Starship Troopers 3: Marauder
- Street Date:
- August 5th, 2008
- Reviewed by:
- Joshua Zyber
- Review Date: 1
- July 31st, 2008
- Movie Release Year:
- Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
- 105 Minutes
- MPAA Rating:
- Release Country
- United States
The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
"Would you like to buy more?"
Paul Verhoeven's misunderstood sci-fi satire 'Starship Troopers' may have bombed at the box office back in 1997, but it proved very popular on home video. Eventually, Sony Pictures decided to cash in on its fan base by producing cheapie direct-to-video sequels. Almost none of the original cast returned for 'Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation', except supporting actress Brenda Strong, who was playing a completely different character than she had in the first film (in which she was killed off). The movie had bad production values and a dumb script with an inconsequential story. Even the biggest 'Starship Troopers' fans consider it a joke. Nevertheless, it must have made some sort of profit, because here we have 'Starship Troopers 3: Marauder'.
I doubt anyone had high expectations for 'Marauder', and yet the trailer was somehow kind of promising. It certainly didn't look good by any means, but it appeared to offer some campy B-movie fun, with a return of the satirical FedNet broadcasts and master thespian Casper Van Dien reprising his signature role as Johnny Rico. Ed Neumeier, screenwriter of 'RoboCop' and the original 'Starship Troopers' (as well as 'Hero of the Federation', admittedly) makes his directorial debut with the picture, which is better budgeted than the second but still quite a cheapjack production.
The story, such as it is, finds Rico now a colonel in charge of defending a remote farming colony from nasty insect invaders. A surprise visit from the new Sky Marshall, a psychic with a sideline career as the galaxy's biggest pop star (yeah, really, this is the plot) ends in disaster when the command compound's defenses are mysteriously shut down and Bugs overrun the place. The Sky Marshall and a small crew (including one of Rico's ex-girlfriends, played by Jolene Blalock, the sexy Vulcan from 'Star Trek: Enterprise') manage to escape, only to crash land on a deserted planet deep in Bug territory. The government administration knows where their leader is stranded, but decides to cover up his disappearance by staging a fake assassination attempt blamed on anti-war protestors. Rico also survives and is set up as a fall guy, court-martialed for incompetence and sedition. His only chance at redemption is to join the top-secret Marauder project and lead an expedition to rescue the Sky Marshall as well as his former flame.
Let's be blunt about this: 'Starship Troopers 3: Marauder' is an awful, awful movie in every respect. The script is just atrocious, loaded with terrible dialogue performed by some of the worst actors ever to stand in front of a camera. It's populated by annoying characters you can't wait to see killed, especially the dopey ship's cook, the bimbo flight attendant, and the star-struck Lieutenant with an impenetrable accent. Yes, I understand that many of these were meant to be winking riffs on old genre movie clichés, but that doesn't make the way they're played out any more tolerable. Van Dien looks a little worse for wear a decade later, and for some reason has decided to play the entire movie doing a bad John Wayne impersonation. Presumably cast as eye candy, Blalock's surgerized face and collagen-inflated lips are often scarier to look at than the Bugs. The cheap visual effects and gore are laughable at their best. Neumeier tries to bring the mechanical power armor suits from Robert Heinlein's book in for a five-minute appearance near the end, and quite frankly they're even less photorealistic than the 'Starship Troopers: Roughnecks' cartoon series. All this combined with slack pacing makes the whole thing tedious to watch.
A misjudged subplot about religion is both dumb and insulting. Worse, all of the sequel's attempts to rekindle the first movie's political satire fall flat. The Fascist government is now more overtly Republican, abusing its political power to censor free speech and imprison dissenters in a controversial detention center called "Alamo Bay". Because "Alamo" sounds kind of like "Guantanamo," get it? The Fox News-like media propaganda network makes repeated references to the "Arachnid Conflict". Because "Arachnid" sounds kind of like "Iraq," get it? Yes, these bad puns are about as clever as it gets.
Even taken as pure camp, 'Starship Troopers 3: Marauder' fails horribly. It's too stupid, dull, badly made, and not fun at all. I wasn't expecting much from a low-budget direct-to-video sequel, and I got even less than I hoped for.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Starship Troopers 3: Marauder' premieres as a direct-to-video release on both DVD and Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The Blu-ray can be purchased either on its own or as part of a 'Starship Troopers Trilogy' box set. The disc is Java-enabled and slow to load in a standalone Blu-ray player (though not as slow as the first 'Starship Troopers'). Annoying promos and trailers automatically play before the main menu, which is designed with confusing selection highlights and is filled with plot spoilers.
While Java discs do not allow a Resume-Play option if you should stop playback, a bookmarking feature is available to compensate.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
I'm going to give 'Marauder' a high video score, but please keep in mind that this is based on objective technical aspects of picture quality. The movie itself looks extremely cheap, with overly shadowy lighting designed to hide the bad sets and visual effects. With that in mind, the Blu-ray's 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer is very sharp and detailed. Some of the close-ups reveal stubble, sandpaper complexion, and Botox injection marks that the actors probably aren't happy that viewers can see so clearly. No digital compression or edge ringing artifacts caught my attention. Colors are strong, and the contrast range has excellent shadow detail and a nice sense of depth.
