Sometimes you wonder why studios make sequels when there seems to be no reason and certainly no creative impetus to do so. Take “Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation”, a movie where the title probably took longer to come up with than the actual script. Even though the screenplay was written by Edward Neumeier, who not only wrote “Robocop” but also the original “Starship Troopers”, there’s almost no redeeming value to “Starship Troopers 2” at all. The closest I can come up with is Richard Burgi, who makes a very convincing infantry trooper, not to mention one hell of a charming anti-hero.
This straight-to-video sequel takes us back to the ongoing human war with the bugs, essentially arachnids that use vast numbers to overwhelm their opponents. The film opens with the same satirical “Mobile Infantry” propaganda ads that Paul Verhoeven (the director of the original) used to great effect. Here, the sequence loses its creativity, even when we dissolve to the actual combat field that proves the propaganda to be the lies they are. In battle, we meet a unit of troopers being mowed down at night on a barren desert planet. Apparently they thought it was a better idea to come down and fight the bugs instead of nuking the critters from orbit. Go figure.
In any case, our troopers are soon overrun, and must seek shelter in an abandoned outpost. Led by good ol boy General Shepherd (Ed Lauter), the troopers stumble on Captain Dax (Richard Burgi), who was imprisoned inside the outpost for killing his commanding office. But when the bugs attack, Dax is released by Private Sahara (Colleen Porch), a half-psychic, to save the day. He does, but that’s only the beginning of their problem. You see, three mysterious troopers have joined Shepherd’s ranks, and these three have their own agendas that involve bugs, humans, and lots of sex.
But don’t be fooled, because the film, coming and going at a brisk 80 minutes, really insinuates more than it actually shows. Like the recent “Battlestar Galactica” relaunch, the military folks here seem to have very little understanding of military protocol, as everyone seems to be constantly getting it on. Or if they’re not, they’re talking about it. Adding to this overtly sexual vibe is that the bugs have a new weapon that requires them to, literally, “suck face” with their victims. This means two of the three new arrivals (one of whom is a hot to trot blonde) starts making out with everyone in sight.
There are three big problems with “Starship Troopers 2”. One) the movie has almost no budget to speak off, which may explain why most of the film takes place at night, or in dark corridors. The movie opens on some random hill, and then moves to the outpost, where the rest of the film plays out. Two) the acting is atrocious. Except for Burgi and, to some extent Porch, almost every member of the cast are borderline amateurish. Of course the script by Neumeier doesn’t do them any favors, which leads us to… Three) Neumeier’s script is awful. The movie is predictable, the characters clich’d, and the sequence of events uninventive.
To be honest I can’t understand why “Starship Troopers 2” was even made in the first place. It’s just not a very good movie, with some truly bad acting by almost the entire cast. Not only is the script redundant and silly, but for some reason every single line of dialogue has the word “trooper” or “soldier” (or a combination of the two) in them. Look, I understand these are military types, but do soldiers really call each other “soldier” and “trooper” in every single sentence? What passes for dialogue here is pitiful.
Although the main villains are the bugs, you see very little of them in action — or at least, action that’s comprehensible. Then again, considering that the original, with its big Hollywood budget, had pretty much destroyed any entertainment value of watching bugs being shredded by rifle fire, I suppose seeing more of this isn’t really necessary. And if I’m not mistaken, I’m almost certain they reused a lot of the CGI shots of human-bug battles from the original, because a lot of the scenes here were awfully familiar, even if they tried to hide the whole thing with different angles and darkness. The only real originality is that instead of relying on the same brood of warrior arachnids, the bugs have invented a new weapon ala “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”.
What really seals the fate of the movie are the abysmal script, poor characters, and an inability by first-time director Phil Tippett to get any decent performances out of his cast. As mentioned, the only good performance is by Richard Burgi, who carries this weak and unnecessary film on his strong shoulders like a champ. If not for Burgi, the whole thing would get no more than 1 star from this terribly disappointed reviewer.
Phil Tippett (director) / Edward Neumeier (screenplay)
CAST: Colleen Porch …. Pvt. Lei Sahara
Ed Lauter …. Gen. J. Shepherd
Lawrence Monoson …. Lt. Pavlov Dill
Brenda Strong …. Sgt. Dede Rake
Richard Burgi …. Captain Dax
Kelly Carlson …. Pvt. Charlie Soda