The Starship Troopers Series
Starship Troopers (August 2/08)
Based on the book by Robert A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers likely marks director Paul Verhoeven's most gleefully over-the-top effort to date - as the movie, which is as unapologetically violent as anything within his filmography, boasts a tongue-in-cheek, downright campy sensibility that ultimately pervades every aspect of the proceedings. The film, set hundreds of years from now, follows a group of young people - including Casper Van Dien's Johnny Rico, Denise Richards' Carmen Ibanez, and Dina Meyer's Dizzy Flores - as they enlist in the military and subsequently find themselves caught up in a full-scale war against vicious extra-terrestrial lifeforms. Verhoeven immediately establishes an off-kilter mood by emphasizing the trashy exploits of the central characters, as the trio - essentially developed to the extent of their most outward attributes - must overcome a sordid love triangle that's complicated by Carmen's crush on a superior officer (Patrick Muldoon's Zander Barcalow). Edward Neumeier's teen-drama modus operandi undoubtedly proves effective in infusing Starship Troopers with an almost aggressively pulpy atmosphere, yet - as one has come to anticipate from a Verhoeven vehicle - there's a brutality within the film's various action sequences that certainly jolts the viewer out of their 90210-esque reverie. And while the movie does contain all of the beats and plot twists that generally accompany war-centric endeavors, Verhoeven and Neumeier effortlessly breathe new life into even the most familiar of interludes - with the surprisingly engaging stretch set within a prototypical boot camp certainly the most obvious example of this (something that's due in no small part to Clancy Brown's hilarious turn as the recruits' tough-as-nails drill sergeant). The 129-minute running time proves to be somewhat excessive, however, and there's perhaps more of a lull between the training scenes and the inevitable attack than one might've preferred. Still, Starship Troopers primarily comes off as an engaging and periodically enthralling piece of work that can't help but look a whole lot better when compared to its lackluster sequels.
Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation (August 4/08)
While not even remotely as terrible as some of its direct-to-video sci-fi brethren, Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation nevertheless suffers from an egregiously low-rent vibe that effectively distances it from Paul Verhoeven's comparitively masterful 1997 effort. The movie, presumably in an effort to save cash, transpires primarily within the cramped confines of a grungy outpost, with several soldiers (including Richard Burgi's Dax and Brenda Strong's Rake) forced to contend with an army of determined bugs on the outside as well as an exceedingly sinister threat coming from within. Screenwriter Edward Neumeier, who also penned the original, has infused Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation with the feel of a standard conspiracy thriller, as the progressively derivative bent of Neumeier's script ultimately ensures that the film simply doesn't seem to exist within the same universe as its predecessor. This is despite the fact that the movie's central conceit - the nature of which isn't revealed until around the halfway mark - admittedly does hearken back to the bugs' modus operandi from first Starship Troopers, though one's interest in the increasingly perilous situation eventually evaporates thanks to the distinct lack of compelling characters (ie the paper-thin heroes of part one can't help but look richly fleshed-out by contrast). It consequently seems fairly obvious that the movie is destined to disappoint even most enthusiastic Starship Troopers fan, as the whole thing primarily comes off as an overlong, run-of-the-mill Outer Limits episode that's been peppered with a few familiar references.
Starship Troopers 3: Marauder (August 4/08)
There's little doubt that Starship Troopers 3: Marauder feels more like an organic follow-up to Paul Verhoeven's 1997 sci-fi endeavor than its immediate predecessor, as the movie - though saddled with an all-too-apparent low budget - does attempt to ape the original's expansive sensibilities by focusing on the ongoing war against those nefarious bugs (and, of course, there's the return of Casper Van Dien's Johnny Rico). It does become increasingly clear, however, that the film is on the whole less effective than the far-from-accomplished second installment, with the mind-bogglingly uneven structure proving instrumental in its ultimate downfall. The erratically-plotted storyline - which essentially follows Johnny Rico as he embarks on a campaign to rescue an old friend (Jolene Blalock's Lola Beck) - has been bogged down with a host of needless diversions and supporting characters, and although the movie does kick off with an admittedly effective action sequence, the lack of momentum that's been hard-wired into the proceedings by writer/director Edward Neumeier slowly-but-surely transforms Starship Troopers 3: Marauder into an almost interminable experience. The filmmaker's penchant for including not-so-subtle bits of social satire within these movies reaches a zenith of heavy-handedness here, as Neumeier peppers the film with eye-rollingly overt parallels to such contemporary staples as 9/11 and the Iraq War (this is to say nothing of Neumeier's bizarre religion fixation). By the time the incredibly oddball climax rolls around - in which Neumeier cuts between two characters praying furiously and Johnny Rico fighting off an army of bugs from inside a Robot Jox-inspired automaton - Starship Troopers 3: Marauder has certainly established itself as a misfire of near epic proportions and there's subsequently no shaking the feeling that this series should have ended with the first film.