The Starship Troopers franchise is a textbook example of diminished returns.
Robert A Heinlein’s powerful, if politically dubious 1959 novel became Paul Verhoeven’s 1997 misunderstood satire, a sort of Early Learning Centre version of James Cameron’s Aliens wedded to the Warhammer 40,000 mythos. Then came two direct to video live action sequels – 2004’s Hero Of The Federation and 2008’s lukewarm Marauder – two animated series (one a six-part 1988 anime adaptation that only ever got a laserdisc release, more’s the pity) and now finally an animated movie, Starship Troopers: Invasion.
Executive producers are RoboCop and Starship Troopers writer Edward Neumeier and original star Casper van Dien (Johnny Rico, reprising his role in a vocal cameo alongside Neil Patrick Harris), but that’s a misleading comfort blanket for the unassuming sci-fi fan. The real guage of quality is Appleseed director Shinji Aramaki and The Chronicles Of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay writer Flint Dille, whose CV contains a whole lot of average videogames and only three feature-length films: this one; 1991’s brilliant An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, and a TV movie nobody has ever heard of.
Starship Troopers: Invasion gamely continues the franchise’s downward trend, as if trying to excise all remaining goodwill to clear the deck for Battle: Los Angeles and Total Recall producer Neal H Moritz’s proposed reboot.
The facial animation is as deft as a PS2 cut–scene – try and catch someone blinking or pulling any sort of expression other than the remedially pantomime, head-cocking playfulness or sex doll shock being two deviations from the gormless norm – so it’s for good reason that much of the cast are kept enclosed in their Halo-like armour. Even then it’s cheap, all of the troopers being the same model in like and movement, distinguished by only the names on their helmets, and the CBBC voice acting – all growling and hooting Aliens stereotypes creeping across the screen with the same bend of the knee and side to side panning like a rookie level designer gone mad.
The soundtrack is as insultingly shallow as the voice acting and the plot, battles are accompanied by endless action movie orchestral swells, a display of martial arts is greeted like an old friend by the toot of windchimes and mournful ivory bashing forces itself into your ear canal at the first sight of introspection.
The plot – amazingly – is even worse. A fairly generic jarheads versus insurmountable odds as Carmen Ibanez, a returning character from the movie but voiced by Siri, leads the ctrl + v team of grunts in search of the giant spaceship John A Walker that has been stolen by the sneering
Ramon Salazar Carl Jenkins, all the while punctuated by third-person shooter style grinding and scenes from some imagined Battlestar Galactica porn spoof.
Aramaki’s contribution to this embarrassment is some competent production design – that aforementioned power armour is quite nice and the ships are good, and predictably there’s some mech suits – but that’s little comfort in an experience oddly akin to watching some dullard’s videogame playthrough on YouTube, complete with horrific sexism, lack of real emotional engagement and the faint, distant smell of puberty.
Would you like to know more? Didn’t think so.