Sony // 2008 // 104 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // July 28th, 2008
It's a good day to die!
"Across the federation, experts agree that: A: God exists, B: He's on our side, and C: He wants us to win."
Col. Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien, Tarzan and the Lost City) is back to battle the bugs in Starship Troopers 3: Marauder. He's a soldier from head to toe, though some of his superiors aren't pleased with the way he conducts himself. Unexpectedly, he is arrested and sentenced to death, but the government quickly changes plans. They need Rico to lead a rescue mission. A group of troopers are trapped on a deadly bug planet. Rico needs to take the government's new Marauder technology to the planet, in the hope that it might be strong enough to battle off the savage and violent bug enemy. He wishes they had just gone ahead and killed him beforehand.
When the original Starship Troopers was released, a lot of people didn't "get" it. Writer Ed Neumeier and director Paul Verhoeven had intended the film to be a political satire, but most critics saw it as a wholehearted endorsement of fascism. Everyone involved with Starship Troopers was understandably exasperated with the reaction of the public, and felt that they had failed in trying to get the message across. Now, Neumeier has returned to the idea, serving as both writer and director of Starship Troopers 3: Marauder, a straight-to-DVD film. In case you're wondering whether or not Starship Troopers 2 is involved, no, it's not. That film bore little relation to the first film, and Starship Troopers 3 is actually the first genuine sequel to the first film.
Though few audience members and critics got the point of Starship Troopers, few people are going to miss the message this time around. The opening ten minutes or so of the film feel very much like a frustrated writer's attempt at overcompensating. It hits the viewer over the head with a frying pan of painfully obvious satire. Do you remember those clever little government propaganda film sequences from the first film? Well, they're back here, but this time they are presented in far more blatantly obnoxious manner. The announcer says things like, "People who speak against the war deserve to die, and will be hung! Be careful what you say!" Come on, really? There's also a popular singer who also happens to be a military officer. His biggest hit is a march anthem called "It's a Good Day to Die," which glorifies the act of going down in combat. Given the public reaction to Starship Troopers, I can understand why Neumeier feels the need to talk down to his audience...but this is really pushing it.
The first film also made the comedy work by playing the comedy absolutely straight. The actors all delivered their sometimes ridiculous lines with complete sincerity. Here, everyone seems to know exactly what is going on. Even Casper Van Dien, so effective in Starship Troopers, seems to be in on the joke this time around. He is the only returning cast member from that film, and the new additions aren't much. Jolene Blalock (Slow Burn), Amanda Donohoe (Liar Liar), Stephen Hogan (The Tudors), and others are all about as exciting as moldy bread. Well, in the good scenes, anyway. The rest of the time they are painfully bad. There is a dialogue scene between numerous characters on a beach (it appears about forty minutes or so into the film). This scene features absolutely horrible writing being delivered in an incredibly awkward manner. This is one of several scenes in the film that are embarrassingly bad (most of these are scenes attempting to make a profound statement about religion).
The technical aspects of the film are pretty crummy, as one might expect. The CGI effects in this film are really quite miserable, reminding me a lot of one of those nature documentaries on television that re-create the lives of extinct beasts. When the special effects arrive, the movie milks them as long as possible. Some are repeated, some are simply presented in slow motion, unsuccessfully attempting to make us think that there's more here than there actually is. The action sequences are pale imitations of similar scenes from the first film. Neumeier simply can't compete with Verhoeven as an action director (but then, there aren't a whole lot of people who can). The first film got a big boost from a marvelously entertaining Basil Poledouris score. This one receives a really lousy and tired effort from composer Klaus Badelt. Whenever something exciting happens, Badelt pulls out the old well-worn Pirates of the Caribbean riffs. The rest of the time, Badelt seems positively lost. He tries meandering drum loops, militaristic rambling, weird sci-fi noises, electric guitar improvisations...none of it works. It's one of the weakest efforts I've heard from Badelt, who demonstrates here that he probably deserves to be working on movies like this one rather than big budget blockbusters.
The most surprisingly disappointing element of the film is the sound. Good gracious, this movie sounds awful. That particularly applies to the dialogue department. At least half of the dialogue in the film is distorted and warped in some way, and that less frequently applies to the score and the sound effects. The visuals are mediocre, with a lot of grain appearing during the outdoor sequences. Flesh tones seem a little off, and blacks aren't as deep as I would prefer.
The disc is packed with special features, which is pretty surprising for a non-theatrical release like this one. "Marauder Mode" offers a picture-in-picture experience with video clips, trivia, and more goodies while you watch the film. There are two audio commentaries included here. The first is a filmmaker's commentary, and features a discussion with Neumeier, special effects guy Robert Skotek, and producer David Lancaster. It's a bit dry, but okay. The second commentary features Neumeier, Casper Van Dien, and Jolene Blalock, which is a reasonably pleasant track. Everyone seems a little too enthusiastic about how wonderful the film supposedly is, though. Two featurettes are included: "The Bugs of Starship Troopers 3: Marauder" is an 11-minute peek at the creepy-crawlies of the film, while "Marauder's Mobile Infantry" is a 14-minute peace that discusses the soldiers and the human weaponry in the film. There's also a music video for "A Good Day to Die," which is a cute novelty item that mimics many modern military advertisements.
I imagine that many Starship Troopers fans will find this movie rather disappointing. While it's not quite the train wreck that was Starship Troopers 2, it's still very weak. I was happy to discover that the original writer and star of Starship Troopers were returning for this film, but neither manages to recapture the spark of their initial achievements. Maybe Verhoeven deserves the credit for everything that worked in the first movie. Think about the following films for a moment: Basic Instinct 2, Robocop 2, Robocop 3, Starship Troopers 2, Hollow Man 2, and now Starship Troopers 3: Marauder. There is a lesson to be learned from that list, and you know what it is.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (Widescreen)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Thai)
* English (SDH)
* Chinese (Simplified)
* Chinese (Traditional)
Running Time: 104 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Marauder Mode
* Filmmakers' Commentary
* Director & Cast Commentary
* "Evolution: The Bugs of Starship Troopers 3: Marauder"
* "Enlist: Marauder's Mobile Infantry"
* BD Live