When Captain Carmen Ibanez finds her ship taken from her by the Ministry Of Paranormal Warfare and her old friend Carl Jenkins, she turns to the crew of the crew of the Alesia and her old friend Johnny Rico, as the Federation’s war against the Bugs moves into a new phase ….
Mmmmkay, so, did you see Starship Troopers 2? Starship Troopers 3? It’s OK if you didn’t … the 2nd sequel was a low budget affair that didn’t really satisfy, and the third one, even with the return of Casper Van Dien as Johnny Rico, was a bit of a heavy-handed return to the tone of the first film. Sure the political and social commentary was there, but it lacked that strain of dark humor that made, for some audiences anyway, the first film something of a cult classic.
For me, and a lot of folks, the first film, while fun, and don’t misunderstand, I enjoy the hell out of it, was a really poor adaptation of Heinlein’s classic novel. Not surprising really, as the book isn’t really structured in a particularly filmable way, and let’s face it, it’s a lot of political theory wrapped up in a “kill the Bug Eyed Monster” plot. Still, the film has its pleasures, and recently, when it was broadcast on cable, several friends and I just stopped what we were doing to watch it. With the sound off.
It’s one of “those” films … you either like it or you don’t. And you know what? Starship Troopers: Invasion is going to be one of “those” films, too.
First off, and let’s get this out of the way, if you’re looking to see the likeness of Casper Van Dien, Denise Richards, or Neil Patrick Harris here, you’re going to be disappointed. The animation is pretty good, but it’s got that 3-D anime feel to it, and the characters do too … think Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, with more fluid movement. Rico looks OK, but then Van Dien has that sort of generic square-jawed hero look. Carmen looks like a standard beautiful brunette, which is OK, considering her human counterpart, but when it comes to Carl… Yikes! Yeah, at the end of the film, Harris was kinda creepy with his Nazi-esque uniform, but here, his animated counterpart is just disturbing. He looks like he’s a strung out crazy person, with his eyes, oh god his eyes, being particularly creepy. And his mouth… yick. But, in that particular Japanese animation way, it sort-of works… he is, after all, more or less a mad scientist. I suppose.
The story is actually pretty layered for something like this, with characters having histories together, whether it’s Rico and Carmen, or Major Varro and the k-12 Team. It actually gives the fairly standard characters a little depth, although, truth be told, you don’t really get enough time with anybody here to establish much. You get a few glimpses: Varro, stripped of his command for getting in Carl’s way and Trig’s sniper count, but some of them are a little too, um, in your face. Why the “Um”? Well, one of the female soldiers has the name, it seems, of Ice Blonde, and if you were hoping for the unisex showers of the original film, well, she will give that to you.
Actually, she’ll give you more than the original, where the nudity was casual and not all that sexual. Here though, well, you get the feeling the animators really… enjoyed these scenes. But aside from the curiously named Blonde, there is also Holyman, the resident religious character, Ratzass the sergeant, and several more
cannon fodder soldiers, who help Captain Carmen investigate the John A. Warden, the ship Carl took from her.
Of course, the Warden is overrun with the Bugs, and the human body count will be high, and won’t include our three leads. That’s definitely one of the weaknesses of this film, in that we really don’t know enough about the new characters to really care when they die, and with so many of them, our original three get less screen time than you’d think. Also getting not enough time are Rico’s Mechanized Infantry, who show up at the end and are on-screen so briefly you wonder if the budget got cut. It seems strange to finally bring the suits from the book and the animated TV series to the films, and then barely spend any time on them. Still, the scenes where the marines and the Infantry go up against the repeated waves of the Bug attacks are likely why you would want to watch this film, and those are pretty well handled. If you came to see humans fight aliens and watch both sides die a lot, you’ll be in the right place.
All in all though, I was fairly entertained. It has decent writing, and the animation is pretty good, if a touch uneven. The thing is though, the reasons I watched it were a) a fondness for the original, which is a 15-year-old film; and b) I write reviews for this site. I can’t say I was champing at the bit at the thought of a new Starship Troopers movie, but also can’t say I didn’t enjoy returning to that world.
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