Starship Troopers 2: Heroes of the Federation Review

While not a commercial success back in 1997, Starship Troopers gained a loyal following, enough that Sony saw dollar signs. What is utterly baffling, from a non-board room, non-CEO mind, is why a company would even bother with such direct-to-video dreck that does not satisfy fans, turns off any new ones, and puts the future of the franchise in doubt.

If a studio is so unwilling to put forth the money, why should a potential buyer? Even if sells enough to recoup the minimal costs, word of mouth will certainly steer anyone far away from the next entry.

Of course, that is going a bit off course, if not setting the tone for the tragedy that is Starship Troopers 2. While many could easily criticize the original Paul Verhoeven novel adaptation for being over zealous in its political commentary, at least it had some.

The sequel concerns a small group of soldiers trapped at a remote outpost, each with a familiar, predictable personality. Troopers 2 blows it all in its opening sequence, which despite a budget that shows, actually works as intended. The bugs, courtesy of director Phil Tippet’s studio, represent the original film adequately despite being disguised by darkness and flying dust.

That same non-effective cinematic trick is employed everywhere to hide the lackluster funding. Even the grim lighting cannot hide the obvious lights in the barrels of the assault rifles, which flicker with every pull of the trigger. At least that saved some of the CG effects budget.

Because of its inability to showcase the scale of Starship Troopers, the trooper bugs are kept out of the frame, replaced with a new species that turns this dreadfully bad sequel into a zombie movie… minus everything that makes zombie movies fun. Dialogue goes nowhere, with uninteresting characters spouting off uninteresting lines for about 70-minutes. When you have a director admitting he wanted to cut 20-minutes of it on the commentary, you know you are in trouble.

Movie ★☆☆☆☆ 

Shot digitally (since it is cheaper) with the Sony HDW-F900, Starship Troopers looks the part. Beyond the stock footage in the opening, which only makes you wish you were watching the original again, everything here takes on a dreary, flat quality. Black levels settle into a gray scale and never recover.

What limited light can escape these dreary sets does little to project the high-definition footage. High fidelity detail is almost completely absent, leaving faces and environments flat. Noise ranges from non-intrusive and film-like to overbearing and obnoxious. Brief moments of aliasing, including the first footage of soldiers planting a flag, are quick to pass.

Color offers little to discuss, only notable in specifically tinted shots, such as a stand-off late that is completely blue. Flesh tones are fine, and some of the fake blood appears especially rich. A few dreams are of VHS quality, intentionally so. There are no instances of artificial enhancement, but then again, the movie offers little to enhance anyway.

Video ★★★☆☆ 

The TrueHD audio mix here is notable for its bass, although not in a satisfying way. Gunfire and thunder from a storm produce overwhelming jolts, and the bass is not even clean. It sounds muddy, and given how overdone it can be, it becomes a distraction.

Much of the film sits in the mid-range, the only highlight being the admittedly well-done opening theme that would have been a perfect fit for the original movie. Dialogue is mixed ridiculously low, and the stereo channels offer little positional work in the fronts.

Surrounds are active, capturing ambient bug screeches as they electrocute themselves on the fence surrounding the outpost and the wind from the never-ending storm. Gunfire, when needed, is placed well. Fake lasers apparently make some decent sound effects.

Audio ★★★☆☆ 

Hilariously, Sony re-uses the same menu from the original movie, using the same footage and all. Apparently, no one involved could think of something from the sequel to show here. Director Phil Tippett, producer John Davidson, and writer Ed Neumeier provide a commentary, a personal favorite that is brutally honest about how the film turned out. They tell the story of how things went wrong, point out the few things they got right, and how the studio slashed the budget. It is far more entertaining than the movie itself.

Two additional features include a decent making-of that runs a half hour and visual effects featurette that lasts for nine minutes. Generic BD-Live support and trailers round off the rare set of bonus features that are better than the movie, which says nothing about the movie itself.

Extras ★★★☆☆ 

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