It’s hard to be a Starship Troopers fan. After one cult favorite film established the celebrated Sci-Fi novels as a viable cinematic franchise, its two live-action sequels buried it under embarrassingly bad writing and acting that wasn’t much better. The sequels have always suffered from fan-fiction quality writing, and unfortunately Starship Troopers: Invasion, the latest entry in the struggle against the bugs, doesn’t have much else to offer besides some very pretty CGI, but even that isn’t without its flaws. A total lack of character depth and development and direction that favors visual style over narrative substance make it just another bad Sci-Fi movie that’s hard to care too much about—even with the entire Earth at risk.
Exhausted after ending a bug infestation at a Federation outpost, a highly trained military crew set out to track down one of their ships that went missing under mysterious circumstances. When they finally catch up with the ghost ship, they discover the situation onboard is far direr than originally expected thanks to an experiment that took an unexpected turn. Now a ship infested with bugs is on a collision course with Earth that could leave the planet infested and potentially wipe out all of humanity.
Even with its stellar animation, which is genuinely Starship Troopers: Invasion’s best quality, there are major problems. For one, the animation feels like a gigantic cutscene from a video game instead of a feature, and that owes in large part to having many of the same failings as video game cinematics. Characters will strike odd poses or feature odd body language that your average person has never once seen from a real person, mouths won’t move because apparently animators couldn’t tell the difference between inner monologue and actual dialogue, and character costumes follow in the grand tradition of being impractical for the sake of being sexy. At one point, a female character moderates a fighting match wearing nothing but a towel hanging around her neck and artfully covering both breasts. Yes, you have the chance to show nudity, but in such a boneheaded way as that it only comes across as desperate, like it was imagined by the pen of a pubescent Sci-Fi enthusiast who’s never seen a woman naked and so tries to work it into a story as much as possible.
The women’s costumes aren’t the only problem, because for some reason all of the soldiers wear armor that seems to make no difference whatsoever in how easily a bugs scythes cut through them. It amounts to a bunch of trained fighters voluntarily wearing restrictive armor that apparently has no strategic benefit. It just allows them to look like Halo characters, so that gives it recognition value. Worse yet, even as the characters commit to the consistently disproven fiction that their armor is beneficial, the stereotypically Asian martial arts expert in their ranks inexplicably takes off his helmet to drop into a kung fu pose, only to kick a bug and then suffer a very obvious fate. Why did he take off his helmet? Was it restricting his range of motion for his legs? Or did they need a false reason for him to take off his worthless protection to keep things moving?
The problem there is that that’s all the film does: it moves. The characters aren’t so much people as they are nameless, faceless, and personality-free placeholders in a story that doesn’t take the time to develop any of them beyond basic archetypes. You have the loudmouth meathead, the introspective religious guy, the quietly confident Asian martial arts master, the sassy tomboy, etc. There’s not a single original thought involved in the characterizations here and it’s very clear the writers just don’t care. This wasn’t a movie about people and their struggle for survival; it’s a movie about an alien invasion depicted by some cool CGI. Consequently that’s all that was really developed. That’s a pretty big problem when you consider the large percentage of the characters that die, because we feel absolutely nothing for any of them, making their sacrifices meaningless and without weight.
It’s a shame that this is all Director Shinji Aramaki, who was also behind Appleseed, was able to give us. To his credit the action sequences are well paced, but that’s all that can be said. With bad writing, some of the worst voice acting in recent memory, and a story stripped of significance by its lack of character investment, Starship Troopers: Invasion is a waste of money, both for the producers and consumers.
Blu-ray Bonus Features
A very thorough “making of” documentary covers the film’s creation from 11 different aspects of production, and that’s really all the extras section has going for it. A gag reel, deleted scenes, art gallery, and audio commentary fill out the rest, but they’re all garbage. The set also includes an Ultraviolet digital copy of the film.
"Starship Troopers: Invasion" is on sale August 28, 2012 and is rated R. Action, Animation, Sci-Fi. Directed by Shinji Aramaki. Written by Flint Dille. Starring David Wald, Emily Neves, Justin Doran, Leraldo Anzaldua, Luci Christian, Melissa Davis.