Death Sentences: STARSHIP TROOPERS 3 Review

I actually saw this before Clone Wars but was too slack to write a review back then. The plebs at the Citadel were busting my balls: “Hey Darth can you help me with this…?” “Yo Death, carry this thing over here and hold it for me!”, “Oi, DD you’re gonna have to work back late tonight and finish building that additional wing on the North East corner!” You know, all that kinda bullshit. So I’m gonna review it now because I owe it to you, my fans. That’s the kinda great guy I am.

About 3 weeks ago I didn’t even know there was a STARSHIP TROOPERS 3. I was trawling one of my regular news sites and saw someone else’s review of it. That was the day before it was released in Australia so I made a mental note to shoot down to my local JB and grab a copy.

I should just preface things here by stating that ST3: Marauder is a direct to DVD release. No, you didn’t blink and miss the theatrical release because there wasn’t one. Sony opted to bang this out for a stingy $20 mill and hope the Starship Troopers fans would take the gamble on it and fork out the $30 for the DVD. Which is a big gamble given the abomination that was Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation.

I think part of the reason I’ve procrastinated on this review is that its not an easy review to write. I gotta state here and now that Verhoeven’s 1997 film Starship Troopers holds a very special place in my heart. Outside of the Star Wars Saga it rates as one of my all time favorite films. I love its satire. I love its characters. I love its action and I love its visual effects. It is an awesome, awesome movie that deserves special mention in the history of Science Fiction. Hence, anything Starship Troopers related is hard for me to write on because I want everything to be good. ST deserves it. Johnny Rico deserves it. Shit, I deserve it.

So is ST3 any good? Well, yes and no.

Put it this way: It craps on ST2 from a great height.

Here are the positives: Ed Nuemier returns as writer. Now Ed wrote not only the original Starship Troopers screenplay, but also the original Robocop. Robocop, like ST1 is an amazing piece of art. Yes, art God damn it. I’m not gonna waste column inches by banging on about how great Robocop is, but suffice it to say I think it has one of the most stunning scripts ever committed to celluloid. So the return of Ed Nuemier to Starship Troopers should be a good thing, right? Well, don’t get too hasty. Ed also wrote ST2. Yes the same ST2 that provided nothing more than a horrid footnote to the majesty of ST1. The same ST2 that confirmed the fact that director Phil Tippett should stick to Special Effects and never ever be given the reigns of a movie again. the Same ST2 than made me cry myself to sleep and pray that ST2 be somehow erased from history and never mentioned again. So anyway, Ed N returns to ST3. I’m happy to say that here he’s done a much better job.

Ed has drawn much inspiration from the original 1959 Robert Hienlein novel of Starship Troopers. If you haven’t read that book you should. Its a seminal piece of Science Fiction. Wicked. One of the glaring omissions from 1997’s Starship Troopers film was the battle suits worn by Rico and his buddies. I’m glad to say that they make an appearance in ST3. Hence the subtitle of the movie: ‘Marauder’. With ‘Marauder’ being the name of the top secret project to develop the battle suits. ST3 also sees the introduction of ‘Sanctuary’. The secret deep space headquarters of the Terran Fleet. ‘Sanctuary’ plays a big role in the original ST novel. So its good to see it mentioned in this film.

But the most important positive is the return of Johnny Rico, the central character from the novel and ST1.

Rico was absent from ST2. Lucky for him.

Johnny Rico rocks. He has always been one of my most favorite film characters. Caper Van Dien gets Johnny Rico. He IS Johnny Rico. In the same way that Mark Hamill IS Luke Skywalker. Seeing Rico return to ST3 immediately lifts this film from mediocrity to a level of acceptability.

ST3 also sees Ed Nuemier’s directorial debut. I feel for the guy. I really do. $20 mill may sound like a lot of coin. But when you’re trying to create a world that does Starship Troopers justice, it’s not going to get you too far. The shoot was allegedly only 4 weeks long. In many ways, that translates onto screen as some scenes feel like they were rushed during production. One gets the feeling that the actors were just getting into the groove when the crew had to strike the set and move on. Where Ed has succeeded however, is in getting the best visual value for money. For a direct to DVD release, ST3 looks great. If you manage to get a copy, check out the extra features and you’ll appreciate just how much work went into the visuals and how far they managed to stretch their very limited budget.

The story is essentially one of a rescue mission. A group of Troopers is stranded on a bug planet and must reach a downed drop ship in order to contact the fleet. General Rico, after being arrested for treason, is seconded to lead the rescue party and unleash the new Marauder Battle Suits. As a backdrop to this, we see the corruption within the Terran hierarchy and the emergence of a new ultra Brain Bug.

Much of the film is shot on location in South Africa. The location stuff looks pretty dang good and certainly translates as an alien planet. The supporting cast is ok, but never comes close to the brilliance of the ensemble gathered for the original ST1. Jolene Blalock plays Captain Lola Beck who is essentially the lead character. Star Trek fans will know her as the hot Vulcan from the ‘Enterprise’ series. As cool as Johnny Rico is, its a shame to say he is under-utilised. Was this a budgetary constraint which didn’t allow enough screen time for Casper Van Dien? I dunno. But when Rico is on screen he OWNS the film.

The satire and parody that has always defined Starship Troopers is in evidence once again, and in some ways it is even more overt than in ST1. For me it got just a little too silly in parts. But on the whole it certainly helped the film feel more like ST1.

I would recommend STARSHIP TROOPERS 3: MARAUDER to anyone who considers themselves a fan of the 1997 original. It is merely a shadow of that great film, but all the same, it helps redeem the franchise from the abortion that was Starship Troopers 2. Just don’t expect too much. Enjoy it for what it is, which is essentially an expensive tele-movie. Enjoy the return of Johnny Rico. And enjoy the brief, but cool emergence of the Marauder Battle Suits.

As Casper Van Dien stated, this is really the sequel to Verhoeven’s film. ST2 can and should be forgotten. So if you’ve got a lazy $30 laying around that you don’t know what to do with, go drop it on ST3. It’s not all that bad. It’s not all that great either. But hey, not much is these days anyway.

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