Sony // 2008 // 105 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // August 11th, 2008
The Bugs are Back. Prepare for Attack.
The bugs are back, all right. Following his absence from Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation, so is Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien, Sleepy Hollow) in the third installment of the Starship Troopers saga.
The war against the bugs continues. Col. Johnny Rico, the hero of Planet P, is now stationed on the planet of Roku San, where opposition to the war is growing, since the Federation drew the formerly peaceful planet into the conflict.
In an effort to maintain control, the Federation stages daily executions where those with dissenting voices are publicly hanged. It is a policy that is only making relations between the Federation and the inhabitants of Roku San even more strained. Caught in the middle of all this is Johnny Rico, whose loyalty to the Federation clashes with his opposition to their zero-tolerance policy towards the planet's citizens. When he attempts to stop a superior officer from killing a citizen in a bar fight, Rico is sentenced to death.
The execution, however, is a mere façade. Having recently lost contact with the all-important Sky Marshal Anoke (Stephen Hogan), following a bug attack on his starship, the Federation needs a man of Rico's caliber and recruits him to lead its new Marauder squadron on a top-secret rescue mission.
It's a well-known fact that the original Starship Troopers is a movie that many people just don't get; its critics, who only see a cheesy B-movie with fascist overtones, fail to grasp the film's political satire. Clearly this response irked writer Edward Neumeier somewhat. Taking over the directing reins while maintaining the writing credits, Neumeier has stripped away any subtlety the original film had, and, in the process, released a dumbed-down commentary on the "war on terror."
Starting out as it means to go on, Starship Troopers 3: Marauder, like Starship Troopers before it, opens with a news bulletin, during which a segment on war protesters comes up. Mirroring a certain world leader's infamous comments, a judge, having just sentenced several war protesters to death by hanging, declares: "If you're against the war, you're against us." On it goes, with characters frequently being questioned about their non-conformist comments or their allegiance to the Federation. In case you were having trouble associating the onscreen events with the war on terror, the film features suicide bugs that blow themselves up; now, that's classy!
Perhaps if Starship Troopers 3: Marauder had delivered as an action movie, the film's clumsy exposition and attempts at social commentary would have been less of an issue; if only it were that simple. The sad truth is, Starship Troopers 3: Marauder just never gets going. Sure, there are plenty of action sequences, but it's all filmed in such a staid manner that it's difficult to care. Whereas the original film had chaotic battle scenes, where man and bug went toe-to-toe in a desperate fight for survival, this sequel, due in part to the decrease in budget, often leaves viewers with shots of the troopers firing at some unseen enemy. When the bugs do appear onscreen (which is quite often during night scenes; I wonder why?), the lack of a decent fx budget becomes desperately apparent. Though it may be unfair to compare a direct-to-video movie to its big(ger)-budget predecessor, the lack of scope in action sequences is a huge issue. What we're left with are battles that are so lacking any zing that even a number of impressive gore effects cannot save them.
One of the more bizarre elements, that I find hard to fathom, is the handling of religion in Starship Troopers 3: Marauder. As the film develops, several characters start to express their Christian beliefs, resulting in a recital of the Lord's Prayer in the heat of battle. I have no problem, per se, with the introduction of religion into the film. In fact, handled correctly, I see no reason why it couldn't have added some much needed depth to the story. Unfortunately, when you have a character praying for angels to come and save them while in the background a squadron of mech-suited grunts descend from the heavens, forming a halo above their head, it's difficult to take it seriously.
In keeping with the tone of the film, the cast generally delivers performances that come with one slice of cheese too many. It's hard not to point at least a portion of the blame at the hackneyed writing, but even so, even the more accomplished actors amongst the cast seem happy to phone their parts in.
Let's get one final thing clear, the title, Starship Troopers 3: Marauder, is grossly misleading. Yes, the film is indeed the third in the Starship Troopers series, we're not here to dispute that; the use of the word "Marauder" in the title is what I object to. Reading the synopsis on the rear of the DVD cover, and looking at the imagery that adorns it, you would be right to assume the "Marauder" mech-suits are going to be a big part of the movie, right? Wrong! It's roughly an hour in before the Marauder project is even mentioned; even then the suits are onscreen for no more than ten minutes. Sure they're cool, well designed, and relatively well-realized, considering the low-end CGI employed. Still, to suggest they're a big part of the movie, big enough to be added to the title, is just wrong.
Picture quality on the disc is good, with a clear image that retains its sharpness for the most part. Colors are strong, with good black levels. The discs audio isn't quite as strong as the video, but does its job with no serious flaws evident.
Two commentaries and a couple of short features are all you'll get in terms of special features, none of which are particularly special, should you hand over your hard-earned cash for Starship Troopers 3: Marauder.
The film contains one genuinely great moment. When the Marauder Squadron is finally unleashed, it is a thing of beauty. If you can overlook the overt religious symbolism, which includes the image of a crucifix-shaped gun superimposed over the face of a trooper reciting the Lord's Prayer and Johnny Rico emerging from a blinding light, you'll have a blast as the mech-suited Marauders take the fight to the bugs. It's everything Starship Troopers 3: Marauder wanted to be, distilled into a few short minutes. The sequence, though painfully short, does come close to redeeming Neumeier, as he shows he does possess the ability to capture a well-staged battle sequence.
Once short scene aside, Starship Troopers 3: Marauder is just not good enough. Guilty of being too obvious with its message and far too ham-fisted with its handling of religion; the film comes close to being a total mess. If you must see the film, and you have a Blu-Ray player, the additional features on that release make it the way to go.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Evolution: The Bugs of Starship Troopers 3: Marauder
* Enlist: Marauder's Mobile Infantry
* Music Video: "It's a Good Day to Die" (Extended Version)
* Filmmaker Commentary
* Director and Cast Commentary
* Official Site