Starship Troopers Trilogy Review

Starship_Troopers_WallpaperIn my opinion perhaps the best conceived kid’s show on TV is Dinosaur Train. After all if you line up a bunch of five year old boys and ask them about the stuff they love, you can guarantee that among the babbled responses will be both dinosaurs and trains. Anyone can make a dinosaur show. Anyone can make a train show. Teaming them both somehow results in a show that is more than the sum of its parts.

I know a few years ago my nephew loved Dinosaur Train, then sure enough my son fell in line last year and had his own 12 month love affair with these amusing animated beasties as they ride their personal locomotive to knowledge.

Starship Troopers tries in vain to do the same thing for young adults, but instead of extinct animals and a means of mass transport it teams sci-fi with entry level horror and nudity, figuring every time you get bored with one trick they can simply pull another one out.

But all the illusion and gimmickry in the world can’t hide the fact that this is some shonky sleight of hand, made by lazy ‘magicians’ who can’t even be bothered concealing the card up their sleeve. And the card isn’t even an ace… not even close.

starship_troopers_ver1Starship Troopers

I should point out that the film opens with garish and ultra tacky propaganda style ads – a la Robocop – promoting the virtues of serving one’s country and the perils and danger that the enemy represents. Every 15 odd second segment finished with the same tag-line “Would you like to know more?”

Every film in the series does it. In some ways it’s the only thing that binds the three wildly disparate films together. It’s kinda the trilogies’ ‘thing’.

It’s a pretty crappy hook, but then again this series sure doesn’t have much else.

As the film opens Earth isn’t even at war, though the ‘bug’ race is already well known as a potential threat and their kind studied and analysed for weakness and possible intent.

In a Brazilian city a group of flawless twenty-something teens are graduating and discussing their futures. Among them are the rugged jock-ish Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien), his squeeze with ‘brains and beauty’ *snort* Carmen (Denise Richards), her ‘fiery red-headed competition’ in Dizz, and finally the ‘just brain’ Carl (Doogie Howser). All four are planning on joining the army for various reasons – completing army service brings special privileges back on Earth – and are contemplating if they will leave after a 2 year stint or go ‘career’.

The foursome find that their various skillsets largely dictate their immediate destiny, Rico is a grunt, as is Dizz, Carl goes to Army intelligence leaving Carmen to announce that she is an elite space pilot *chuckle*.

And off they go into deep space for training.

Then suddenly the bugs declare war by nuking a city in Brazil – their city – and like the guy trying to protect his ego who stupidly says ‘No. I QUIT!’ after being told he is fired, Earth says ‘No. WE DECLARE WAR ON YOU!’

That no doubt preserved our rep. Your move bugs.

Rico finds himself in training camp where he and Dizz are taught tactics and how to act like a braindead propaganda spouting douche, Carl heads off to do top secret things and Carmen starts flight training, where she meets her male equivalent in Zander. Yep another smug git.

The action takes place on remote planets and despite the fact that the enemy forces are comprised of large bugs for some reason ground troops are used. The bugs kinda look like large Daddy Long-Legs spiders only with the heads of Graboids from Tremors. (We do eventually learn of other bug types that seem to range in size from huge way bigger than that.) They attack in large numbers and generally seem to have two methods of dispatching humans, by stabbing with their legs or by grabbing their foe and slicing them in two betwixt their jaws. Conversely though they are sturdy and hard to put down, a bug is susceptible to the normal hazards of gunfire and explosives.

Now I’m no master tactician but I’d hazard a guess and say that the secret to success might be removing yourself from close proximity and firing away from afar. Given that they are bugs and all, maybe a carpet bombing with Black Flag? Or if you must get up close and personal, how about grenades and flamethrowers?

Then again what do I know? I know for one that the initial battle costs Earth four hundred thousand troops.

Paul Verhoeven directed this film. He is a man with a unique vision. Listed among the titles on his CV are Robocop, Total Recall, Basic Instinct, Showgirls and Hollow Man. It’s fair to say that Verhoeven doesn’t do low key, yet for all the notoriety and staying power that some of these titles enjoy only Total Recall is actually any good, and that’s largely to do with the presence of Arnie.

Like many of the above films Starship Troopers exhibits many familiar traits, it is gloriously violent, lurid and bloody, with much nudity, both casual and… other. It also takes place in a land that I will call ‘Verhoeveland’, where everything is just different.

