Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation Review

The one thing we can always be sure of (after death and taxes) is that if a movie makes more than about five dollars profit then at some point a sequel is going to be made. If you can “get the band back together” then that’s fine, but if no one is available (or interested), then just make something that looks vaguely similar to keep the franchise going. Much like films such as Wild Things 2 and Cruel Intentions 2 are to their predecessors, the Starship Troopers franchise has been extended with Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation. That’s not necessarily too much of an issue in this case, as the broad epic story of war depicted in the first film could easily be picked up by other characters. If anything the original felt like it could warrant a sequel, as it ends fairly abruptly and with plenty left to resolve. Unfortunately, this isn’t the sequel it deserved.

It all opens promisingly enough with the propaganda films used in the first movie starting us off. “Do you want to know more?” about our glorious troops pushing on to victory; cut to the reality of a mobile infantry unit pinned down on a dark and stormy planet, surrounded by bugs and with seemingly no way out. As they have still not figured out that nuking the site from orbit would be the only way to be sure, the planets are still being patrolled by under-equipped foot soldiers on the planet surfaces, getting sliced and diced by the bug population. However, an escape is at hand as an outpost is nearby and the troopers manage to reach it to find temporary shelter whilst attempting to call for a rescue pickup. There they find no one alive except for Captain Dax (Richard Burgi) locked up for apparently killing his superior officer. With the perimeter defences re-established it looks like they will be able to keep the hundreds of encircling bugs at bay while they wait for rescue. But then some of the troopers begin to act very strangely, and things start to head in a new and very sinister direction…

The original Starship Troopers was a typical Paul Verhoeven piece; lots of graphic violence against a darkly satirical backdrop. Indeed, many people just didn’t get the dark humour of the film, assuming that it was making a pro-fascist statement. No need to worry about any of that this time around though, as it has all gone. Verhoeven is replaced by first-time director Phil Tippett, better known for his special effects work, though writer Ed Neumeier and producer Jon Davison do remain. The main problem here seems to be budget, as in a total lack of it, and a studio that had zero respect for the first movie, and just wanted a cheap movie with violence and sex in it. Lack of money resulted in the movie being shot almost completely in the dark, to mask over the cheap sets and special effects. A smaller scale story in the Troopers universe could have worked as a companion piece as much as a sequel, but only if the story was good, and this one most certainly isn’t. About half way through the story takes a well signposted “twist” and turns into “standard sci-fi / horror plot #5” which has been done so many times before, and usually much better. Again, this plot was clearly chosen to save money on special effects, and even then it doesn’t appear to have been thought through at all, with plot holes aplenty. Redeeming features? The dark and stormy environment generates a somewhat claustrophobic feel, and the musical score is good. But that’s it.

Sequels rarely come more pointless than this one, especially as it had little chance from the outset, constrained by a miniscule budget that dictated the weak storyline. Adding nothing to the original, fans of the original would be better served looking out the Roughnecks animated series and giving this a wide berth.

Almost all this movie is either in low light or almost no light at all, and while this is not a particularly fantastic image, it does hold these dark scenes together well enough. A section of the movie which is bathed in blue light also maintains a reasonable amount of clarity; a type of image where VHS would fall apart completely. Indeed, the commentary tells us that this sequence had to be specially remastered for tape format, which has lead to a number of complaints around the Internet of it being out of focus.

There is a fairly decent Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack provided here. The film does call for a lot of sound effects, from the constant storms of the planet to the abundance of gunfire and bug deaths, and all this is handled well by the track, giving added atmospherics to the viewing experience.

First up is a commentary featuring director Phil Tippett, producer Jon Davison and writer Ed Neumeier. They are at least extremely up front about the fact that the movie they have made is purely the consequence of a practically non-existent budget and a studio who wanted a set quota of sex and violence. Unfortunately Neumeier goes on to spoil things by giving a deeply pretentious description of the plot, as he seems to be under the impression that he’s written some deep psychology of war piece (which he hasn’t). Elsewhere there is information about the digital filming techniques used, and Tippett also admits that his lack of experience as a director caused problems at times.

(The commentary is available with English or Dutch subtitles).

The main featurette Inside the Federation starts with our trio from the commentary again giving this film a lot more importance than it deserves. This is then followed by all the usual “it was wonderful working with…” from the actors, who also spend a lot of time explaining their characters, complete with clips (and spoilers). Some of the subsequent behind the scenes of filming on a very tight budget is of interest, and at nearly thirty minutes it’s better than the average EPK. But only just.

The second featurette From Green Screen to Silver Screen is somewhat ironically named, given that this straight-to-TV and DVD movie went nowhere near the “silver screen”. It is in fact a nine minute piece looking at four sequences in the movie, showing the build process of special effects, going from storyboards and animatics, through background plates and composites to the finished scene.

A Photo Gallery is also included, which contains a handful of behind the scenes and production stills. Finally we have a large selection of trailers including one for this film in 4x3 fullscreen, along with a fairly dreadful trailer for the animated Roughnecks: The Starship Trooper Chronicles in the same format. The rest are anamorphic and 5.1 trailers for Spider-Man 2, Bad Boys 2, Hellboy, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Welcome to the Jungle and Terminator 3.

DVD-ROM Content
There is no ROM content on this disc.

Final Thoughts
The original Starship Troopers film actually did warrant a sequel, just not this one. The disc is fairly average, with only the sound quality being a standout. For fans of cheap sci-fi horror only, otherwise avoid.

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