Starship Troopers 3: Marauder (2008) — Johnny Rico returns

“It’s a good day to FRY!”

Justin’s rating: I’m holding out for a hero ’till the morning light

Justin’s review: I don’t know what I was expecting as I slid Starship Troopers 3: Marauder into my DVD player, but a Jesus flick was probably not forefront in my mind, I’ll admit. This is a series that was founded in fascist satire and Aliens rip-offs, so making the hop, skip, and jump to characters professing Christ as their savior while blowing the heads of giant bugs is a weird progression.

More on that in a bit.

With the lackluster and obviously done-for-a-quick-buck Starship Troopers 2 barely making the case for this series to be a “franchise,” talk buzzed around the past few years of Casper Van Dien putting back on Johnny Rico’s combat boots for a proper sequel to the cult original. There that sequel be, I suppose, although without Paul Verhoeven guiding it or any serious budget, you get what you pay for: ugly CGI, wooden acting, and a serviceable enough way to pass an afternoon.

God bless director Ed Neumeier for trying, at least. He does his darndest to recall the same bloodthirsty tongue in cheek military propaganda from the first film, and has an appropriately grand vision for clashes between the Federation forces and the “bugs.” You quickly sense that his eyes were bigger than his stomach (and budget), as he’s barely able to pull of the mass battles with the same visceral punch of the first Troopers. Ergo, we unfortunately shift the spotlight to the characters and their terrible, horrible, no good, very bad acting. This is “SciFi Movie of the Week” level of bad acting, people, the kind that makes cats hiss and arch up, and babies wail for hours upon end without ceasing.

It’s an unspecified amount of time after Starship Troopers, and Johnny Rico is still gamely leading a platoon of ground troopers – who still have little air support, no tanks, or no armor past a helmet and flimsy breastplate – around to different bug planets in a neverending war of extermination. After a particular bar brawl and subsequent battle goes sour, Rico catches the bad end of a court martial and is sentenced to death.

Happily for him, super-important Sky Marshal crashlands on another bug planet, along with Star Trek Enterprise’s Jolene Blalock (sporting just a shade more emotion than her Vulcan counterpart) and the whiniest, wussiest military folk ever recorded in movie history. Seriously, all they do during their trek to safety is either whine or start singing hymns. When Blalock slaps the whiniest of them all, and he petulantly uses the “B” word in a seven-year-old voice, I couldn’t stop laughing. If this is the future of humanity, I’d rather be a six-legged anything with an exoskeleton.

It’s during this desert hike that religion – both pagan and Christianity – start popping up into conversation over and over again. And it’s… weird. And I’m obviously not one to condemn movies from touching on the Hollywood taboo of religion – it’s embarrassing how far filmmakers go out of their way to avoid getting too specifically religious with any of their characters – but the implementation here is so off that it just boggles the mind.

For starters, I wasn’t ever sure if Starship Troopers 3 was trying to work in religion as an element of satire or not. It seems logical that the series would, and certain scenes would back that up, but most of the rest of any “God talk” is pretty straight-forward, without irony or bite that satire would demand. In the beginning of the film, it’s made clear that the Federation is an atheist government that doesn’t tolerate any religions, but that’s kind of rebuffed by the sheer amount of believers that openly profess their faith in this film. By the end, they’re trying to shoehorn in a point about religion used as propaganda, but it’s too late in the movie to make that anything more than a footnote.

The “weird” really kicks in just listening to any conversation about religion or faith. It’s as if someone had a passing familiarity with Christianity, knew a few of the buzz words, and then pronounced themselves experts and sat down to write a screenplay. Suddenly, you have characters chanting the Lord’s Prayer like a litany, randomly singing hymns, or doing that thing where they talk about their faith with this wide-eyed, sing-songy voice that suggests flower power and free love in the meadows. Nowhere present, of course, is any deeper, thoughtful discussion of God; it’s just all general notions, vague pronouncements and scary voices: “You must belieeeeeeeeve”.

And let’s not forget that all of this takes place in the middle of a fairly shallow scifi shoot-em-up, so I have no clue as to what type of audience they were gunning for here. At least they embraced some familiar clichés, such as when things go belly up, and one of the antagonistic characters shouts at a religious character, “Where’s your God NOW?” Those are fun sorts of folk – I hear they do the same thing in hospitals, too.

I feel a bit bad that Van Dien saw his film career start, blossom and pretty much die with the first movie in this series, to the point where he’s just lapping up the leftovers with gratitude. If nothing else, he got to use powered battle armor, and that’ll be something to show to the grandkids.

Didja notice?

  • That’s a catchy song
  • Gee, think they’re piling on the fascist tones much?
  • You can be shot in the military for asking for an autograph
  • Are they hanging those people with tubing?
  • Wow the military sure likes to talk about love at inopportune times
  • That is one of the fakest-looking planets I’ve ever seen
  • Fire seems to be doing just fine in a vacuum these days, it seems
  • This is the wimpiest military ever
  • The military keeps troopers in line by lightly slapping them across the face
  • It’s not Starship Troopers without a random coed stripping scene.

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