In Verhoeveland the entire population is flawless, pimples are outlawed and no-one considered less than gorgeous can be allowed to live – unless it is to illustrate just how perfect everyone else is. These perfect plastic people talk in a way familiar to humans, only in an awkwardly clipped cadence that might suggest they are acting badly, and their dialogue is always inane pointless gibberish including – but not limited to – ‘Come on you apes, do you wanna live forever’ and ‘Shoot a nuke down a bug hole, you got a lot of dead bugs’.

In Verhoeveland a single battle can cost four hundred thousand lives, which means just enough time for four hundred thousand death speeches, but if one such death includes someone in the cast they are afforded a full military funeral with hundreds of uniformed soldiers in attendance.

In Verhoeveland there are only 3 or 4 facial expressions that run the gamut from ‘happy’, ‘vacant’ and ‘angry’, with only Denise Richards seeming to have mastered the difficult fourth ‘confused’ when faced with two syllable words or strings of dialogue that stretch for more than a single line.

Speaking of Denise Richards, in Verhoeveland she is a space pilot (and apparently an actress too). If that isn’t wacky enough she can have a buggy leg forced straight through her shoulder and a mere seconds later can show zero after effects.

Starship Troopers apparently polarises audiences, with some thinking it is a work of subversive genius, and the remaining non-pot smokers seeing it for what it is. Paul Verhoeven might well be a genius, Starship Troopers might very well be the pinnacle of his career. To me though it is just a big shiny expensive distraction made by an indulgent guy who exists in his own little world.

And frankly any world where Denise Richards exists in any meaningful capacity is one I don’t I want to be involved in.

Final Rating – 5.5 / 10. If a war broke out between giant bugs and Verhoeveland, I think I might actually root for the cockroaches and Tremors-Daddy-Long-Legs on this one.

starship-troopers-2-Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation

If you handed someone an unmarked DVD and cut off the first three or so minutes from this film I would bet money that they would have a hard time guessing this was in fact a sequel to Starship Troopers.

In fact aside from the obligatory ‘Would you like to know more?’ propaganda segments that open the film – and in reality have zero to do with what follows aside from providing a link to the first film – we only have the appearance of the enemy as a clue.

But here’s the thing. The bugs look similar-ish but suffer greatly thanks to some of the shittiest CGI on film, and they don’t even call them ‘bugs’ as they insisted on in the first film. Here they are ‘arachnids’.

Everything else is different.

Different how? Well instead of an hour long preamble Starship Troopers 2 opens with a battle underway, a battle in which they use both grenades and fire throwers (hey they read my review above!).

Yes the original film had battles, but not like this. The soldiers are grim and scared. They get dirty. They bleed. Many even die. Some even had more than four facial expressions, poorly acted facial expressions but that’s beside the point. I swear Johnny Rico, Dizzy, Carmen and co didn’t blink and were unable to break a sweat in Starship 1. Maybe it was in their contract…And these troops are the polar opposite of Rico and his Rickettes, as uniformly ugly as his crew were uniformly (and often unnaturally) pretty.

The only other thing that is remotely similar is that both films suck. Bad.

The troops embroiled in battle are actually a squad that were ambushed by bugs… arachnids, and refused an extraction, meaning they had no choice but to seek shelter elsewhere before they find themselves insect food. In this case shelter being an abandoned base that seems desolate and stripped of anything that may prove useful.

Here the few remaining survivors find themselves leaderless and in the grip of panic. A nerdy guy and a sensible woman vie for the responsibility of running the show, until two things happen in quick succession. The first is that they find Dax, an imprisoned man left for dead in the facility who is accused of being a murderer. Dax is essentially the Vin Diesel ‘Riddick’ character from Pitch Black, and if you’re a poor man’s Vin Diesel is there really any hope for this film?

The second thing that happens is the unexpected return of General Shepherd, who was previously presumed dead in the initial ambush. Or more accurately I should say the return of General Shepherd and the two random guys and one girl who apparently showed up from nowhere to bail him out…

After the initial ‘shock’ provided by the beloved General’s return, which is actually met with hi fives and minor hysteria, all that is left is to find out the identity of the new guys, find out why they were out in the middle of nowhere, and to find a reason to introduce some random nudity into the film. After all, without random nudity it wouldn’t be a Species… Starship Troopers film.

Where the first film was a juvenile film masquerading as a cynical and ironic action packed sci-fi film (at least I hope they were being ironic), this is an awful horror film pretending to be an awful sci-fi film. Absolutely zero attention is paid to detail or authenticity. There are no ‘best bits’, but if there were they are all stolen from other films, but not even great films, films like Species, Mimic, Event Horizon and the afore-mentioned Pitch Black. (While none of them are great films, they at least appear that way when stacked up against this abomination.)

