Tuesday, 3 February 2015

'Starship Troopers 3: Marauder' Review

So with the Federation's war with the Bugs still underway, a new threat appears in the sudden religious conversion of a high level commanding officer. With outspoken religion being against the law within the Federation, is this man merely breaking the law or is their more at stake?

So the universe of the Starship Troopers franchise can be many things it seems. The first film in the series was a satirical action film, the second a bodysnatching horror. With the third film in the series, ‘Starship Troopers 3: Marauder’, the series goes back to its roots of combining action with a social message. Unfortunately this attempt to relive the glory days of the ‘franchise’ is what brings it down as a film.

So the first ‘Starship Troopers’ had a lot of subtle undercurrents to its story. The second film was less subtle but had some deepness at its core. This third film makes a severe attempt to carry a message and seemingly decides to do it out in the open, foregoing any subtlety or subtext in the process. So the message to ‘Starship Troopers 3: Marauder’ is that religion is being used by the Bugs and Federation alike to control their citizens. Now as a concept, working in religion to this universe has a lot of potential, what with the nature of religious war with crusading heroes. As it is, without subtlety we get painfully awkward moments where characters explain the nature of faith to each other, ignoring comically large holes the writer allowed for the audience to laugh at their faith.

Now I’m not a religious man, so I’m not offended by the anti-religious vibes off this film. I am offended however by bad writing. Imagine if the religious conversations/speeches of True Detective were rewritten to remove the intelligence from them, that’s what you get with ‘Starship Troopers 3’. The script is constantly nudging the audience, waiting for a reaction as if it is trying to actively offend.

Starship Troopers without any subtext just comes across as obnoxious. In addition to that it also loses any sense of knowing novelty which holds it together. The universe these movies take place in is dumb, it barely makes sense. However as a parable story of human nature it can exist as an idea, as a concept, without concerning itself with truly making sense.

This damaging lack of subtlety is most evident in the fake news reels which have become a staple of the series. Previous films made an effort to make these news articles seem realistic to the universe, to subtly suggest the problems with the politics of the world which made them. The news reels in ‘Marauder’ literally stop to ask the audience their opinion of the events, asking them if they agree with what is happening. This is particularly terrible as a major plot point of the film is how the public are having their political and religious views suppressed. So to summarise, the Federation have sponsored a news outlet to publicly condemn religion and free expression, while asking the public if they agree with them doing so…

I’d love to say the above problems were the only issues with the script but the entire thing barely holds together, it’s full of plot holes and half developed story strands. I wonder if the script was stitched together, Robotech style, from a variety of different unrelated scripts. The story lacks any real focus, jumping from place to place with no obvious sense of direction. One minute we’re in a gunfight, the next we’re in a secret base looking at experiments. The film seems to run out its time and just end, as if it was a general sightseeing tour of the universe, not a narrative story.

An effort was made to get back Casper Van Dien to reprise his role of Johnny Rico from the first film. I honestly don’t understand why they did this however; considering the character seems to be completely different to the Johnny Rico we left in ‘Starship Troopers’. It’s hardly surprising, considering he seems to be about five different Johnny Rico’s just within this one film. He isn’t the only one to have this issue, as every characters’ motivation and attitude constantly changes for no reason. Well I say no reason but that isn’t true, they change to further the plot.

Technically this film also suffers from a lot of issues. The special effects are noticeably worse than even the effects in ‘Starship Troopers 2’, despite this film having three times the budget to play with. Now I could forgive bad visual effects, after all the sets for this film look quite expensive. I can’t forgive a large number of shots being out of focus however. I was genuinely amazed at how many close up shots of the cast seem to be instead focused on the blank wall behind. To see this type of simple mistake in a film of this scale is really, really bad.

So obviously I didn’t much like ‘Starship Troopers 3: Marauder’. I really don’t understand how the writer of the first two films could write this? I’m genuinely puzzled. The script has some interesting ideas but they are so badly handled. If you really love the universe of ‘Starship Troopers’ and I mean love it unconditionally like a mother, give this a go… That being said I liked ‘Starship Troopers’ enough to watch two straight to video sequels and I didn’t like this film.

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