NON SPOILER REVIEW OF "STARSHIP TROOPERS 3: MARAUDER”
by STARSHIP TROOPERS 3.NET’S CREATOR ARKADIUSZ GRZEGORZAK
It was a Herculean task to make STARSHIP TROOPERS 3: MARAUDER – both technically and artistically. This film is a direct follow up to the best Paul Verhoeven’s movie – the classic science fiction/political satire from 1997. Verhoeven’s masterpiece, hugely misunderstand at first (especially in the US), now is a cult classic loved and praised by the science fiction fans and the most famous critics all around the world. The film was a breakthrough in a visual effects evolution and the successful attempt to mix high octane sci-fi action with some deeper thoughts and social commentary.
Eight years after that movie the sequel was made. It was a decent low budget flick, but the reactions from fans were mixed. Some of them loved it, some of them felt cheated because it was totally different in tone and scope than the original. STARSHIP TROOPERS 2: HERO OF THE FEDERATION was a one-location-100%-shot-at-night film. It’s an interesting allegory about “the bug” who get’s “inside” every soldier after he/she spends too much time in a warzone. It had cool scares and tip top CGI effects. On the downside the show was “a prisoner” of its no money budget. Also it was done in a clever, but – at the same time - a bit preservative manner. I mean your work as a filmmaker is a lot easier when you’ve “designed” your movie to take place entirely in one location (=soundstage).
The STARSHIP TROOPERS 3: MARAUDER makers decided to take a huge risk and go for the bigger – multi layer, grand scale film again. Many shooting locations, space sequences, various storylines, here we go. You can see how high the risk was when you learn that TROOPERS 3 was made for a tiny fraction of what the first film’s budget was. There’s a trap on the artistic side too: Wasn’t the first STARSHIP TROOPERS a whole and complete story about a naïve boy who becomes “fresh meat for the grinder” and ends up as mindless piece in a war machine? "They'll keep fighting... and they'll win." – the closing caption of ST looked like a joke on the sequel that’s not supposed to happen…Think about it...How can you continue it in a worthy and creative way? Sir, it’s a tough mission, sir...All in all STARSHIP TROOPERS 3: MARAUDER was a dangerous and risky project to make.
Having said that I’m even more happy to report that the team led by writer/director Ed Neumeier succeeded in both artistic and technical areas!
Right from the start of the film we know that we are really back in the universe from the first ST. No one else can write ST-verse like Neumeier. It’s a shiny but a rotten world, with many tongue-in-cheek moments. You’ll have to see MARAUDER a few good times to catch it all (for instance look at the titles in FedNets). Again Neumeier goes back to the social satire and a commentary on the “here and now" situations (War in Iraq, Bushism and anti-Bushism). The huge surprise here is...this movie is much more positive and strong on belief in the human race than the original one. Yes, at the first sight everything looks bad. The world of the future is insane and religion movements disturbingly fit like a glove to it. Activists are converted by propaganda to terrorists. Everyone who doesn't agree with the "Federation" is as bad as The Bug! But there's still a hope: many people - like Johnny or Lt. Lam can't be break by The Global Brain-Washing Machine. Thanks to people like them, humanity has a chance of not becoming a swarm of bugs after all.
The story goes two ways. The main storylines are that of Johnny Rico/Dix Hauser and the tale of the people lost on a distant planet, with Lola Beck/Sky Marshall Anoke being the leads. Both of these tales are interesting and surprising ones. They are the settings for the larger issues – especially religion and various takes on it. This is always a great subject for the characters to explore. First of all we find out that Johnny Rico somehow kept his sanity in the long years of war and developed a lot of heart. Last time we saw him, he was “a part of the grinder”. Now he’s a soldier with soul, a soldier who can’t obey orders if they are not right or just. When I did the interview with Casper he said “Johnny is now a true warrior .” CVD skillfully shows that aspect in the movie. Van Dien is Johnny Rico and he owns the film. This performance alone makes the movie a must see. Dix Hauser (Boris Kodjoe) is by the book guy who learns that the mind is like a parachute and works well only if it’s open. Good piece of acting by Kodjoe.
