First let’s get up to speed: Robert Heinlein’s 1959 science-fiction novel Starship Troopers becomes a movie in 1997. It’s a rather brazen mixture of sci-fi, horror, action, and none-too-subtle social satire, and while it might not be a “cult classic,” Starship Troopers still holds up resoundingly well today -- even the CGI effects still look good.
The came a 1999 TV series called Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers Chronicles, and after some time off, the franchise came back in 2004 with Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation and in 2008 with Starship Troopers 3: Marauder. Suffice to say that none of these titles are as interesting as Paul Verhoeven’s first film, but these releases did enough to keep the Starship Troopers franchise on the shelves -- which probably explains why the brand-new Starship Troopers: Invasion is now making its arrival. Ostensibly a “direct” sequel to the first film, this all-CGI feature will probably entertain those who remember Roughnecks fondly (or perhaps those who dig the animated Resident Evil features), but, again, this is just another limp follow-up to a rather excellent sci-fi film.
Produced by series caretaker Ed Neumeier and Casper “Johnny Rico” Van Dien himself, Starship Troopers: Invasion is little more than a metric ton of CGI / motion-capture / animated nonsense that may not thrill the older Starship fans, but may find some fans in the (possibly younger) newcomers who simply love to see those infamous bugs get splattered in frequent doses. True to its anime lineage, Starship Troopers: Invasion offers a dash of bombastically bouncy female nudity and at least five sequences in which indistinguishable soldiers fire endless rounds of bullets into a ceaseless deluge of angry green aliens.
Each of the action scenes are couched between dialogue and “plot stuff” so unimportant, you may find yourself reaching for the remote control (or your Xbox controller), but you’ll want to know that A) Johnny Rico, Carmen Ibanez, and Carl the creepy mind-controller are back(!), and this time around they’re the old veterans supporting an eclectic but dull stable of new soldiers. We open with a battle, then we get some blather between dead-eyed animated characters, and then another action explosion, and then a skimpy plot arises: a federation ship has been overwhelmed by alien bugs, and (guess what?) the soldiers are sent in to demolish the intruders.
That’s the whole plot.
Starship Troopers: Invasion has a fair amount of somewhat kinetic action set-pieces, and Act III, while progressively more ridiculous, manages to exhibit a welcome sense of energy -- but the flick as a whole feels like someone else’s video game. And I don’t know anyone who’d opt to sit and watch someone else’s video game for 91 minutes. As a digital placeholder, Invasion works barely well enough, and while it’s probably too late to ask this franchise to straighten up and deliver a “true” sequel, we can always flip back to the 1997 mini-masterpiece and focus on something that mixes action with something other than just more action. The CGI boobs, however, are pretty impressive.