Sunday, August 3, 2014

"Starship Troopers: Invasion" (2012)

Starring Luci Christian, Justin Doran and David Matranga
Written by Flint Dille
Directed by Shinji Aramaki
Rated R - Violence, language, nudity
Running Time: 88 Minutes

Fort Casey, a station built into the side of an asteroid, has been infested with bugs. The starship John A. Warden, under the command of Captain Carmen Ibanez (Luci Christian) is sent on a rescue mission. But when a squad of infantry arrives on the base to evacuate the survivors, Ibanez is relieved of command by her old 'friend' Carl Jenkins (Justin Doran) who takes the starship and abandons Ibanez and her marines. They're soon rescued by the starship Alesia, and receive orders from General Johnny Rico (David Matranga) to track down the John A. Warden.

When they find it, the ship is adrift in space, with no sign of life aboard. The marines, led by disgraced Major Varro (David Wald) lead the boarding party, along with Ibanez. Soon enough, the marines discover why the ship is dead: the bugs have taken over and slaughtered the crew. Worse, they find that a queen bug has gained control of the vessel and plans to take it back to Earth. Trapped on board with no hope of rescue after the queen destroys the Alesia, Ibanez, Varro and the marines realize that stopping an invasion of Earth might just be a suicide mission.

I like Paul Verhoeven's live-action "Starship Troopers" adaptation. Much like his 80s cult classic "Robocop," it's an intriguing mix of satire and sci-fi action. Its sequels, however, leave a lot to be desired. All of them, including this fourth film, "Invasion," have been direct-to-video affairs. This film is different in that it's a CGI animated project, but unfortunately, like those other sequels, the script isn't up to par.

One of the movie's major problems is that it's nearly impossible to tell most of the characters apart once they're in their armor. Aside from a few design flourishes and each character's name written in small print on their collar, they all look exactly the same. Even outside of their armor, there's little variation in the character designs. The men are all dark-haired and squared-jawed, and the women all seem to have the same basic face with different hair. Many of the voice actors even sound quite a like, making it even more difficult to separate and keep track of the characters.

On the animation side of it, lip-sync is way off, meaning that the characters mouths rarely match up with the words they're speaking. It's off-putting, considering how sharp and detailed the rest of the animation in the film is. Additionally, several scenes feature nude women which is just kind of... odd to watch.

The designs of the environments are often rather striking, and extremely detailed, but the action sequences end up being pretty repetitive. Aside from a couple of sniper sequences and the late addition of some battlemech armor, most of the film's action consists of marines running and shouting and firing automatic weapons at bugs rushing down corridors.

The script just kind of moves along and throws things at the viewer, some of which doesn't seem to make much sense. For example, after the John Warden abandons the marines at Fort Casey, the captain of the Alesia mentions that they're in pursuit. But then we're told that the ship is, in fact, on its way back to Earth before being ordered by General Rico to pursue the John Warden. Later, all the film's main characters take a back seat when Rico decides to get in on the action and he becomes the focus of the third act. It's all very haphazard and bizarre.

Coupled with the repetitive action and homogenous characters, it's difficult to find much to care about in "Starship Troopers: Invasion." The animation is occasionally impressive, but other than that you're best off revisiting the original.