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Starship Troopers 2: Hero Of The Federation (2003)
Director: Phil Tippett

review by Steven Hampton

This belated sequel to Paul Verhoeven's brilliant sci-fi satire of 1997 is the directorial debut of special effects' animator Phil Tippett, the creator of memorable visuals for The Empire Strikes Back (1980), RoboCop (1987), Jurassic Park (1993) and Evolution. RoboCop writer Ed Numeier's screenplay fails to expand upon the scope of his script work for Verhoeven's interstellar adventure Starship Troopers, and locates all of its action on a single planet, and most of the drama in one grungy outpost, but it does neatly dovetail Philip K. Dick style paranoia to the fascist politics of Robert A. Heinlein's original space war scenario. Perhaps we should expect all the gung-ho Mobile Infantry characters to have playfully amusing 'cipher' names like Brick, Soda, Otter, Dill, and Tor, even though such monikers are a distraction from the film's welcome attempts to depict events with a measured degree of war zone realism, as suggested by the production's use of 24P digital cameras, and the director's cunningly satirical usage of blatant propaganda techniques within the documentary style narrative framework.
   The plot is basic at best. Battle-hardened survivors of a major campaign are forced to retreat and hideout in a derelict fortress, while awaiting evacuation by the space fleet's pilots. Locked away in the citadel-like military station, the troops find notorious traitor Captain Dax (Richard Burgi), and it's clear from the moment of his release that he will become the 'hero' figure of the film's subtitle. It's also quite obvious, as soon as Tech-Sarge Peck (J.P. Manoux) appears on screen, that there's something ineffably 'wrong' about his behaviour, which can't be explained by shellshock or combat fatigue. Latent psi talent Sahara (Colleen Porch) is singled out early on, too, as the standard-issue plucky heroine of the piece, but it's undoubtedly Ed Lauter who makes the biggest impression, so good as nice-guy General Shepherd, yet particularly scary at one stage during the story's climax.
   If you have seen The Hidden (1987), the Philip K. Dick adaptation, Screamers (1996), and The Puppet Masters (1994, based on Heinlein's 1951 anticommunist SF novel), you should be able to easily guess the main plot and twist ending of Starship Troopers 2. It's amusing nonsense with superb gore effects and a few bravura moments, such as the baddies' attack on tough Sergeant Rake (Brenda Strong), which is staged like a gang rape. However, it lacks the absurdly violent impact of Verhoeven's cultworthy predecessor, and simply can't match the laconic humour or dramatic intensity of James Cameron's magnificent Aliens (1986), no matter how hard it tries.
Starship Troopers 2

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