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Starship Troopers 3: Marauder (2008)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 8/5/2008

All Ratings out of
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/4/2008

While film fans often get excited about sequels, actors and filmmakers apparently don't. When speaking of sequels, we've heard directors say, "I've already made that movie." and actors often imply that follow-ups are beneath. Thus, it's reassuring when someone, either in front of or behind the camera, is involved in a sequel. A familiar face or name guarantees some sort of satisfaction, right? Starship Troopers 3: Marauder quickly disproved that theory.

Starship Troopers 3: Marauder takes place about 8 years after Starship Troopers. (The movie ignores Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation, as far as I can tell.) Apparently, following the conclusion of Starship Troopers, the humans scored a major victory against the Arachnids from Klandathu, as the opening of this new film informs us that we are in the middle of "Bug War 2". As the story opens, Colonel Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien) is overseeing a command post on a distant planet, where the Bugs patrol the electric barricades, attempting to gain entry. Rico is pleased with Sky Marshall Anoke (Stephan Hogan), the leader of the Federation, pays a visit to the outpost, accompanied by Johnny's old friends, Dix Hauser (Boris Kodjoe) and Lola Beck (Jolene Blalock). However, things soon turn sour when the Bugs overrun the facility. Beck is able to get the Sky Marshall back to his ship, but it is shot down not long after take off. It is now up to Rico and Hauser to rescue the survivors, as the absence of the Sky Marshall could lead to rebellion and a breakdown of the Federation.

If you've seen Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers, then you know that the movie is a mixture of sci-fi action and political messages (most of which are concerned with fascism and Nazis.) Ed Neumeier, who wrote the screenplays for the first and second films in this series, takes the reins as both writer and director for Starship Troopers 3: Marauder. With this film, he could have made a straight ahead sci-fi monster movie, or he could have made a message film. Instead, he decided to go the route of Starship Troopers and combine the two. Unfortunately, neither really works.

Working with a reported budget of $20 million, Neumeier has put an admirable amount of Bug action into the film. The movie contains a few dialogue-heavy scenes, but the viewer usually doesn't have to wait very long for the Arachnids to arrive and wreak havoc. And this movie introduces us to several new kinds of bugs. The special effects, while not at the level of the first film (which, 11 years later, are still pretty seamless), aren't bad and even when the Bugs are clearly CGI, they never have a plastic or totally fake look. However, these action scenes still have a very static and stale feel to them. The firefights between the humans and the Bugs look just like the ones from the first film. The finale does offer a new kind of weapon, but it feels like a homage to a sub-genre of Japanese animation. Overall, the movie has an odd sense of pacing with the editing, and the action never flows properly. Each shot seems to begin a beat before the action, making everything feel very choppy.

While these attempts at thrills didn't always work, at least I knew where Neumeier wanted to go with them. That's not the case with the film's political themes. Sky Marshall Anoke is a psychic who is also a singer (he has a hit song and music video). Later in the film, we learn that he's quite religious. At first, I thought that was a slight at George W. Bush, but I'm not sure. (Yes, I realize that Bush is neither psychic nor a singer.) Anoke's religious viewpoints are never portrayed as clear-cut fanaticism. In fact, he persuades other characters to become religious. Is the film lampooning leaders who use religion as a weapon, or is it truly pro-religious? It's never clear, and the religious angle really bogs down the second half of the film.

Starship Troopers is one of my favorite science-fiction films, and while I feel that it works fine on its own, I wouldn't mind seeing a sequel which truly did that film justice. Unfortunately, Starship Troopers 3: Marauder isn't it. It's great to have Casper Van Dien on board as Johnny Rico and the movie attempts to give us lots of Bug action, but the story is very convoluted and it wants to throw too many political ideas at us. Oddly, the animated Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers Chronicles has been the best Starship Troopers sequel thus far.

Starship Troopers 3: Marauder wants to know more on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. For the most part, the image is sharp and clear, showing no defects from the source material. However, at times, the picture is noticeably grainy and shimmery, and it reminded me of the awful transfer on the Ocean's 13 Blu-ray Disc. On a positive note, the colors are good and the image is neither too dark or too bright. The desert landscape scenes show a nice amount of depth. The Disc has a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.7 Mbps. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Unlike the video portion, you won't find any major problems here. The stereo effects are detailed and impressive, especially during the opening fight scene, where we hear the Bugs coming in all directions. The surround effects are good as well, as the passing starships or roaming Bugs move from the front to rear speakers. The explosions get good representation from the subwoofer.

The Starship Troopers 3: Marauder Blu-ray Disc contains a swarm of extras. The film can be viewed in "Marauder Mode", which offers Picture-in-Picture behind-the-scenes footage, interviews, and factoids. The Disc contains two AUDIO COMMENTARIES. The first features Writer/Director Ed Neumeier, visual effects supervisor Robert Skotak, and Producer David Lancaster. The second one offers Neumeier along with actors Casper Van Dien and Jolene Blalock. "Evolution: The Bugs of Starship Troopers 3: Marauder" (12 minutes) contains interviews with the visual effects artists and the creature effects artists who discuss the look and ceation of the film's monsters. Unlike most featurettes, we don't get many clips here, but instead it's made up mostly of behind-the-scenes footage. "Enlist: Marauder's Mobile Infantry" (14 minutes) is more of a straight-forward making-of featurette which offers comments from the cast and filmmakers, who discuss the characters, the look of the film, the weapons, and the stunts. The final extra is the full Music Video for the film's song "It's a Good Day to Die".

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long