Run The Series: Universal Soldier may be the only series whose DTV sequels are its best work

With Run The Series, The A.V. Club examines film franchises, studying how they change and evolve with each new installment.

The Universal Soldier films have come to occupy a strange place in the landscape of sci-fi action franchises. It’s not simply that the series managed to survive the bankruptcy of its parent company and a pair of made-for-pay-cable sequels before being reborn. No, what makes Universal Soldier special is the remarkable fact that its two most recent, direct-to-DVD sequels are, far and away, the best installments of the series. This isn’t a strange thing in and of itself—the world of direct-to-video sequels has been recognized for several years now as a home for the most interesting new action stars and directors—but it is unusual in that Universal Soldier began as a major blockbuster tentpole for a Hollywood studio.

The movies’ premise is ludicrously simple (emphasis …

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