The Bugs are back, and, in the surprisingly fun and fast-paced “Starship Troopers – Marauder”, they’ve reinforcements, as well as a host of all-new critters hell bent on wiping out the human race.
Casper Van Dien returns as Jonny Rico, leader of that bunch of cannon fodder known as the Mobile Infantry, and charged with defending an outpost on a far flung farming colony. During a visit from Federation leader/uber-celebrity, Sky Marshall Anoke (Stephen Hogan), the outpost is attacked, and, while Rico and his men try to repel the Bugs, Lola Beck (the yummylicious Jolene Blalock) attempts to get the Sky Marshall to safety. When her ship is shot down, however, she, Anoke, and a small band of survivors find themselves stranded on a remote bug planet, and, for some mysterious reason, the Federation seems to want to keep it that way. Beck’s boyfriend (and Anoke aid), Dix Hauser (Boris Kodjoe) decides to launch his own secret rescue, involving Rico, some hand-picked grunts, and a whole bunch o’ stuff that goes boom.
While it’s obviously working with a fraction of the budget of the original film, Starship Troopers: Marauder still manages to capture a lot of the spirit and wickedly dark humor of Paul Verhoeven’s classic. Filled with great gross-out effects, competent CGI work, and a genuinely engaging plot, writer/director Edward Neumeier’s (who also scripted the original) steers the franchise back into the absurdist sci-fi territory of the first film, replete with the hilarious “Do You Want to Learn More?” public service announcements, sly political commentary, as well as a healthy dose of sex appeal and pointless nudity. Verhoeven would be proud.
I had a blast with Marauder, but I’ll be the first to admit that it’s got its share of flaws. I’d normally complain about stuff like the bad dialogue or wooden acting, but, given that this is a Starship Troopers movie, that’d be akin to complaining about the lack of health food choices in a barbecue joint – you know what to expect going in, and you wouldn’t have it any other way. As for the stuff we expect to be good in a Starship Troopers movie - the special effects and blood - for the most part, it's actually pretty solid, but some of the CGI sequences come off as a little too animated, especially the titular Maruaders (big walking suits of armor) featured in the climactic showdown. I was also a bit surprised that Neuemeier didn’t really push the envelope with the violence, here,considering that Marauder is a direct-to-DVD flick. While it’s certainly got its share of gruesome moments, this film is actually a little less bloody than the original.
Come to think of it, those are some really small gripes for a movie I really didn't expect to like at all, let alone enjoy as much as I did.
Starship Troopers: Marauder comes to Blu-ray with a very nice 1.85:1 transfer that, much like the film itself, surpassed my expectations. I found the picture very sharp and defined, with crisp lines, wonderfully vibrant colors, and rich, deep blacks. There’s some stylistic grain present (perhaps to give Marauder more of a “film” look), but it’s never a distraction.
The TrueHD 5.1 audio is a bit of a mixed bag, however, as things sound a little undermixed. While the dialogue is crisp and clear and the familiar score sounds fin, action scenes sounded a bit underwhelming, with muddied explosions and somewhat brittle gunfire. It’s not a bad mix, but it’s not terribly impressive, either, especially given the quality of the video transfer.
Sony loads up Marauder with a bevy of HD extras, including a pair of commentary tracks – one featuring director Neumeier, Van Dien, and Blaclock, and another, more technical commentary featuring Neumeier, producer David Lancaster, and FX dude, Robert Skotak. Two short making-of featurettes – “Evolution” and “Enlist” – skim the surface of the film’s production, but that’s balanced out by the more comprehensive “Marauder Mode” option, which is a PiP mode that offers all sorts of behind-the-scenes tidbits whilst viewing the film. There’s also a “Put Yourself in the Film” feature that allows you to upload your photo and apparently have your mug plastered on some random grunt, but I didn’t try it as I’m far too lazy to take a picture of myself. A music video (a rather silly song “sung” by Sky Marshall Anoke) and HD trailers for other Sony releases round out the supplemental goodness.
Judging by most of the scathing reviews I’ve read for Starship Troopers: Marauder, I’m apparently one of the few “critics” that enjoyed the film, but, for the most part, it seems that most of those who gave the movie bad marks were somehow expecting a low-budget, direct-to-video sequel to a classically silly sci-fi movie to be something more than…well…a low-budget, direct-to-video sequel to a classically silly sci-fi flick. Marauder is a campy, violent, and irredeemably stupid movie, but that’s precisely what the original film is, and that’s what makes this series so much fun. If you, like me, found the goofball performances, stilted macho dialogue, and over-the-top violence of Starship Troopers strangely endearing and entertaining, Marauder offers much of the same, but on an admittedly smaller scale.