Now on to the actors of the second story. Jolene Blalock creates a very feminine, sexy and strong character of Lola Beck. Lola Beck rules! She’s cool, she has commanding skills, she’s every troopers wet dream. This role is yet another example of the fact that Blalock is a “acting-chameleon” and can play totally different roles (BTW I really recommend her roles in “Slow Burn” and “Shadow Puppets” ). She is an actress with a very wide range of acting skill. When you see Jolene you can be so blinded by her beauty that you may not notice how talented an actress she is. Luckily in TROOPERS 3 Jolene has a chance to play some really dramatic scenes. She has great chemistry with her partners especially with Dr. Wiggs (solid Danny Keogh) Bull (Stelio Savante in a top form), and Holly (the lovely Marnette Patterson).
The little older, wiser generation is represent by two talented people: Amanda Donohoe and Stephen Hogan. I personally remember Donahoe for her role in “The Lair of the White Worm”. It still is one of my fav movies. I’m sorry I couldn’t get an interview with Miss Donahoe for our site, because her role in ST3 is a pure gold! Maybe next time... Very talented English actor Stephen Hogan has a giant screen charisma and watching him on the screen is an absolute delight. He steals every scene he’s in. All other actors make their characters memorable... from Cecile Breccia (Hi Cecile! You made Link Mannion both super sexy and tough, and the French accent was such a turn on ;-) , Jon Falkow (a funny guy) to Joe Vaz as “Peace Terrorist” Elmo Goniff. The casting is tip top.
The thing that was brought up on a lot of discussions are the effects in the movie. The question was always the same: With the a lot lower budget how can you compete with still state of the art/ageless visuals from Tippett Studio? It’s a mission impossible, isn’t it? Well, the answer is yes and no. I have to say these effects are very good especially if you think they are in the movie with a budget of 1/8 of the typical big summer blockbuster. There are more than 400 visual and special effects in this movie, they are wonderfully diverse and not a repetition by any means of the “movie magic” from the previous films. Generally speaking visual effects are often very trashy/plastic/unrealistic these days. Just look at INDIANA JONES 4’ chase in the jungle sequence which looks totally fake (and I’ve heard this scene alone cost about 25 million - more than the whole budget of TROOPERS 3!). Excuse me, but is it a movie or PS3 game?
In STARSHIP TROOPERS 3: MARAUDER there is the ambitious amalgamation of wonderful miniature effects (The Scorpion Bug is amazing), CGIs and practical on-set effects. Sometimes it works remarkably, sometimes a bit less remarkably, but there are some amazing “instant classic” scenes (battle on Roku San, space sequences, Le Grande Finale, new Fed Nets etc…). Great work from the team lead by Robert Skotak. He did the impossible! Also the thing I need to mention is that many visuals were improved since the early versions/trailer like The Bombardier Bug, The Sanctuary Station etc. It’s totally uncommon in a land of dtv sequels.
Mr Skotak, I salute you!
Speaking as big fan of the original film and someone who invest a lot of heart and time for this franchise (I’m the creator of STARSHIP TROOPERS 3.NET) I can honestly say that STARSHIP TROOPERS 3: MARAUDER is a worthy sequel to the Paul Verhoeven’s masterpiece. It has everything you’ve been counting for and more. Of course it’s not a 100 million dollars follow up that some of us have dreamed of, but it’s great anyway. The budget limitations didn’t break the magic of ST.
But the most important thing is: By this film Ed Neumeier proved that there is still a lot of life in the STARSHIP TROOPERS universe, that this world is still as fascinating as eleven years ago and still can be a great allegory to the current political situation. There is a lot more to explore in ST-verse. Let’s hope for more TROOPERS stories (the fourth movie, the tv series) in the future! Of course with Ed, Casper, Jolene and the rest of the gang on board!