Starship Troopers 2 is nothing like Starship Troopers at all, aside from the fact that it sucks – bad – just in different ways.

I jotted down a note about 5 minutes in that said ‘this film looked like it took an 85% budget hit’. Thanks to imdb I later found out that it was made with 5% of the budget of the original film.

Final Rating – 4.5 / 10. From an enjoyment value against budget perspective I guess then that this is the best of the series. That’s like saying you’re everyone’s favourite Kardashian.

starship 3Starship Troopers 3: Marauder

After the horrendously misguided effort that was Starship 2, it was no wonder that Starship 3 decided to divorce itself of any possible link to the middle film in the trilogy.

Sure the propaganda ‘Would you like to know more?’ intro is still here, but that’s expected. Our once bugs / then arachnids, are now just ‘bugs’ again, and the moronic macho dialogue and equally dopey characters return – though whether that is a good thing is yet to be determined.

Most of all the sleek exterior / vacant interior is back. In force. And then some. Personified by the triumphant re-introduction of Johnny Rico (Casper van Dien) – who they bring back to the series like it’s some kind of big plus, although in reality all it did was rob a Starbucks of its manager for a couple months while he filmed this.

Rico is now a Colonel in the army and a ‘legend’ to the troops with his triumphs and bravery the subject of many fawning stories. Rico ignores possible promotions or transfers to cushy posts, preferring to ‘remain on the frontline doing what he does best’.

See what I mean about moronic macho dialogue. Well it only gets moron-ier from here…

High-ups drop into Rico’s remote outpost on a mission to boost morale among the troops, with army figuregead – and possible part time motivational speaker – Sky Marshall Anoke appearing to the adulation and appreciation of all. Anoke is somewhat of a totem for the Armed Forces, with inspirational songs about triumph and dying for the glory of humanity, stirring the hearts and colons of loyalists everywhere.

Almost everywhere. In this particular base an uneasy alliance exists between the soldiers who fight for the colonies and the local civilians who resent them, feeling that without them the bugs might up and leave. They care not for the soldiers or Anoke, and by this time neither will you, as Anoke is frankly a total dick.

Thankfully the bugs attack the base right on cue and we can allow ourselves to be distracted momentarily from all the reprehensible one-note characters that proliferate this maddening series. Unfortunately the attack is similarly one-note, with only the addition of slater-like bugs as grenades being worthy of mention.

The survivors of the bug attack are separated somehow (I gotta admit I either zoned out or nodded off for a few minutes there) and Rico ends up on a spaceship, and Anoke and some assorted others – including a Z grade actress with sofa sized fake lips, and a blonde wannabe Jessica Alba – end up in the desert.

It seems only something out of the box can rescue these unlikable individuals. Something huge. Something original. Something new. Something… oh fuck all that, let’s pave over the cracks with some inexplicable nudity, cheesy gore and blatant rips from Tremors and Slither and CGI that a modern day Ed Wood would reject.

The budget is obviously bigger this time around than Starship 2, and the gore, profanity and nudity are all back in a big way. Only the quality levels are maintained across this series; I should say ‘low quality’ levels.

I hated the first film with a passion. Hated the second with decreasing passion (only thanks to the fact it was made with $27 and a local theatre troupe) and hated this film also for trying to resurrect such a shitty franchise.

It seems to me that in the event of nuclear war only two things will remain, cockroaches and this film series where we fight cockroaches and their friends…

And I haven’t even bothered tearing a new one in the just awful religious parable that they tried to tack onto the end of this atrocious film.

Final Rating – 5 / 10. When you have such a low quality and shoddy original, I don’t see why you would make one copy, let alone two.

Final Trilogy Rating – 4.5 / 10. I have disliked the 6 or so hours spent enduring this series more than any other trilogy in the existence of this website – and I watched all three Feasts.

My vision of hell has cinemas everywhere, and they all show only this trilogy in a loop.

Would you like to see more?


About OGR

While I try to throw a joke or two into proceedings when I can all of the opinions presented in my reviews are genuine. I don't expect that all will agree with my thoughts at all times nor would it be any fun if you did, so don't be shy in telling me where you think I went wrong... and hopefully if you think I got it right for once. Don't be shy, half the fun is in the conversation after the movie.
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