Starship Troopers (1997) was a sweeping Paul Verhoeven sci-fi epic based on a
Robert Heinlein book written for juveniles. The first film presented a
semi-satirical, semi-inspirational portrayal of a cosmic struggle between
humans and space insects for control of this part of the galaxy, with a
particular focus on some high school seniors in Buenos Aires. It was a
film that could be viewed as an anti-war, anti-Fascism satire or as an
inspirational pro-war film which argues that a strong and unified Earth
government would be necessary in order for our race to survive a struggle
for survival. The director was effectively able to balance the surface
story with the underlying irony and iconoclasm.
The second film (2004) was not only a weak film, but a faithless sequel as
well. The story dropped the original
characters, all the satire, and the global overview, choosing to
focus on a single front of the war, a lonely outpost on a faraway planet
in which a group of humans made a desperate Alamo-like stand against a bug
The third film ignores #2 and is actually a sequel to the first one. In essence, it's the
film that the previous one should have been. The satirical propaganda commercials are back. The political machinations
and inter-service rivalries are back. There are bigger and better warrior
bugs, smarter brain bugs, another human psychic who can converse with
bugs, more co-ed group nudity, and many other elements which tend to make
the film a logical continuation of the original. The new hook in episode three is
that the future humans, who have fundamentally been atheistic for some
time, are turning back to God as the war efforts sour. The fascist
government is trying to suppress freedom of religion, even as it also
steps up further restrictions on freedom of speech. Meanwhile, the human
psychics determine that the bugs also believe in God!
The main character is back as well. Johnny Rico (Casper van Dien),
the ultra-tough hero who worked his way up from private to lieutenant in
the first film with his rugged battlefield prowess, is now a colonel
protecting an entire planet, at least until his regiment suffers an ignominious defeat.
(We later learn that the failure of Rico's defense strategy was caused by
a human traitor).
SST3 does fall short of the first film in several places:
(1) There are too many cheesy (and repetitive) CGI effects
(2) There are too many prolonged battle sequences at the expense of
character development. There are lots of characters identified by
name, and the film seems to promise that we will get to know them, then
just drops the character exposition in favor of explosions, gunfights, and fires. For example,
Van Dien assembles an elite team of seven crack infantry soldiers for a
grueling mission, and the team members are introduced in a long nude
sequence as they are fitted for armor suits, ala Robocop. But after that
scene, they are never really shown again. We see their suits in battle
action, but when it comes to what's inside the suits, we see only Van Dien.
Even Van Dien's story will be a mystery to you if you have not seen the first
film. The audience never really gets to know the humans. We root for them
only because it's our nature to root for handsome humans fighting against
(3) Some of the acting is sub-par, most notably Cecile Breccia, who
doesn't seem to speak any English at all. I suppose she learned her lines
phonetically, but I often failed to grasp what she was trying to say.
It's not as good as the original, but it's good enough to have turned me
around on the series, and it's excellent for a direct-to-vid effort. Like
the original, it strikes a pretty good balance between stirring heroics,
satire, and parallels to our own times. It also introduces some
interesting ideas. Because SST2 was so boring, I didn't have any
enthusiasm for #3 before I actually started watching it, but now that I've
seen SST3, I am looking forward to a fourth film, assuming that it will
continue the Johnny Rico storyline with Van Dien.