Starship Troopers has proved itself as a cult classic, holding its own since the release of the film in 1997. Many different ideas in one, Troopers was a parody of the government, a look at the horror of war, and a giant bug movie all in one. The sequel abandons almost everything that was well done by the first film and first-time director Phil Tippett knows it.
Picking up five years after the initial battle, Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation has a group of soldiers in dismay, surrounded by the “Bugs,” a race of killer arachnids set on destroying mankind. Overwhelmed by the beasts, the band of soldiers retreat to an abandoned tower to try and stay alive long enough to be rescued. Little do they know that the real threat is actually amongst them.
Starship Troopers 2 biggest problem is its budget. The sets are clouded by a thick fog, look cheap, and are all obviously on a sound stage. The actual bug effects are on par with the first film, but they only make an appearance a few times in the movie. The script gives the creatures and entirely new place to live which borrows the same idea created years ago by writers of Alien (with a hint of Species). Don’t worry, I didn’t spoil anything. You can see the “twist” coming very early on. No one will go into this movie wanting to see humans fighting humans. They want the Bugs. They won’t get that here.
Everything starts off promising enough with the great over the top video montages encouraging people to join the army that were so much fun in the original. For the first twenty minutes you get a ton of action too. The few battle scenes are great, almost exactly like the original except these are just shrouded in darkness. Then everything dies down to a snail pace. The Bugs are much weaker this time out, taking a few shots before they go down unlike the indestructible monsters of the first film. The guns have also changed to some sort of plasma rifle and no explanation is given. The gore effects are back in full force as is the gratuitous nudity.
The real way to tell if a B-movie is good is to imagine it with a bigger budget. If the effects (or even the sets) were better here, it would make no difference. It’s dull, boring, and just plain awful. It has no connection with the original, nor does it try to. The only highlights are the catchy theme song, a few of the performances, and outrageous gore effects. Even if youíre a die-hard fan of the original, you will find little of interest here. (* out of *****)
Starship Troopers 2 is available only in widescreen, roughly 1.78:1 anamorphic. The film was shot using Sony High-Definition cameras. In theory, this one should look flawless. This is hardly the case. The opening moments exhibit so much grain, it looks like your trying to watch a local TV channel with a rabbit-ear antenna during a thunderstorm. Later scenes are only marginally better, still showcasing far too many video problems to make it worthwhile. Oddly, the ending scene, which takes place in broad daylight, is stunning with no problems at all. Sadly, it barely lasts 5 minutes. (**)
Thankfully, the sound presentation picks everything up a notch, available in DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, and Dolby 2.0. The DTS track here is just stunning. It’s loud, it will rattle your room, and the surround effects will likely scare you on a few occasions. There are even non-battle scenes that sound great with voices moving throughout the sound field. The standard 5.1 track lacks the major bass of the DTS selection, but every speaker will still get a workout. In all actuality, this one probably sounds better than the special edition 2-disc set of the original film. (****)
As with any normal straight-to-video movie, this one doesn’t have a lot of features but what’s here is actually interesting. First up is a commentary track with Jon Davidson, Ed Numeier, and Phil Tippett himself. Tippett is very outspoken about how the studio handled the film. His lack of time and budget really seemed to set him off and you’ll certainly hear about it during this feature. Ed Numeier still, even though it’s just a bad B-movie, tries to make this one out to a stand-in for the Korean War. Sorry, but that just doesn’t work here.
Next is a half-hour featurette, presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, on the making of the movie. Even here, Tippett gets in a few words about how little time he had (26 days of shooting to be exact). The rest of the feature is general stuff with the actors praising each other and the staff. There are some small segments on the special effects as well.
“Green screen to silver screen” is an oddly titled feature (the film was never in theaters for good reason) that looks at three of the special effect sequences from concept to completion. Eric Levin, the visual effects supervisor, narrates over the footage. Finally you can look at some still photos, view various trailers, and check out the PC video game with a DVD-ROM weblink. (***)
This movie never should have been made. The meager budget (rumored to be around $6 million) is not enough for a movie like this. Even worse, you give a low budget movie like this to an excellent Academy Award winning special effects designer to direct (his first time ever behind the camera) and ruin his reputation in the process. If you simply have to see this one, check it out on cable where it premiered.
Originally posted at Breaking Windows.