Sunday, 14 January 2018

Starship Troopers: Traitor Of Mars

Voice cast: Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, DeRay Davis, Justin Doran, and Luci Christian

Director: Shinji Aramaki  

88 minutes (15) 2017
Widescreen ratio 1.78:1
Sony blu-ray region B

Rating: 7/10
Review by Ian Shutter

While independent Mars celebrates its 25th anniversary of the red planet’s terraforming, alien bugs invade and prompt corrupt Earth authority Amy Snapp to destroy the former colony to save humanity’s home world. With psychic Carl and captain Carmen sidelined for the duration, this franchise of interplanetary missions, here confined mostly to a saga of the inner Solar system, finds colonel Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien) demoted to lead a ‘lost patrol’ of Martian trainees in VR combat sims, but he learns they are, at first, unprepared for actual fighting on the Martian surface.

Starship Troopers: Traitor Of Mars offers military sci-fi horror (sci-fight?) where “the future is everyone’s duty” according to Sky Marshal and scheming despot Amy, who plots against space marines and mobile infantry alike. The arachnids are legion, just as before, and although the space hardware and technologies remains fairly standard for Star Trek/ Star Wars type scenarios, there are some distinctive designs that distinguish this generic factory of war machinery from entirely run-of-the-mill space opera. Traditional SF, in the form of planetary romance, makes a strong counterpoint against sundry conventions of modern-SF space wars.

When Rico is stranded on the bug-infested Martian surface, his memory conjures a spirit, in the form of Dizzy Flores (Dina Meyer), who was a casualty in the original live-action movie, Starship Troopers (1997). She becomes a ghostly goad for him to continue, and a familiar but inconstant presence that leavens the lone hero’s isolation after tactical abandonment. The movie plays with military stereotypes and cross-genre iconography, fielding comedy-of-errors pratfalls alongside stirring quips and imagery borrowed or perhaps curated from Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, Aliens, and Halo.

It soon becomes a repackaging of clich├ęs that eventually transcends the usually fatal flaw of any simplistic repetition of pithy one-liners and boots-on-the-ground machismo. There is courage and camaraderie that elevates the frequently grisly material (this movie earns its 15 certificate) from the schlock and terrorism routine of most animated sci-fi, and the style that leans towards photo-realism for the hardware and environments, but draws its artistic lines at defining the major characters without many obvious attempts to cross the uncanny valley. The players are rendered just realistically enough for a willing suspension of disbelief but lack sufficient veracity to blur the differences between artwork and photo. This approach to the animation effects is wise and, no doubt, saved the movie-makers a lot of money so this production could be easily affordable.     

In terms of sci-fi action or monster movie horrors, there are tons of gory fighting scenes, while the armoured soldiers make good use of their powered-suits, and jet-pack jumps to safety or into battle. Although it’s a foregone conclusion that downed Rico will be rescued from the red planet’s hell of bug swarms charging over the dusty horizon, and the human  villain’s plan to sacrifice a colony for its rebellion against Earth-based control is obviously going to be thwarted, the tensions and suspense are palpable throughout and the weirdly composed sense of vaguely Lovecraftian mystery that supports the movie’s story is worth a couple of extra points.  

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