Sunday, February 2, 2014

Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation

  Well. I certainly didn't expect to like this movie upon my second viewing in the past five years. However... string me up and give me ten lashes, I did. I liked it. Nobody could be more surprised than me. I kid you not. I saw this movie ages and ages ago. I rented it from a Hollywood Video along with Starship Troopers 3: Marauder, and had a double feature that night. I was not fond of this one. Yeah, it was gory and there were the trademark bugs but... it was lacking, in my opinion. In fact, I think it still is. It's thin. Starship Troopers doesn't function well without some sort of political or society commentary. It becomes just an inert, and hollow piece of sci-fi. Which is ultimately what Hero of the Federation is. Inert and hollow. Yet as much as it is nothing like the 1997 sci-fi blockbuster, helmed by the maestro of satire-action movies, Paul Verhoeven, it's not a bad movie when all is said and done.

  It's paper thin budget shows sometimes. Yet go figure, the CGI in this movie is head and shoulders above the third movie. I don't even know how that happened. I don't really wanna look at the budgets. It's just unfair. The worst part about the third movie, is the CGI. The best part about this one, is the effects. This is actually probably one of the last good DTV movies. It gets bashed like no other, and trust me, I understand. However, this is not bad. There are a few big mistakes it makes, one is the dialog. Some of it is just... nails on a damn chalkboard. Secondly, there are too many annoying characters. Especially that Psi-Ops guy. I was really hoping he'd die in the first half hour. No such luck. Third is the story. This is also where the budget shows. They had to confine the plot to a single location, which in effect, robs the movie from having the satirical elements it needed to thrive.

  You'll notice the movie is bookended by the franchise's trademark propaganda commercials, yet there's none throughout the film. Because in the first movie, those commercials would serve as a bridge, transitioning from one scene/location, to something else happening elsewhere. Starship Troopers 2 all takes place in one location, focuses on a very singular and small scale story. But by god, they worked with what they had. I guess the biggest problem with this movie is that it feels like it only needs to be thirty minutes. It feels like it could be absolved into a bigger movie because it's so thin on it's own. Yet that doesn't mean there aren't some awesome action sequences, some creative horror situations, and some fun one-liners. I get why people were so sore over this movie, but I think it was a collective over-reaction. It's nowhere near as bad as people, even myself made it out to be.

  The movie has a fair share of decent actors, and it makes use of them for the most part. However it's fairly obvious the movie is padded out to the max. It's a survival horror movie, best likened to movies like Resident Evil or Alien Resurrection. I know those are harsh and confusing comparisons for a movie I just said wasn't bad, but look at the scores. Resident Evil currently holds a 6.7 (out of a possible ten) on imdb. Alien Resurrection has a 6.3. Starship Troopers 2? Has a staggering 3.4. It's not that bad. Honestly. There have been many times I've been flipping through channels on TV, found Alien Resurrection and just watched it for a bit. It's a disappointing movie in the grand scheme of things, but it's not painful to watch or anything. That underwater scene is awesome as well. Hero of the Federation has a handful of decent and creative things in it. Stuff I'd argue elevates this movie above either of the other aforementioned movies.

  If you're in the right mindset, with the right expectations, it can be fun. If this was the pilot for a TV show for instance, nobody would be bitching. I think what sets it at a disadvantage is how distant it is from the first movie, yet it tries to keep connections and a continuity, despite not having any returning characters.  Starship Troopers was a sci-fi/satire, Starship Troopers 2 is a sci-fi/horror. So very very different when you dig into it. I suppose the bookends of propaganda were just tacked on to pay homage to Verhoeven, but... I never felt like they really worked. All in all, there are better DTV sequels, but don't be fooled this isn't one of those godawful ones. It's a serviceable action/horror movie with a familiar theme. It's still soldiers vs. giant alien space bugs. But in a very different tone. Much more like Aliens, but at the same time... not. It's not a great movie, or even a particularly good one, but damn. It's no 3.4 either. The amount of practical effects and creativity that went into somethings here deserve a fair shake.

  I'll reign in the sequel bashing whenever Hero of the Federation comes up in conversation in the future. It deserves, at least, that much. Yet being as thin as it is, I can't possibly write up a longer review. The content of the movie dictates the body of a review, and this one was rather anorexic, sadly. Edit: (2/5/2014) In retrospect, no matter how much I enjoyed this one, which was marginal at best, it was still disappointing. Starship Troopers pulled down good money at the box office and a lot of people liked it, it's very baffling to me that this is the best sequel anybody could come up with. On the other hand, it does funnel plenty of new and interesting ideas into the franchise, although those ideas seem born of budget constraints and necessity, not creativity. Hero of the Federation is a mixed bag for sure, it's a bad sequel, but not a bad movie. It's above average with it's special effects and action scenes, which I found more enjoyable than your average DTV dreck, yet at the same time... it's still a bad sequel. Take that as you will.

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