Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation Phil Tippett

Sometimes, well, actually, most of the time, it's more interesting listening to people discuss a movie's failings, especially if it's bad, than pontificate on the greatness of an unquestionably epic achievement and compliment everyone involved in its birthing. Such is the twisted pleasure of Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation, the straight to video sequel to Paul Verhoeven's (Robocop, Total Recall) original Starship Troopers. Love it or hate (and it is unquestionably reviled and loved in equal measures), the original Troopers was nothing if not ostentatious, telling the story of a galactic war between a now semi-fascist, militaristic human race and alien bugs, set roughly 300 years in the future. People either loved or loathed its intense violence, heavy-handed (purposely) totalitarian themes and riffs on old WWII propaganda movies, but its effects were awesome (still standing strong today), its adapted story (from the classic Robert A. Heinlein novel of the same name) smart and satirical (more so with the current war-hungry America military than in '97) and its characters, despite the clichés, entertaining enough. Starship Troopers 2, however, lacks not only almost all of its predecessor's attributes, but also the main ingredient to achieving them in any sci-fi movie: money. In the commentary track by director Phil Tippett (award-winning effects producer for the original Troopers, Jurassic Park, etc.), writer Edward Neumeier (Robocop) and producer Jon Davison, they reveal that 2 was made for roughly five-percent of the first's 95-million dollar budget (which works out to roughly four-point-seven-five million) and that everything (story, effects, schedule, etc.) had to be tailored to their lack of funds. And despite the visual talent of Tippett, it's clear that you can't make steak out of ground beef, no matter how skilled you are in a kitchen. The curious thing is that they should have known better (given their experience and achievements). Still, ST2 isn't utterly horrible, despite its clearly not up to snuff effects (they use stock footage from the first, the CGI is dodgy at the best of times, the guns don't fire but flash, etc.), stage-limited locations and HD look. In fact, it feels more like an Alien(s) rip-off episode of The Outer Limits than a true follow-up to Troopers. The plot is purposely kept simple: a group of stranded troopers hole up in an abandoned base, managing to keep the bugs at bay but something is inside with them. The acting isn't terrible and it's clear from the featurettes that everyone had a lot of enthusiasm for the project, but it's obvious, at least in the commentary, that they know it's mediocre at best. The most interesting tidbit is that Clancy Brown (Sergeant Zim from the original) was scheduled to appear in the "hero" role but had to bail after getting cast on Carnivàle (which was the smart move). Obviously, someone needs to give Verhoeven another 100 million to make the proper sequel. Plus: featurettes, more. (Columbia TriStar)