So the retrospective continues past the halfway mark as we touch on the most surprising film of the franchise, Starship Troopers 3: Marauder. Now to touch up on where we left off; The Verhoeven original movie had achieved cult status and thus resparked interest in turning Starship Troopers from a one off 90’s film into a franchise. Sadly though, major studios would not put much money into the franchise and Verhoeven had moved on in his career to film Black Book as well as be the front man for the film project known as Entertainment Expo. This would mean that the film franchise would be championed by a group of people that worked with Verhoeven on the first film Ed Neumeier, Phil Tippet, and John Davisson. Together the three would create the universally panned second movie Starship Troopers 2: Heroes of the Federation. As we saw in my review last week, it didn’t go over so hot. But still the franchise plotted along. Tippet and Davisson disappeared from the project leaving Ed Neumeier as the solo man on the project. However he was able to get some back up from an old friend, none other than Johnny Rico himself Casper Van Dien. With Neumeier penning, directing the film, with major support from Van Dien, new producer David Lancaster, and a slightly higher $20 million dollar budget the film franchise saw a breathe of new life as they pulled the franchise out of the hole that Starship Troopers 2 dug.
Now well within their eleventh year with the Arachnids, The Federation finds itself fighting a stalemate of trench warfare. People have began to dissent against the Federation for drawing out such a long and violent war calling for peace and a resurgence of religion (primarily Christianity) has occurred, spurning great suppression from the Federation higher ups. On the front line planet of Roku San, the Arachnids and Federation find themselves in a dead lock as the war has become business as usual for the soldiers and the farmers who are forced to live under Federation rule. The planet is under the command of now Colonel Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien) who maintains his hardass ‘I’m here to kill bugs and kill more bugs’ demeanor. They are soon visited by popular Singing Sensation, Propaganda incarnate Sky Marshall Omar Anoke (Stephen Hogan) as well as Rico’s old friend General Dix Hauser (Boris Kodje). However, all is not well after the old friends are reunited when Hauser learns that his new love interest Captain Lola Beck (Jolene Blalock) and Rico were an item at one time.
After a drunken bar fight that ends with Rico preventing Hauser from killing a couple of local farmers, Rico is placed under arrest for failure to obey a superior officer. All the while, the fences to the complex mysteriously shut down causing an Arachnid invasion. Rico and his forces are able to fight off the bugs and save some lives before the Arachnids take over Roku San. During the fray Sky Marshall Anoke is found in stumbling in a daze and is soon rescued by Beck and her forces. Rico is put on trial and sentenced to death while Beck’s ship is shot down out of orbit, causing her, Anoke, and a small group of the crew to abandon ship on the Arachnid planet known as Planet OM-1. The movie then splits between the survivors trapped on the mysterious planet hosting a new kind of bug they had never seen before as well as the political intrigue on planet Earth that involves Rico’s execution, Hauser’s struggle to find Beck and conflict with Federation higher ups, and the return of the original brain bug from the first movie.
Ah it is good to have you back! As I said before, one of the biggest flaws of the second movie is the fact that it completely dismisses its fun tongue in cheek attitude and fascist undertones in favor of a really poor horror movie plot. In the third movie, it is the driving force. You have political intrigue, you have the suppression of religion and peace protests all the while feeding the viewers at home more propaganda. Half of the plot is a horror movie pick em off one by one on Planet OM-1. But the other half follows General Hauser, Rico, and their exploits on Earth. It brings back the ‘Would You Like to Know More?’ TV voices as it jumps to various activities on Earth.
All of it is back and the film is much better for doing so. Ed Neumeier listened to the cries of the fandom and gave them exactly what they wanted. A little bit of bug killing mixed in with some delicious fascist propaganda. My need to know more is increasing ten fold.
