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Starship Troopers 3 : Marauder [DVD]

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Caffeinated Clint
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Clint is the creator, editor and maintainer of Moviehole.

By Clint Morris

Colonel Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien) is back busting bugs in the highly-anticipated sequel – as far as I’m concerned, that “Hero of the Federation” thing, starring Richard Burgi, doesn’t count – to Paul Verhoeven’s political satire, “Starship Troopers”.

In this one, Rico teams with some old friends to defeat bugs on a distant planet know only as OM-1. Jolene Blalock (the sexy Vulcan from “Enterprise”) plays a soldier pal, joining Rico on the mission.

And I’ll save the rest of the synopsis to the DVD sleeve.

They’ll sell five execs’ homes to finance a shitty remake of ‘’Prom Night’’, possibly even price-tag their own mothers to get another ‘’Resident Evil’’ movie off the ground (look for some old bats for sale come ’09, I hear the studio’s keen to reanimate that Milla Jovovich series), but they’re only willing to give the makers of the groundbreaking 90s fave ‘’Starship Troopers’’ (1997) a few bucks and food stamps to make a sequel to it? Makes about as much sense as hiring a hunky stripper for Jodie Foster’s 40th birthday. Someone needs to check the water over there at Sony – me thinks it’s tainted.

If there’s anything wrong with “Starship Troopers: Marauder” – and there isn’t much wrong with it, not as far as the performances and the script goes anyway – it’s not the fault of the filmmakers – the direction is great, the script is tight, the acting (Casper Van Dien is Johnny Rico again!) is on par with the first film, and the tone is pitch-perfect (a welcome mesh of spoofery and black humour). It’s Sony that deserves to take the hit.

I can see the meeting now.

Exec #1 : “Starship Troopers? Wasn’t that like ten years ago now?”
Exec #2 : “Hmm. Yeah. Old enough to just remake it! Let’s see what Orlando Bloom’s doing!”
Director Ed Neumeier : “No, please, No. We think the audience would much rather see a straight-up sequel to the first film. We really do”.
Exec #1 : “With who in it? Casper Van Dien? The chick-with-the-tits from the reality series?”
Director Ed Neumeier : “Yes, Casper Van Dien would be in it. And we’d return the series to it’s roots – a real piss-take of the political climate and so on. Paul would approve, too. I know it!”
Exec #2 : “Tell you what. We’ll give you $140 million to remake the first film – get Brett Ratner to direct, Bloom and Jessica Biel to star – or, er, whatever I’ve got in my pocket, to do this sequel of yours. With Casper”.

The main problem with the film is that – and I know a lot of direct-to-video sequels suffer from the same problem, but this one didn’t have to, not with the following this series has (did Sony even look up how much the original film has made them on DVD!) – it feels, well, too small. Not even half-as-epic as the first film. That’s either because there was not enough money to “open up the canvas” of the film, or because the effects budget had been slashed significantly in the development phase. Both don’t help matters. With the bugs looking like left-over props from a lesser-budgeted indy film (OK, they’re not that bad – but they definitely needed work) and the shooting locale seemingly restricted to the one quadrangle, it slightly deters enjoyment of the film. (And though it doesn’t matter too much, it would seem that the character of Dix Hauser was a late addition – possibly the result of Neil Patrick Harris turning down the chance to reprise his character from the original?).

As I said though, that’s about the only thing that doesn’t work about the movie – how small it feels.

Everyone and everything else have done their best here – they’ve dripped sweat in trying to give fans what they needed (and didn’t get last time around). Ed Neumeier has returned the franchise to it’s comic-y roots… serving up plenty of humorous gags, lots of (sometimes not so dazzling) action, and a tone so sorely missed in the last direct-to-video sequel. The best element of the film though is Casper Van Dien – returning (he skipped the last one) as the hero of the original film, Johnny Rico. It’s clear that Van Dien has a love for this series, because he’s giving it his all – he delivers his lines with passion and oomph (”Come on you apes, you wanna live forever? !”), throws himself (literally) into the battle scenes, and generally gets about like an excited kid in a playground. He makes the movie. Van Dien doesn’t get enough credit – he really is a good little actor. He has the makings of an action hero. Love this guy.

I generally had a good time with this film – you could tell that everyone behind-the-camera and in-front of was having the time of their life, but more so, determined to give fans of the series the “Starship Troopers” sequel they should’ve got first-time around. For the most part, they succeeded.

“Marauder” reminded me a lot of the pilot for the “Blade” TV series – which I enjoyed – mainly in its execution. Like [the theatrically released] “Blade Trinity”, the second “Starship Troopers” film totally missed the point – and sorely lacked the fun factor – but with this one (and the “Blade” series), even with less money to throw around, there’s a much more engaging tale in tow. Seems everyone involved knew that they were really lacking the funds so put even more effort into making sure they had a strong storyline and some wonderful actors.

With so much going right for the film, it’s just a pity Sony couldn’t have – many studios, when they see an early cut of the film, and are generally pleased with what they say, throw more money at the filmmakers to improve it – offered up a few more bucks to brush up those effects and pay for some re-shoots. They could’ve cut in some nice epic scenes that’d make it feel less like a could’ve-been-great and more like a this-is-great. Oh well… (maybe they’ll give them more dough for the next one?!)

To Ed, Casper… and everyone else involved… well done! You guys rocked this as good as you could’ve, considering the limitations! To those that didn’t believe in another “ST” sequel…. Let you slip down the porch tomorrow morning.

More on this closer to its release.

EXTRAS
“Evolution: The Bugs of Starship Troopers 3: Marauder” featurette, “Enlist: Marauder’s Mobile Infantry” featurette, Filmmaker Commentary With Writer/Director Ed Neumeier, producer David Lancaster, and Visual Effects Supervisor Robert Skotak, Director & Cast Commentary With Writer/Director Ed Neumeier and actors Casper Van Dien and Jolene Blalock, Extended version of the music video “It’s a Good Day to Die” (Extras Unpreviewed)

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