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Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars (2017)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/19/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/29/2017

Horror movies are filled with characters which come back to life. And not just zombies -- killers often come back over and over until someone finally puts them down for good. Similarly, monster movie franchises come back from the dead as well. Even if a movie doesn't perform well at the box office, we can still get direct-to-video sequels which continue the series. And then, there can be a notable gap between these movies. So, even when we think that a series is done, a new movie can suddenly arise from the grave. The last entry in the Starship Troopers series was the 2012 animated film Starship Troopers: Invasion. So, it was easy to assume that the bugs may not be back. But, they've emerged again in Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars.

As we re-enter the Starship Troopers universe, we find that Mars is now an inhabited colony. Johnny Rico (voiced by Casper Van Dien) is still part of the mobile infantry and he's been placed in charge of training a group of soldier who are natives of Mars (Martians?). They are eager to learn, but don't do very well in their simulations. Meanwhile, Sky Marshall Amy Snapp (voiced by Emily Neves) is monitoring Arachnid activity in the galaxy, while Fleet pilot Carmen Ibanez (voiced by Luci Christian) is involved in an assault on an Arachnid planet. Suddenly, Carl (voiced by Justin Doran), Johnny's old psychic friend from Earth, reaches out to Carmen and urges her to head to Mars immediately. You see, Mars has been overrun by bugs and the only soldiers close enough to engage are Johnny's platoon. Can these novice soldiers and their leathery leader save the day?

At first glance, Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars feels like a step back into the Starship Troopers created by Paul Verhoeven with the 1997 film. We get the three original main characters from that film and Van Dien returns as Johnny Rico. The film features the "Do You Want to Know More?" news updates which debuted in the original film. And, of course, we have hordes of Arachnid bugs skittering across the terrain to attack our heroes. In addition, original screenwriter Ed Neumeier is on-board to provide the script here.

But, we don't get much more than that, as Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars is simply too lightweight for its own good. We meet Johnny's troops, we're re-introduced to Carmen and Carl, and then there's lot of similar shots on Mars. That's about it. When the "twist" which is reference in the film's title arrives, you will assume that another twist will come along later, but, nope, that's it. The film's trailer introduced the idea that Dizzy, another main character from the original film, returns here, but that turns out to be a disappointment as well.

So, where is the disconnect? That's hard to say. This is a U.S.-Japanese co-production, with Neumeier contributing the script and American voice actors, combined with a Japanese CG production. The animation ranges from very nicely done to lacking in detail. The soldiers wear battle armor which not only makes them look like characters from Halo, but also allows the animators to simply have helmets on the characters, as opposed to the need to create elaborate facial animation. (We do get occasional shots on their faces inside their helmets.) The Arachnids look good, and the finale presents some good action, but it's too little too late.

I'm squarely in the camp of those who love Verhoeven's Starship Troopers. The movie is a unique hybrid of action, humor, and very, very sly political commentary. The subsequent entries have focused more on the action, leaving the other things behind. Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars does work in a nice touch concerning politicians and their approval ratings, but, otherwise, we get a fairly bland action movie which is little more than a love letter to the original film.

Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars could have used a little bit of the NPH on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good, and the image is never overly dark or bright -- although, we get many muted tone on Mars. The level of detail is good, but this reveals how limited the animation is at times. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.8 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The action sequences deliver strong subwoofer effects which emphasize the explosions. The stereo and surround effects are strong, bringing us detailed audio.

The Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars Blu-ray Disc contains a handful of extra features. "Traitor of Mars: A Look Inside" (16 minutes) has Director Shinji Aramaki and his staff discussing the look of the film and the story, focusing on the visual effects and creature designs, as well as the characters. "20 Years and Counting" (6 minutes) has Van Dien and Screenwriter Ed Neumeier discussing the history of the franchise through the sequels and spinoffs. "Continuing the Universe" (4 minutes) offers Neumeier a chance to talk about his views on the source novel and his approach towards the Starship Troopers world. "Traitor of Mars" (7 minutes) has Van Dien and Neumeier rejoined to talk about the new film and how it develops the story. The Disc contains one DELETED SCENE which runs about 1 minute and is presented as an animatic. The final extra is a GALLERY of images.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long