STARSHIP TROOPERS: TRAITOR OF MARS review

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Is this how we’re getting our Starship Troopers sequels now? Strictly in animated form? I mean, they did that with the fourth one, INVASION (2012). I guess this direction could work. It’s not like the live-action sequels were any good.

For those of you somehow not in the know, and I’m only doing this because at the time of writing my initial impressions, I was standing next to a co-worker who loves his sci-fi action movies and somehow has never seen the original film. STARSHIP TROOPERS (1997) is an action sci-fi film based on a 1950s novel of the same name by Robert A. Heinlein. It’s also a fairly controversial sci-fi film that has most people divided on whether or not they liked it. It’s a sci-fi action in the same vein of ALIENS (1986), but significantly campier. It takes place on Earth in the future, and America is depicted as a fascist country. In retrospect, it’s a satire of America if it went down that path. But make no mistake, this is no comedy, as “satire” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s funny. Alien bugs are invading and the grizzled, battle-hungry soldiers are eager to get their hands dirty. It’s a fun action film that certainly had its merits if you ask me, and had some early talent that would go places, like Neil Patrick Harris.

Regardless of where you lie, is the film an action classic like me, or a stupid bug hunt, it is undeniable that the sequels never captured the magic of the original. STARSHIP TROOPERS 2: HERO OF THE FEDERATION (2004) is atrociously forgetful and boring. I think the only thing I enjoyed about the movie was the idea of a bug that infects the brain and controls them. Done to death, but it was different, I guess. The third one, MARAUDER (2008) was equally forgettable. All I remember is that Casper Van Dien, star of the first film, reprises his role. Beyond that, nothing.

The first animated film, INVASION, again, wasn’t memorable, but I remember the action being much better, but the story fucking ridiculous. I think I also remember Van Dien’s character Johnny Rico making a brief appearance, but not voiced by Van Dien himself, and mech suits reminiscent of THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS (2003). Scratch that, those suits were in MARAUDER.

Fast forward five years later, we’ve got a new one and already I have questions. Without giving anything away, let’s just say characters that died in the first film are somehow back in this film. While I’m excited to see some of the original cast of these characters reprising their roles, I can’t imagine this movie actually being good. Awesome action maybe, but not good. Anyway, it looks like the bugs are attacking Mars and Rico and his RoughNecks are going in to exterminate. I can only assume that everyone dies under his command because that’s what unimaginative sci-fi actions do. Eh, what do I care? I just want some violence and action, bitch!

Well, here’s the voice talent. Casper Van Dien reprises his role as Johnny Rico (SHARKTOPUS VS. WHALEWOLF [2015], DRACULA 3000 [2004], and TV show MORTAL KOMBAT: LEGACY [2011 – ongoing?]), the criminally not-as-famous-as-she-should-be Dina Meyer (PIRANHA 3D [2010], STARSHIP TROOPERS, 1 episode OF TV show CASTLE), and DeRay Davis (BARBERSHOP: THE NEXT CUT [2016], G.I. JOE: RETALIATION [2013], and 21 JUMP STREET [2012]).

Now for the crew. Co-directing, we have Shinji Aramaki, who actually has done a couple projects that I’m familiar with, such as STARSHIP TROOPERS: INVASION and HALO LEGENDS (2010). His wing man is Masaru Matsumoto, making his debut. Congrats, sir. Penning the screenplay is Edward Neumeier, ROBOCOP (2014), ANACHONDAS: HUNT FOR THE BLOOD ORCHID (2004), and ROBOCOP (1987). Finally, the composer for the score is Tetsuya Takahashi, known for STARSHIP TROOPERS: INVASION, HALO LEGENDS, and RESIDENT EVIL: DEGENERATION (2008).

Overall, I’m probably more excited than I should be for this flick, but I can’t help it. If the action and violence is fun, I won’t complain too much.

This is my honest opinion of: STARSHIP TROOPERS: TRAITOR OF MARS

(SUMMARY)

Former General, now Colonel Johnny Rico (voiced by Casper Van Dien) is now stationed on a boring Mars base, away from the action against the neverending onslaught of the giant bugs. To make matters worse, he is trying to train a new batch of recruits that are way too green for their own good, and can’t complete one session of their training simulations. But before long, the planet becomes overrun with bugs that no one in the Federation somehow knew about. Now it’s up to Rico and his band of recruits to head down to the surface and save Mars before it’s written off as a lost cause and the survivors are all wiped out by a planet-destroying bomb.