The Proper Way to Work With Very Little
While Starship Troopers 2: Heroes of the Federation is an example of the wrong way to downsize a franchise, Starship Troopers 3: Marauder is the right way to downsize a franchise. Sure, it only has a fraction of the budget the original had. Sure, it isn’t going to look as good or as a polished as the original. But, you can still have a great story set in the same universe with less ‘kill all bugs’ and more political intrigue. It is a solid script, a solid idea, and the proper way to continue a franchise such as Starship Troopers. Play to your strengths and give the fans what you can still do well instead of tossing what makes the franchise unique out the window and hope that the mere concept of costumes and poor animation are enough to get through for your series. This is why out of the three sequels, this movie is head and shoulders the strongest among them.
Oh… Oh this man… This man took this movie from being a decent B Movie of Starship Troopers and propelled it to new heights with some of the most gloriously acting I have seen in a long time. Stephen Hogan who plays Sky Marshall Omar Anoke goes all out in his performance, not sparring one moment. He owns every single second he is on screen with some of the most over the top acting that I have not seen in a long time.
The role of Anoke is a big role and requires a larger than life entity. After all, this guy is a bronzed Sky Marshall who is also a singing sensation and represents the icon to which all people look up to who upon multiple communications with the original brain bug, now finds himself a religious obsessed lunatic wishing to find the true God Bug Behemcoytal. This role is a larger than life role and Stephen Hogan does not spare a single scene. There is no downplay to this character, he is kicking down the door with a pair of sparklers in hand, fireworks shooting out of his ass, and owning every single second of it. It is characters like this that I give great applaud to for taking a decent movie and making it even better with a performance on par with John Travolta in Battlefield Earth or Will Smith in After Earth. It is a shame that he has only appeared sporadically in other movies and series, the most notable of which being Sir Henry Norris in The Tudors. Because I can always get behind an actor who throws everything he can into a film.
Make no mistake, I enjoy seeing Stephen Hogan’s performance and I can always get behind Casper Van Dien, especially reprising his role as Johnny Rico. But the rest of the actors in this movie… Eh… Not the strongest. Jon Falkow who plays the character Jingo seems like he is attempting to do is best Alan Cummings impersonation and the various actors and actresses who play soldiers only reiterate stereotypical army HUHAH rhetoric and grunt at the camera. Boris Kodjoe is admirable though a little confusing in portraying his characters motives from time to time and Amanda Donohoe who portrays Admiral Phid feels a lot less a cold, calculating soldier/politician and more like a not so memorable Bond villain (which isn’t so bad.)
But the worst of the lot has to go to the ‘lead actress’ Marnette Patterson who plays a heavily religious flight attendant named Holly Little. While the role itself feels like little more than a pretty girl being obsessively religious, Patterson brings nothing to her role accept a pretty face reciting her lines in front of the camera. I never once felt that she was sincere in her religious beliefs, that she truly believed in Sky Marshall Onoke’s rhetoric, or truly loved the good hearted engineer Bull Brittles (Stelio Savante). When Brittles proposes marriage to her, that should have been a major event, and instead it is passed off as ‘Eh I guess you will do.’ Even in the end when her and Beck face impending doom, she shows no sign of fear or terror in her voice only a pseudo cheerleader pep up attitude of let’s pray the bad away which feels disinterested and not genuine. Of all the actors and actresses, Marnette Patterson seems to have the attitude of an actor who would want to do anything else but star in a Starship Troopers movies. Maybe she was sitting back hoping that her role in Charmed would lead to bigger and better things, I’m not sure. But she is certainly one of the weaker aspects of this film.
This movie is amazing. It is a great B movie mixed with the right amount of bug killing and the right amount of political intrigue. It holds true to its predecessor and the original source material all the while giving the hardcore fans of the series exactly what they want. Some of the acting isn’t the greatest, but it is worth it to force your way through to see Casper Van Dien as Johnny Rico pulling out Colonel Gruff Manbody gold and Stephen Hogan just hamming it up and owning every second that he is on screen. Definitely worth the watch.
Final Score 4/5
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