Monday, August 25, 2008

TALES FROM NETFLIX - Starship Troopers trilogy?


With the recent release of a third Starship Trooper movie (direct to DVD), it was time to revisit the 1997 original, and it's 2004 follow up. I'd really enjoyed the feature when it came out, for the mash up of Paul Verhoeven's stylings, and Heinlein Sci-Fi bug warfare, but was ultimately disappointed by it's anti-climatic ending. Over a decade later, how would it hold up, was it as fun and well polished as I remembered? Would it age well? Would I still hate the ending??
The answers were yes, yes, and sort of.
It does hold up really well, with the cheeky "would you like to know more" military adverts coming off just as fresh and fun as they did way back in the 1900's, along with the special effects, I always really loved those nasty Arachnid bug designs! Hell, even the cast, the much maligned Denise Richards, where is he now Casper Van Dien lead (why he's in Starship Troopers 3), and Melrose Place cast off Rico rival, are all really fun here regardless.
Sure the story, as broad and epic as it is, gets too cute with the circumstances of our three school chums crossing paths (again, and again, and again), but hey, it's NPH! (back in the day it was Doogie, but now he's made a name on his own dammit!) Plus, fuck yeah, Jake Busey was never better as a chip off the ol insane block!
I still really enjoy this film, and riding along with the cadets as they enroll in the war against the bugs (cause the only good bug is a dead bug, that'll never change!), the cool in-your-face sci-fi warfare, and all the winking and nodding along the way, that is til we get to our Brain Bug ending, and things kinda fall apart for me. It's not that it was too much to buy, with everthing played loose all along, it just feels off to me, rushed.

But hey, Starship Troopers is a great, an almost perfect sci-fi movie, despite it's flaws! It may be goofy, but I love it!


Years later we got a decidedly different follow up, gone were the original cast, along with most the themes of the first film. Sure we still had the Federation recruiting feed bookend, the trademark arachnids, and titular troopers, but this time, things were decidedly more focused, and of a much more horror nature. This film, which I really like and enjoy, is more of a "Tales of the Starship Troopers" than a proper sequel. It doesn't feature any of the first movies characters, or advance the overall story much, but it is a fun and cool side story, in the same universe.
The only cast member to carry over is Brenda Strong, which is a bit confusing, because her smaller supporting role in the first film is of a starship pilot who's killed, and here she's a bad ass infantry Sargent??? But anyway, doesn't matter, the key to Trooper 2, is to be prepared for a bit more gore and horror, than just in your face sci-fi war fare...

However, the story, centered around an abandoned infantry post on a bug world, and all it's cool anti-bug defenses, as well as a mysterious Captain that may be a real life hero, or a murderous decenter, is a pure sci-fi horror gem. Well, gem might be a bit strong, but it is very solid and a lot more fun than you might expect, and all with the trappings of the Starship Troopers universe. Just don't get this anticipating a true sequel, but a darkly fun movie!
Also of note, the under appreciated Richard Burgi (24, Hostel 2) stars as the no nonsense titular Captain, and the Nip Tuck siren, Kelly Karlson, appears as an (SPOILER WARNING) often nude bug-controlled private!


Now, this is a proper sequel in all but budget.
Here, we have the triumphant return of Lt. Rico, now a Colonel, and a wider focus back on the entire federation forces and their efforts against the bugs. New bugs, new leadership, and eventually new advanced "marauder" tech are showcased! However, the whole thing is uneven production wise, as it's clearly hampered by it's limited direct-to-dvd finances. Whereas with 2, the story turned inward to offset the reduced made-for-dvd budget, here, the original film's writer returns to both write and direct, and restore the scope to a more epic scale, regardless of the diminished effects capabilities. The effects aren't terrible (most the time), they're just more in line with television sci-fi than feature film.

The story and acting are also uneven, so there's nothing about this effort that's superior in any way to the original (that just keeps it on par with the first movie doesn't it?), but despite all of that, once the dust settles, it is a fun story, with plenty of cool stuff to make for an enjoyable watch. At the mid-point, I'd written it off as a loss, but they won me back by the credits.

Other key notes on this one, is the addition to the cast of Jolene Blalock (the vulcan from Star Trek: Enterprise), and the return of the captured brain bug (sans NPH)!

It's kooky, and a bit of a mess at times, so just don't expect too much and you'll do fine.RECOMMENDED (for fans of the series, or sci-fi fans only)

Starship Troopers, sex, bugs, and violence, for fans of low grade sci-fi!

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