(REVIEW)

It’s definitely better than I thought. While it doesn’t quite delve into the political satire as much as the first film, it’s certainly a more valiant Starship Troopers movie than the others have been.

I think I’ll start with the issues I had. First up, I really disliked the core infantry recruits that we’re introduced to. They’re a little too incompetent to be taken seriously. They’re way too hysterical, even in a simulation. There’s also an implication that they’ve gone through these sims a lot, so you’d think they’d be more annoyed with their failures, rather than acting like every sim is their first.

I also don’t like how underutilized Dizzy is. She’s not even a real hallucination, but rather a mental projection created by a psychic, making her appearance, and by extension Meyer’s appearance, pretty pointless. Specifically, I mean that this projection is meant to give Rico that extra bit of motivation, instead of being a symbol of him confronting his personal losses in his time fighting the bugs. Instead, we get some banter and a joke about their sex. Hell, the model design doesn’t even look like Meyer. But then again, neither does Rico look like Van Dien, nor does Carmen Ibanez look like Denis Richards… nor does Carl look like Neil Patrick Harris. What is going on with these designs!? Anyway, the whole reason they brought her back at all was to explore their relationship further, but they don’t do that in the movie.

Also, I’m pretty sure this movie’s interpretation of “approval ratings” and how they work is a little too silly. In the span of a single speech, say one thing right, and your approval ratings skyrocket to ninety-nine percent, say something wrong and it plummets to fifteen percent… what, does everyone have a simple “thumbs up/thumbs down” app on their phones? If so… can we get one for Trump?

Things I did like. I liked the action okay. It’s high octane, adrenaline-pumping at times, it all around works because the CGI is incredible with a fantastic team behind the wheel. The supersuits are pretty bad-ass with their array of attached weapons, like nukes and miniguns, and jump jets. They remind me a little too much like the Halo video games Spartan armor, but then again, the standard soldier infantry armor was heavily inspired by STARSHIP TROOPERS, so maybe it’s not as coincidental as I think it is. Too bad the armor is useless in terms of actual protection against the bugs.

I also respect the movie’s capacity for restraint. Aside from the supersuits, the movie surprisingly doesn’t try to add unnecessary depth, or revisit pointless plots from previous films. It’s self-contained for the most part, other than the references to the first film. There’s no references to the mind-control bug from HERO OF THE FEDERATION, although why the mechs were scrapped is anyone’s guess. Despite the film’s capacity for annoying characters, some of them do have legit character archs and become much more competent as the film progresses.

I also enjoy the villain, Sky Marshall Amy Snapp (voiced by Emily Neves). She’s the youngest Sky Marshall in the history of the Federation and is insanely popular with the masses. But she hates Mars because a majority of the inhabitants prefer to stay out of the war. But because the Federation is fanatically pro-war, Mars and her colonists are the black sheep of humanity and she relishes spinning her speeches to passively-aggressively make Martians out to be idiots and unpopular. Aside from the fact that she hilariously looks like Emma Watson, all she really cares about is her popularity. Funny enough, this fact is commented on by the character Carl, who tells her, “This isn’t a popularity contest,” even though that’s exactly what she treats it like. She’s so hilariously obvious in her evil deeds. It’s almost haunting how much she loves being a politician with power. In fact, it’s kind of a wonder why this movie didn’t add some kind of social media type thing with someone commenting, “Does anyone else think she’s a villain from the 60’s?”

Overall, the movie isn’t perfect, and it’s probably not the Starship Troopers sequel that fans have been truly waiting for, but it’s a better attempt at one than its predecessors have been in the past and will at least leave a bigger impact. It’s entertaining enough for me to recommend it if you’re looking to kill off an hour and a half, so I do say check it out when it’s officially out on Blu-Ray. Maybe not worth a buy, but definitely worth a rental.

My honest rating for STARSHIP TROOPERS: TRAITOR OF MARS: 3/5

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