I’ve been sort of looking forward to this new STARSHIP TROOPERS, and if you got a problem with that too bad because I’ve gotten enough “are you gonna review Starship Troopers 3?” emails to know that we can take you. Ed Neumeier takes over as director this time, which means the satirical tone remains since this is the guy who wrote all three STARSHIP TROOPERS as well as ROBOCOP. And, uh, ANACONDAS: THE HUNT FOR THE BLOOD ORCHID. I didn’t know that, I just found that out on IMDB. Hmmm. I had not considered watching that one. This changes everything. This could be the big one.
If you saw STARSHIP TROOPERS 2: HERO OF THE FEDERATION you may or may not remember that it was pretty different from the first one. They scaled it down for DTV, making it into mostly a one-location siege kind of story and incorporating smaller bugs that implant themselves in people’s brains or something. The good part is it was directed by the effects legend Phil Tippett so it ended up having the best effects I’ve seen in a DTV movie.
For part 3 they got somebody else doing the effects (pretty crappy) but the story is much more in line with the first one. It expands on the mythology and themes of the STARSHIP TROOPERS universe in a somewhat charmingly cheap-ass DTV sort of way. A lightly grizzled Casper Van Dien returns as Johnny Rico “the hero of Planet P,” now a colonel and still following orders to bravely kill the shit out of swarms of giant alien bugs who threaten freedom and liberty and all that. The war goes on and has escalated a little bit because there is a new piece of bug technology, a sort of bug grenade that’s like a huge pill bug that gets tossed into your trench, opens up and shoots out electricity. I like that. Not that much of a threat to the humans though, at least compared to their new Q-Bomb, which can crack a planet in half.
Rico reunites with an old girlfriend named Lola (Jolene Blalock – Johnny likes lady pilots with giant lips) and her new boyfriend, General Dix Hauser (Boris Kodjoe). Lola likes Dix alot, she really really likes Dix. She just can’t get enough Dix. Rico I think also likes Dix but you know Dix, obviously I don’t need to tell you about Dix. So there’s always a chance Rico will decide he has had enough of Dix. But remember, this is Colonel Johnny Rico we’re talking about, he can handle Dix if he needs to. He can take it.
(I think Neumeier is smart enough to know that by naming a character Dix Hauser he has made the movie into an interactive game. You will not be able to restrain yourself from talking to the movie about Dix.)
I can’t decide if this is good or bad, but Rico has grown slightly as a character. He’s still completely loyal to the Federation and its genocidal/pesticidal goals, but he’s a little more aware of the grey areas than Dix is. For example when they go to a bar and get hassled by some yahoo farmers Rico tries to make peace with them and acknowledges that their way of life has been ruined by the war and it makes sense for them to be resentful. Most soldiers are not this enlightened, so they all applaud the televised hangings of war protesters on the TV and it causes tensions. I guess sports bars are pretty different in the future.
Rico ends up thinking for himself a little too much and almost gets executed, which sort of betrays the straightfaced sarcasm of Verhoeven but does make him a slightly more sympathetic hero. Don’t worry, he doesn’t turn against the Federation. He ends up leading the charge to clean up a complicated mess involving betrayal, religion, secret conspiracies, a crash landing, and of course a bug that looks suspiciously vaginal. And in fact (SPOILER) one character enters bodily into the giant vagina. Sadly, it’s not Dix that enters into the vagina bug. The bug doesn’t get any Dix. For what it’s worth though there is a little more casual co-ed nudity, and at the very end Johnny does get to wear a robot suit like you guys have been whining about since 1997.
I am also prepared to say that I think Casper Van Dien does a pretty good job. It’s good to see him back, I think he’s kind of cool in it. In my opinion he is not Marlon Brando or Laurence Olivier however he does know how to play a gung ho character like this who when asked by his executioner for his last words asks “Will you get on with it?”
I think part of what makes the original STARSHIP TROOPERS so fun is that it’s hard to believe they actually got to make that movie. It’s so epic and obviously expensive and glamourizes these intentionally vapid characters blindly following a war-hungry government. DTV sequels obviously lose that because they don’t seem as subversive and of course they don’t have as many toys to play with. But if you can get past that and you enjoy this world then there is goofy fun to be had. There’s alot more of the Federal Network propaganda, the highlight being the character of Sky Marshall Anoke (Stephen Hogan), a high ranking military official, psychic and pop star beloved for his patriotic anthem “A Good Day To Die.” It’s a good song, so perfectly clueless and insidious it should get some kind of DTV Oscar. You get to hear it again on the end credits (too bad they didn’t redo it as a radio version with Bebe and Cece Winans or somebody).
There were a few bits where I thought the satire got obvious by being too specific – characters use real lines from the Bush years such as “People need to watch what they say.” On the other hand there are times when it’s a little unclear what exactly they’re trying to say, like there’s a whole thread about religion being outlawed and frowned upon, but there are hardcore Christians within the ranks and then there’s a conflict between Christian God and Bug God… I’m not sure what they’re getting at but I guess I kind of like that. I’m sure it leaves me with more to mull over than the recent DTV sequels to LOST BOYS or WARGAMES would.
Would you like to know more?
The DTV includes a making of, commentary, exte–
Wait, you said no? You don’t want to know more? Ah fuck.
