by Jay Seaver
SCREENED AT THE 2005 BOSTON SCIENCE FICTION FILM FESTIVAL: Most of the time, I have a hard time coming up with a snarky one-liner to be used at the top of the review. It's just not in me. While watching Starship Troopers 2, though, I not only came up with the one above, but "How cheap is a movie that can't even afford to bring back Casper van Dien?" also popped into my head, and I wrote them down.Granted, the "writing down" was for a later diary feature and because the act of writing helped keep me awake when this movie was running at 3:30 AM, but it serves to illustrate a point: Pretty much all of the actual entertainment value of this movie was self-generated. As dismal as Paul Verhoven's Starship Troopers was, it featured some eye candy and some satire. The sequel just recycles some of those elements and grafts them onto Stock Sci-Fi/Horror Plot #4.
"I'd say Heinlein would be spinning in his grave, but he had weird taste."
So, you might remember, there are these giant alien bugs, right? They really don't like people. Okay, maybe humanity encroached on their territory, but the two species are at war, and even though it should be a slam-dunk since the bugs appear not to have any technology at all, the war's been going on a long time. A group of human troopers are getting slaughtered on some generic Earthlike planet, they retreat to a fort whose sole occupant, Captain Dax (Richard Burgi) is in the stockade after killing a superior officer. Soon, though they find that the old bugs have discovered a new trick. For those with some doubt as to what this new trick is, let me just point out that it is still cheaper to have an actor in a scene than a special effect.
It's at this point when I'd describe the characters and what purpose they'd serve, but I'll be honest - I'm looking at the movie's IMDB entry and not a single name is connecting to a face. There are some pretty generic types - lieutenant whom none of the enlisted men and women respect, a vaguely charismatic general, an easily-freaked out private who turns out to be pregnant, and a hard-as-nails sergeant. Not many are egregiously bad, but none are memorable. They're all eminently disposable, which is good, because the bugs are fairly intent on disposing of them.
Which they do, in reasonably gruesome fashion. There are probably dozens of worse spam-in-a-can movies made every year, and some of them are even set in outer space, but it seems an odd choice to make on as a sequel to a military action movie. A theatrical sequel, perhaps, would have expanded on its predecessor, giving us a larger view of the conflict and raising the stakes. This, however, is instead a smaller story, not just in budget, but in scope. I suppose its events could be crucial to an over-reaching story arc, but if there is a Starship Troopers 3, it will probably be another direct-to-video cheapie.
Similarly, the satiric elements from the first film are present, but done in an even more ham-fisted style. Part of the reason why is that the previous movie didn't have a character as openly cynical as Dax, and his presence screams out that the propaganda clips are, you know, lies. These clips also disappear for much of the middle of the movie, which makes the action play much "straighter", without the moral ambiguity of the first, but also makes for a clumsy transition of moods when it returns in the end.There's really not much good to say about this movie. I suppose that the effects are decent, relative to budget, but even if they're technically good, they're not interesting. I guess if you like the bugs, you've got bugs. Hardly seems like much to push a movie for.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=9101&reviewer=371
originally posted: 03/19/05 11:56:52