Sunday, May 15, 2011

"Starship Troopers 3: Marauder" (2008)

Starring Casper Van Dien, Jolene Blalock and Boris Kodjoe
Written and directed by Ed Neumeier
Rated R - Language, violence, nudity
Running Time: 105 Minutes

Starship Troopers 3: Marauder (+ BD Live) [Blu-ray]Though not as much as the 80s classic, "Robocop," I was a big fan of Paul Verhoeven's "Starship Troopers."  Made with intentional camp delivered by an overly-pretty but thin cast of characters bolstered by fantastic effects and action sequences, "Starship Troopers" was a pretty solid satire of a fascist future in which humanity has given up freedom for security.  Sure, Earth is a peaceful, rich and almost idyllic world, but in order to get that way, people have to make great sacrifices.

While the 1997 original remains fresh and fun in my mind, I never sought out either of the direct-to-video sequels... until now.  "Starship Troopers 3: Marauder" showed up available to watch instantly via Netflix and, having had some beers and being extremely bored, I took the plunge.

Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien), now a colonel in the Mobile Infantry, commanding a forward base on farming planet Roku San.  The base is visited by high-ranking official Sky Marshall Akone (Stephen Hogan), accompanied by his right-hand man General Dix Hauser (Boris Kodjoe) and Captain Lola Beck (Jolene Blalock), old friends of Rico's.  Not long after their arrival, however, an electrical failure on the base allows the bugs to infiltrate the base and slaughter the men and women stationed there.  Hauser, Beck and the Sky Marshall escape, while Rico is brought up on charges of incompetence.  Unfortunately, the Sky Marshall's ship is destroyed en route home, stranding Akone, Beck and several other survivors on a bug-infested world.

Back on Earth, Dix saves Rico from execution in order to send him on a secret mission to rescue the survivors.  To do so, he'll be equipped with the Marauder - a mobile mech suit capable of incredible destruction.  But things elsewhere are not alright with the Federation: Some new kind of bug has been discovered, one which may hold the key to defeating the bugs once and for all.  But what does it have to do with Akone's strange behavior?  And why is the government so intent on killing anti-war protesters and stamping out religion?

"Starship Troopers 3" is not a good film.  The script obviously wants to be as peppy and biting as the original, but its few clever ideas are buried beneath overly-obvious religious imagery, bad acting and even worse visual effects.  The movie's obviously low budget origins hurt it greatly, since the bugs rarely feel like an impressive menace in this one.  Director Neumeier, who also wrote the original, shakes the camera a lot to hide the fact that his sets are simplistic and his visual effects are too cheap to be effective. 

For a solid chunk of the runtime, "Starship Troopers 3" looks like a decently budgeted TV show, like, say, "Stargate Atlantis," but whenever anything involving computer generated effects enters the picture, things drop considerably.  The same rooms and corridors are used over and over again with some mild redressing, but it's pretty obvious that this movie was made on the cheap.  With a better script, this might have worked.  Instead, the movie meanders about for far too long before finally getting to the point.  It could easily have lost ten or fifteen minutes with no detriment - and that money could have been used to shore up the shoddy special effects. 

If you have a need to squash some bugs, hit up the 1997 original.  With a better script, better direction and better effects, it outshines this decade-younger sequel in every fashion.