Die-hard fans of “Starship Troopers,” Paul Verhoeven’s notorious 1997 cult-fave sci-fi spectacle, will be pleased to note that its second made-for-vid sequel gamely attempts to replicate the original pic’s over-the-top style and self-satirical tone. Unlike 2004’s negligible “Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation,” a relatively straightforward actioner, the latest episode reprises Verhoeven’s love-it-or-hate-it mix of gruesome mayhem, overstated melodrama, peek-a-boo nudity and tongue-in-cheek fascist aesthetics. For that reason alone, “Starship Troopers 3: Marauder” likely will generate greater sales and rentals than its immediate predecessor. Improved production values certainly won’t hurt its prospects.
Genre specialist Ed Neumeier, scripter of first two “Starship Troopers” adventures, makes his directorial debut this time out, working from his own scenario about the ongoing conflict between human soldiers and humongous arachnids. Early on, Neumeier indicates just how seriously viewers should take the vidpic: Omar Anoke (Stephen Hogan), the heroic sky marshal in charge of battling the big bugs, is a charismatic celebrity and chart-topping singer whose onstage movements and militaristic song list suggest Adolf Hitler as an “American Idol” contestant.
Casper Van Dien, star of the first pic, returns as Johnny Rico, a gung-ho warrior who’s reintroduced in his new job as commander of military forces on a farming-colony planet. Unfortunately, when his outpost is overrun by hordes of mammoth, man-eating insects, Rico is blamed and receives a death sentence at his court-martial.
But he’s allowed to cheat the hangman, literally, when fellow officer and estranged friend Dix Hauzer (Boris Kodjoe) drafts him for a rescue mission to a distant planet, where Anoke and a few other survivors — including Capt. Lola Beck (Jolene Blalock, sporting Angelina Jolie-size lips), Hauzer’s main squeeze and Rico’s former flame — have been stranded after a spacecraft crash. You don’t need to be told that there are a lot of big bugs on this planet, do you?
Like most other makers of vidpic sequels, Neumeier ingeniously balances the need to cut corners with the need to recapture at least some of what made the original feature distinctive. “Starship Troopers” is, as even its admirers must admit, very much an acquired taste. But “Marauder” does manage to convey at least some of its flavor, albeit watered down.
New pic adds a sprinkling of seriocomic religious allusions to the original goulash served by Verhoeven (who’s credited as a “presenter” of the vidpic). Also conspicuous are bits of throwaway dialogue that heavy-handedly reference post-9/11 paranoia. Performances are deliberately broad across the board.