Thursday, February 6, 2014

Starship Troopers 3: Marauder

  "It's a good day to die!" says the propaganda in the movie, yet I'd argue it's a good day to let the franchise die instead. If that sounded like a disheartening first line, well, you're right... but not entirely. Starship Troopers 3: Marauder blasts it way onto home video with quite a bang, in my opinion. First, and foremost, this movie marks the return of Casper Van Dien as Johnny Rico. Colonel... Johnny Rico. Van Dien came under fire in reviews of the first movie as being wooden and in general, a sore point of the movie. Personally, I felt his soap opera-esque performance fit the tone of the satire quite well. I think people missed that point. Which was intentional, so sayeth the director. Who knew though that people would get so hyped about his return to the franchise? Only one movie away and already he was sorely missed.

  I can't say that Marauder is head and shoulders above Hero of the Federation, but hot damn I wish I could. People didn't realize how badly Starship Troopers would miss Casper Van Dien, and apparently the makers of Marauder didn't realize how badly they needed better special effects. Van Dien alone isn't enough to sell this movie 100%. The CGI bugs in Marauder look awful, in a word. They're plastic-y and they move like archaic video game graphics. One tends to forget how bad they are in comparison to the overall forgettable 2nd movie, but geez. Rewatching the 2nd one made me respect it a little more, due to the fact their CGI was admittedly on point, and looking very good. By contrast, Marauder's CGI looks like crap. No way around it. That seriously harms this movie. Because amazing to at the very least, decent special effects have been the hallmark of this franchise. Not good acting, or good stories. People like the bugs, and seeing them slaughter the troopers. Which looks... odd here.

  The return of Johnny Rico is cause to be excited. He looks like he's back in his element, and the movie is better off for it.Van Dien lends a bit of seriousness to this movie as without him, I feel like it'd be a bad joke. This is an effects heavy movie, but their computer generated effects aren't so hot. They instead rely more on animatronics and practical effects to achieve their goals. Those effects are actually pretty damn good. It's a shame the warrior bug looks like a computerized toy by comparison. There is more of what you loved about the first movie in this one though. Johnny Rico shouting his lines "C'mon you apes! You wanna live forever?"
and leading the charge against the bugs, decked out in the classic Mobile Infantry armor. You can't help but smile and get this warm and fuzzy blast of nostalgia when you see this. Whenever they're in the thick of things, shooting bugs, I have no issues with the movie. It excels whenever Rico is the main focus. Oddly enough, the same can be said about the original honestly.

  However, the supporting cast of Marauder isn't fun to watch. Most of these actors are even slightly annoying. None of them have the charisma that Casper Van Dien brought back to the franchise. At best, they're passable, at worst, they make it feel like a SyFy movie of the week. Ugh. I do have to give props to Stephen Hogan who plays Sky Marshal Omar Anoke. He has all the charm of a televangelist, and none of the good intentions. This guy oozes weird, and his on screen presence just gives you the willies. You can't tell if he's just a bureaucratic sleazeball, or a fame junkie, or if something more is going on. His presence certainly adds something to the movie. Whether or not that something pays off in a satisfactory manner or not... eh. However he is the (only) other actor of note in this movie. It strikes me funny that most of the actors playing troopers in this movie, were probably teenagers or preteens when Starship Troopers came out. It's not a stretch to imagine more than a few were fans, and getting to act alongside Casper Van Dien as Johnny Rico? That must've been awesome. In a way that mirrors the movie as well. Hundreds of young M.I. Troops getting to fight alongside the legendary Col. Johnny Rico? Talk about a morale boost.

  Starship Troopers 3 tries hard to replicate the tone and scope of the original. Sadly, it just... can't. Budgetary restraints hold this movie back and almost cripple it. Despite having two million more to work with than it's predecessor, that's still only 9 million dollars. (Compared to Starship Troopers 100 million budget) For that, this movie was rather exceptional. They put a lot of money into sets and practical effects and those things were, visually, the highlight of the movie. All in all, Marauder is an easy movie to compare to Hero of the Federation because Marauder seems to be a direct response to the negative criticism of the first sequel. Hero of the Federation was lacking any sort of satirical edge, it lacked any familiar characters, the tone was very claustrophobic and the scope was confined. Marauder was almost the exact opposite. It brought back the satire, brought back hero Johnny Rico, the tone reverts back to a big war movie, and the scope was opened up considerably.  The tradeoff is obviously the special effects. Hero of the Federation had effects on par with the first movie, Starship Troopers 3 has CGI on par with... well, a SyFy movie of the week. I hate to bring up those crap-fests twice in one review, but... damn.

  My next point is the satire. They try too hard here, and often miss the point. The satirical commercial breaks in the first movie gave you a slick insight into this warped and fascist society. They'll censor a cow being butchered, but seconds later they'll eagerly show you the mangled and bloodied corpses of hundreds of mormon colonists. It was fascist propaganda. In Marauder, they play it all for silly laughs. Aside from one or two moments of spot-on satire, a lot of it seemed to be handled by people who didn't quite... get it. Clever and perverse propaganda is often reduced to sex jokes or slapstick ridiculousness.  Not to mention the movie's shoehorned and absurd stab at satirizing religion. The entire last act revolves around religion, and frankly... it's awkward and uncomfortable, because clearly, the makers had no idea how to do it properly. The whole point of satirizing something is not to make it look goofy, but to kinda sell it how it is, but showing how inherently silly it is. Like fascism, and propaganda ads. They miss the mark so badly with their take on religion and come off like amateurs fumbling around in Paul Verhoeven's sandbox.

  Marauder is truer to the first movie, and it's not entirely bad! It can be fun at time, no lie. Yet, in it's ambition, it stumbles. Which is unfortunate, because better effects and a stronger third act could've made this movie miles better. It does however mark the return of Johnny Rico, which makes this a must-see for fans, but I don't think anybody else could regret missing this movie. Just play the game, or watch the first movie. Maybe even read the book! Yet there is a certain unmistakable charm to this movie. It's ambition and goals place it head and shoulders above most DTV sequels, it's attempts to remain true to the original place it way above Hero of the Federation, and the return of square-jawed Johnny Rico make it the only true sequel thus far to the sci-fi juggernaut of the late-90's, Starship Troopers. So if you're dying to see a proper... ish (at least, well intentioned) Starship Troopers sequel, and you don't mind some clunky CGI- I suggest you 'Join up now!', 'Do your part!', and watch Starship Troopers 3: Marauder!

Lord knows I've recommended worse movies before...

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