Casper in a GIANT ROBOT SUIT v ANGRY SPACE BUGS!!! Starship Troopers 3: Marauder
There was always inevitably going to be a sequel to Starship Troopers. However, the first attempt at it, Hero of the Federation, was a steaming load of rubbish. So time passed, and the memory of the awesomeness of Starship Troopers began to fade. Yet, people didn’t lose faith, we hoped that one day there would be another stab at Heinlen’s novel and it would contain the big robot suits that everyone familiar with the story always hoped for. Then in 2009 Edward Neumeier, writer of the original, managed to scrape together the cash, offered Casper payment and finally managed to bring Jonny Rico back to the world in his directorial debut for more sharp satire, bug stomping awesomeness and inexplicable random acts of nudity. Starship Troopers 3 can never live up to the original, because that’s inconceivable, but what it does manage to be is a pretty damned entertaining film in its own right.
Set years after the events of Starship Troopers 1, and wisely pretending that Starship Troopers 2 doesn’t exist, Marauder opens with the now trademark internet news feed. While this doesn’t feel anywhere near as fresh as Verhoeven’s original, it does at least introduce us to salient plot points (religion, problems in the colony & the protest movement, and the planet cracking bomb) but more importantly this time out we get the film plays its trump card: the Singing Sky Marshall. Sky Marshall Anoke is the Federation’s biggest celebrity, and despite being a psychic military general is loved by the people. He’s had a string of hits, the best one of which is the stupendous “A good day to die”. He is, actually, a work of absolute genius and almost makes the film worthwhile single-handedly.
Then the film starts properly, Rico is serving in the outer colonies, his best friend Dix Hauser (Boris Kodjoe) and fiancée Lola (Jolene Blalock) turn up with Anoke (Stephen Hogan). Next thing you know, it’s bug central and the outpost is effectively lost. Rico is arrested for treason by Dix (with friends like this) while Lola tries to keep a disparate band of survivors alive on a seemingly deserted planet. Eventually, the truth comes out (I won’t spoil it), and Rico dons GIANT ROBOT ARMOUR to go and kick some bug ass and save Lola from the mega brain bug.
Comparisons with the original are bound to happen here, and it’s obvious that they didn’t have anywhere near a comparative budget. However, necessity is the mother of invention, so we’re introduced to Scorpion bugs that fire blue plasma, and little woodlouse type things that explode. Both of these are clearly cheaper options, but I do miss the giant flying bugs and those big fuckers that fire plasma into space.
Casper, on the other hand, is on great form here. He’s born to play Rico, and this version is a slightly older, wiser, harder man than the naive lad from the original. He’s still clearly in shape, and does still fit the mobile infantry role, but this is a much more one-dimensional character than before. Nevertheless, in a Starship Troopers film, do you honestly want anyone else not called Ironside in exchanges like this one:
Sgt. Kirby: You know what I think, Sir?
Johnny Rico: What’s that, Sergeant?
Sgt. Kirby: I think it’s a good day to die, Sir!
Johnny Rico: Outstanding!
Or uttering ridiculously over the top lines such as “Good. Give us a hand. Pick up that arm and find out who it belongs to.” All his lines are delivered with a knowing twinkle in his eye, and it’s clear that Rico can still cut it as a bug-squashing dude. The rest of the support such as Blalock, Hogan, and Kodjoe are acceptable, and some such as Amanda Donohoe’s Enola Phid are better than this, but there is one character in the film that nearly sinks the whole affair: Marnette Patterson’s Holly Little.
Holly Little is incredibly annoying. She’s caught religion, for some reason, and is shrill, irritating and strident. Every exchange where she witters on about blasphemy is a knife to my soul. This shit, frankly has no business being anywhere near a Starship Troopers film. The other problem is that it’s too heavy handed- and Blalock as the voice of sanity has to point out the inherent contradictions in any organised religion. It quickly becomes tiresome, although Blalock does give it her best. A poor execution of a misguided concept, and not one redeemed by the closing line “Across the federation, federation experts agree that: A: God exists, B: He’s on our side, C: He wants us to win.” Although that isn’t a bad effort.
Nevertheless, Starship Troopers 3 is a good, fun, gung-ho little film. It’s not a patch on the original, but there are more than enough chuckles to be had here. Rico gets some cracking lines, and the final scene with the Marauders contains enough carnage to satisfy even the most critical soul. At the end of the day, this is a decent enough effort at replicating the magic of Verhoeven’s original, and while not entirely successful, I’m never going to throw hate grenades at a film that contains the exchange:
Johnny Rico: Situation, lieutenant.
Link Manion: Totally, ominously fucked up, sir.
There are lots of these exchanges in the film, and Casper seems to fucking love them. Although to be fair, they usually are the best lines around. This kind of testosterone driven machismo is an essential part of the Starship Troopers charm, and I really like that it made it into this film unscathed.
Overall, Starship Troopers 3: Marauder can hold its head up high. It’s a fine effort at continuing the universe that’s loads of laughs, contains loads of ass-kickery and most-importantly, some damned good jokes. I laugh with it with every viewing, and the very concept of the singing Sky Marshall almost made me consider giving it 4 Mobile Infantry Caspers as a matter of general principle. However, it isn’t good enough for that, and the forced religion stuff from Holly is inordinately aggravating, so I’m giving it two and a half MI Caspers out of 4. A very, very good effort to produce big Science Fiction with a tiny budget of only $10m.
Bring on part 4, because for the Mobile Infantry every day is a good day to die.
Now let’s go crack a fucking planet.
See you on the bounce, troopers.