By Clint Morris
Colonel Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien) is back busting bugs in the highly-anticipated sequel â€“ as far as Iâ€™m concerned, that â€œHero of the Federationâ€ thing, starring Richard Burgi, doesnâ€™t count â€“ to Paul Verhoevenâ€™s political satire, â€œStarship Troopersâ€.
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 â€œEnterpriseâ€) plays a soldier pal, joining Rico on the mission.
And Iâ€™ll save the rest of the synopsis to the DVD sleeve.
Theyâ€™ll sell five execsâ€™ homes to finance a shitty remake of â€˜â€™Prom Nightâ€™â€™, possibly even price-tag their own mothers to get another â€˜â€™Resident Evilâ€™â€™ movie off the ground (look for some old bats for sale come â€™09, I hear the studioâ€™s keen to reanimate that Milla Jovovich series), but theyâ€™re only willing to give the makers of the groundbreaking 90s fave â€˜â€™Starship Troopersâ€™â€™ (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 Fosterâ€™s 40th birthday. Someone needs to check the water over there at Sony â€“ me thinks itâ€™s tainted.
If thereâ€™s anything wrong with â€œStarship Troopers: Marauderâ€ â€“ and there isnâ€™t much wrong with it, not as far as the performances and the script goes anyway – itâ€™s not the fault of the filmmakers â€“ 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). Itâ€™s Sony that deserves to take the hit.
I can see the meeting now.
Exec #1 : â€œStarship Troopers? Wasnâ€™t that like ten years ago now?â€
Exec #2 : â€œHmm. Yeah. Old enough to just remake it! Letâ€™s see what Orlando Bloomâ€™s doing!â€
Director Ed Neumeier : â€œNo, please, No. We think the audience would much rather see a straight-up sequel to the first film. We really doâ€.
Exec #1 : â€œWith who in it? Casper Van Dien? The chick-with-the-tits from the reality series?â€
Director Ed Neumeier : â€œYes, Casper Van Dien would be in it. And weâ€™d return the series to itâ€™s roots â€“ a real piss-take of the political climate and so on. Paul would approve, too. I know it!â€
Exec #2 : â€œTell you what. Weâ€™ll give you $140 million to remake the first film â€“ get Brett Ratner to direct, Bloom and Jessica Biel to star â€“ or, er, whatever Iâ€™ve got in my pocket, to do this sequel of yours. With Casperâ€.
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 didnâ€™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!) â€“ it feels, well, too small. Not even half-as-epic as the first film. Thatâ€™s either because there was not enough money to â€œopen up the canvasâ€ of the film, or because the effects budget had been slashed significantly in the development phase. Both donâ€™t help matters. With the bugs looking like left-over props from a lesser-budgeted indy film (OK, theyâ€™re not that bad â€“ 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 doesnâ€™t matter too much, it would seem that the character of Dix Hauser was a late addition â€“ possibly the result of Neil Patrick Harris turning down the chance to reprise his character from the original?).
As I said though, thatâ€™s about the only thing that doesnâ€™t work about the movie – how small it feels.
Everyone and everything else have done their best here – theyâ€™ve dripped sweat in trying to give fans what they needed (and didnâ€™t get last time around). Ed Neumeier has returned the franchise to itâ€™s comic-y rootsâ€¦ 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 â€“ returning (he skipped the last one) as the hero of the original film, Johnny Rico. Itâ€™s clear that Van Dien has a love for this series, because heâ€™s giving it his all â€“ he delivers his lines with passion and oomph (â€Come on you apes, you wanna live forever? !â€), throws himself (literally) into the battle scenes, and generally gets about like an excited kid in a playground. He makes the movie. Van Dien doesnâ€™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 â€“ 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 â€œStarship Troopersâ€ sequel they shouldâ€™ve got first-time around. For the most part, they succeeded.
â€œMarauderâ€ reminded me a lot of the pilot for the â€œBladeâ€ TV series â€“ which I enjoyed – mainly in its execution. Like [the theatrically released] â€œBlade Trinityâ€, the second â€œStarship Troopersâ€ film totally missed the point â€“ and sorely lacked the fun factor â€“ but with this one (and the â€œBladeâ€ series), even with less money to throw around, thereâ€™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, itâ€™s just a pity Sony couldnâ€™t have â€“ 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 â€“ offered up a few more bucks to brush up those effects and pay for some re-shoots. They couldâ€™ve cut in some nice epic scenes thatâ€™d make it feel less like a couldâ€™ve-been-great and more like a this-is-great. Oh wellâ€¦ (maybe theyâ€™ll give them more dough for the next one?!)
To Ed, Casperâ€¦ and everyone else involvedâ€¦ well done! You guys rocked this as good as you couldâ€™ve, considering the limitations! To those that didnâ€™t believe in another â€œSTâ€ sequelâ€¦. Let you slip down the porch tomorrow morning.
More on this closer to its release.
“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)