rightly deserved all those years ago. 

Buy Soldier: From Script To Screen