Okay, well there’s another movie coming to DVD this week called ROGUE. It was midnight meat trained onto a mere 10 screens in the US so to us it might as well be DTV. The cover just shows a giant bloody crocodile mouth along with two other “don’t even consider watching this crap” signs: the Dimension Extreme logo and a giant “UNRATED” stamped under the title WITH BLOOD DRIPPING! I mean, can you even imagine how NOT rated this fucker is, there is BLOOD DRIPPING OFF OF THE DESCRIPTION OF THE RATING! WHICH IN THIS CASE IS NOT A RATING AT ALL BUT IN FACT THE LACK OF A RATING! WITH BLOOD! HOLY FUCK!
What you have here is one of those covers designed to ward off the people who would enjoy the movie and attract the people who would not. This could definitely be R-rated, it’s hardly a gorefest at all, it’s not “extreme,” and it’s too bad the Weinsteins didn’t let someone with taste and competence of some kind buy it. If those pricks had taken a 90 minute break from ruining everything they would’ve seen that it’s not some shitty CGI bloodfest, it’s actually a very well-made Australian suspense thriller from Greg Mclean, director of WOLF CREEK. Definitely not something they would be interested in.
I know WOLF CREEK is a divisive movie. To me it’s one of the better horror movies of recent years despite the anticlimactic ending, to most critics it’s the most shocking and amoral filth that has ever been put on film, to some of my buddies it’s just not very good. But even zero-stars Roger Ebert admitted it was well directed so hey, how ’bout if this guy does a movie about a big crocodile instead of a murderer? Will that appease you guys? Or do you think it will give crocodiles ideas?
I don’t know about you but when I think “giant crocodile movie” I think crappy photography of some ugly swamp location, some bad actors, and way too many shots of a really bad CGI croc. This is the opposite. Believe it or not I think some people would enjoy it just for the photography and scenery. This has got to be the best use of HD in a horror movie to date because it looks like Attenborough’s PLANET EARTH series. The story follows a tour boat down a river in the northern territory of Australia, and they work in all this amazing footage of animals, insects and incredible natural landscapes.
Instead of trying to make everything fast and noisy like so many youths do, McClean has an old school cinematic feel. I was hooked before anything even happened, just from the dialogue-free opening minutes of star Michael Vartan (21st century Luke Perry) getting out of a bus in the middle of nowhere, smoking a cigarette and walking into a little tavern with gory croc attack newspaper clippings on the wall. This guy is a travel writer, but not an adventurer. A professional tourist. This has some of the same themes as WOLF CREEK: tension between locals and tourists, and the natural beauty and spookiness of Australia.
Vartan goes on this tour boat, and just as they’re about to turn back and head home somebody spots a flare. They go further down the river than they should to check it out and get attacked and stranded by this giant crocodile. Actually I should say large crocodile, because this one is 7 meters long and Mclean informs us on the extras that there is a real one somewhere that’s 7.5 meters. They use the metric system in Australia, by the way, I don’t know how many feet that is but it’s alot in my opinion.
The croc is kind of like JAWS, he is mostly a menacing unseen presence. Usually when he eats somebody (which is surprisingly often) it happens so quick you barely see it. Later you do get a good look at him and there’s enough animatronics and restrained enough animation that it looks pretty real. They make him move like a real animal, this is not like those speed fiend CGI gators in ERASER.
You know, this could’ve easily been retooled into DISNEY’S THE JUNGLE CRUISE. It looks like the same boat and everything. But then they would’ve had to have Eddie Murphy or somebody as the captain instead of the lovely Radha Mitchell.
Mclean gets some great suspense out of the different escape plans they come up with. There were times that the sudden devouring of characters off camera without much mourning started to stretch the realism, and James Cameron’s homie Sam Worthington’s instant flip from asshole to hero seemed a little drastic. But every time I thought it might be losing its steam suddenly something would happen that would make me say “Oh shit!” It’s a very tense movie.
And you know it’s not just that it’s an effective thriller, it also has these little touches here and there that you just don’t expect in a large to giant crocodile picture. Like there’s this character Russell, played by an unrecognizable John Jarrat (the killer from WOLF CREEK, now meek and wearing a fake belly). When he gets on the boat he has two tickets, but he’s by himself. He doesn’t really explain it and you wonder what that’s all about. He’s very quiet. Later, when they’re all enjoying the beauty of nature and shit and he thinks nobody’s looking he takes out a small urn and pours some ashes over the side. Clearly his loss is an important part of where he’s coming from as a character, but they never have him talk about it directly, and the little girl on the boat is the only one who even finds out about it.
What I’m trying to say is this is pretty different from a BOA VS. PYTHON type of movie, in my opinion.
Mclean is 2 for 2 if you ask me. I hope he makes another one soon, but unfortunately his brilliant cinematographer Wil Gibson died last year. That might be what’s delaying him.
Anyway, good week for DTV. If you have to pick one I definitely vote for ROGUE, which is legitimately good as opposed to STARSHIP TROOPERS 3’s enjoyable goofiness. But you know what man? Don’t be a Dix about it. Just rent both of them.
Originally posted at Ain’t-It-Cool-News: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/37792
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VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.