Starship Troopers 3: Marauder (film, 2009)
Low-budget follow-up to Paul Verhoeven’s minor classic. From Death Ray 16.
Director: Ed Neumeier
Writer: Ed Neumeier
Starring: Caspar Van Dien, Jolene Blalock, Stephen Hogan, Marnette Patterson, Amanda Donohoe
Johnny Rico is back blasting bugs to bits. It’s Heinlein with a side-order of injustice, and an ex-Vulcan
Starship Troopers II was a mess, so we’re glad to see a certain return to form with this second sequel.
A massive plus is that Marauder has Caspar Van Dien return as Johnny Rico. There’s some budget on show, too, though the film sometimes outreaches its resources, particularly in the spaceship scenes, where it’s all too clear we’re in two cardboard corridors, and not on a vast military vessel crewed by hundreds. Similarly the plentiful CG is generally of the low-res, Babylon 5 variety. But multiple locations, great physical effects and impressive sets elsewhere give the film an almost big screen quality.
The story has Rico run into an old friend – General Dix Hauser (Kodjoe), who’s the chief aide to the Federation’s singing Sky Marshall Anoke (Hogan), and dating an old squeeze of Rico’s, Captain Lola Beck (Blalock). While catching up in a bar, Rico stops Hauser from shooting a farmer for sedition, and is arrested. The bugs attack, Hauser sends Anoke off with Beck. Their ship is shot down, marooning them on a bug planet, and evidence is produced by scheming Admiral Phid (Donohoe) to make it seem like they all died.
Hauser discovers that Anoke is still alive and confronts Admiral Phid, who Hauser suspects of making a bid for Anoke’s position. But Phid reveals that Anoke had been taken over after psychically communing with the brain bug captured in the original film, and this was a good way of getting rid of him. Problem is, Hauser’s chick is on the planet too, so Hauser saves Rico, and sends him off to rescue Beck using a new secret weapon…
Packed, no? That really is the bare bones of the plot, and it’s before we even get onto the film’s discussion of religion, its digs at hero worship and conformity… it’s a long list of satire.
The result is a somewhat stodgy tale in need of streamlining. That overuse is made of “Would you like to know more?” news pieces as an expositional device suggests writer/director Ed Neumeier is aware of this. Sure, it’s satirical, and sometimes effectively so, but it lacks the deft touch that Verhoeven brought to the first movie. Neumeier is not a great director, and his cast are left struggling for energy in some scenes.
But you will remain entertained, even though Rico disappears for half the film. By the time he returns in a big robot suit to mete out more computer game, cut-scene carnage it’s got a bit silly, and all enmity between characters is conveniently forgotten. A shame, as up until the finale the script at least made sense.
Neumeier, an experienced writer, should know better, but he tries to cram far too much clever-clever into Starship Troopers III and forgets logical character interaction. That said, it is in other respects an enjoyable addition to the franchise.