There's a fair bit of grain in the photography, but it's well rendered and gives the movie an appropriately gritty texture without looking electronic or noisy.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
The lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack is a bit more difficult to judge. I'm sure the Blu-ray encoding is perfectly faithful to the master, but the movie's mix has some serious issues. On the one hand, it's loud and aggressive, with plenty of surround activity and rumbly bass. On the other hand, the bass is very boomy, without much mid-range. Gunfire sounds pretty wimpy, and the big action scenes tend to collapse into an indistinct mass of noise.
No doubt due to problems with the production recording and no budget to fix them in ADR, a number of scenes have badly clipped dialogue. This is especially evident during scenes on the beach and the echo-y high school gymnasium (errr, excuse me, top secret military hanger) where Rico is introduced to the Marauder project.
As with the Blu-ray edition of the first 'Starship Troopers', the TrueHD track seems to be a few frames out of sync with the picture. It's close enough to be unnoticeable for most of the movie, and isn't ever severe enough to be concerned about, but every so often the inaccurate sync may be momentarily distracting.
The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff
The following bonus features are shared in common with the DVD edition, but presented in High Definition video on the Blu-ray:
- Filmmaker Commentary – Writer/director Ed Neumeier, VFX supervisor Robert Skotak, and producer David Lancaster discuss the nuts and bolts of making a low-budget sci-fi picture, shooting in South Africa, and the studio's mandate that this one should be funny. They all take the project very seriously and seem to believe that they've created a good movie. Somebody ought to tell them how it really turned out.
- Director and Cast Commentary – Neumeier is joined this time by stars Casper Van Dien and Jolene Blalock for a fawning love-fest in which everyone proclaims how great it was to work with everyone else, and how wonderful an experience the movie was. Yawn.
- Evolution – The Making of Starship Troopers 3: Marauder (HD, 12 min.) – Electronic Press Kit filler about how the Bugs were designed and brought to life on screen. Everybody pretends that they're making a great and important film.
- Enlist: Marauder's Mobile Infantry (HD, 14 min.) – More EPK fluff about the cast and how everybody loved working together.
- Music Video: It's a Good Day to Die (HD, 3 min.) – This song wasn't very funny in the movie, and it's even less funny in this extended music video comprised of clips (including several plot spoilers) from the film.
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
Sony has also added a few exclusive interactive features to the Blu-ray. In order to access all of them, your Blu-ray player must be Profile 2.0 compatible.
- Marauder Mode – Similar to the "FedNet Mode" on the first 'Starship Troopers' Blu-ray, this Picture-in-Picture feature places a border around the screen designed to look like video monitors seen in the movie. Interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, and trivia facts pop-up in small windows while the film plays. Although there does not appear to be any repetition of information from the other bonus features on the disc, most of the Marauder Mode content is very EPK and insubstantial in nature.
Bonus View: Requires Profile 1.1
- Put Yourself in the Movie: Join the Fight! – Kudos to Sony for incorporating genuine BD-Live content on the disc. Unfortunately, the "Put Yourself in the Movie" feature is just about the cheesiest thing I've ever seen in my life. Here's how it works: Via the disc's BD-Live option, access the Sony web portal. Using an agonizingly slow keypad simulator, you can register and have instructions for uploading a personal photo emailed to you. Follow the sizing recommendations as carefully as you can. Then go back into BD-Live and align your face onto an animated trooper's body (male or female). When you return to the disc's main menu, you will find a new option in the Bonus Features menu to view eight clips from the movie (about 10-20 seconds each) where your cartoon avatar will pop into the frame, pasted on top of the live action footage, usually out of scale with the surroundings, and standing there stiff as a board. In some scenes it shoots a gun… while pointing towards the camera, even though the bugs it's supposed to be shooting at are behind it. In the final clip you appear in robot power armor, and the VFX there really aren't any worse than the rest of the scene. All in all, the feature looks utterly stupid and ridiculous. To accomplish all this takes about an hour, and the affected clips run for a little under three minutes total.
- Exclusive Featurettes from Comic-Con 2008 – Downloadable in either SD or HD format (the HD downloads take much longer) are excerpts from a Q&A session with the director and stars Casper Van Dien and Jolene Blalock. Van Dien is very visibly excited to be part of the movie. Blalock looks a lot better in this interview than she does in the film itself. Each excerpt is about four minutes long. Stupidly, Sony is making each clip available for only a limited time. As I write this, the first part has already expired. Why they would make this decision is mystifying.
- The Federation Needs Your Help – A text ad for a Public Service Announcement contest that directs interested parties to a web site. This will most likely also expire soon after the contest ends.
- Download Exclusive Ringtones – Seriously, who cares?
BD-Live: Requires Profile 2.0
Also included are some previews for unrelated Sony titles.
As guilty pleasure material, 'Starship Troopers 3: Marauder' is more guilt than pleasure. Even solid technical specs can't make this Blu-ray worth a purchase. If you're really still curious, stick with a rental. Or better yet, just save your money.
- BD-50 Dual-Layer Disc
- Bonus View (Profile 1.1)
- BD-Live (Profile 2.0)
- Region A
- 1080p/AVC MPEG-4
- English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround
- French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
- Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
- English Subtitles
- Chinese (Traditional) Subtitles
- Indonesian Subtitles
- Korean Subtitles
- Spanish Subtitles
- French Subtitles
- English SDH
- Portuguese Subtitles
- Thai Subtitles
- Chinese (Simplified) Subtitles
- 2 Audio Commentaries
- 2 Featurettes
- Music Video
Exclusive HD Content
- Marauder Mode Picture-in-Picture Commentary (Profile 1.1)
- BD-Live Content (Profile 2.0)
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