Man had always been in a struggle against bugs. I mean, these days we’ve had to create bug sprays, insect repellents and even some ways to electrify some little flying critters. The book “Starship Troopers” by Robert A. Heinlein took mankind into a futuristic world where bugs are much, much larger and it takes machine guns and cannons to take them out of their misery. Paul Verhoeven’s 1997 adaptation was a blockbuster hit; it was clever, campy, gory and a whole lot of fun that had inspired a list of sub-par sequels (albeit I kind of liked the first sequel) and even a short-lived TV series. Well, a collaboration between American producers and Japanese anime creators have come together to come out with a sort of a direct sequel to the original movie with the CGI animated film “Starship Troopers: Invasion”.
Directed/co-written by Japanese anime director Shinji Aramaki, the film takes us to the federation outpost Fort Casey where an extraction team had been sent to clear out the survivors and eradicate the bug infestation. Upon the completion of the mission, scientist and telepath, Carl Jenkins (Justin Doran) places its commanding officer, “Hero” (David Wald) under arrest and then commandeers the starship John A. Warden for a sensitive top-secret mission. The Warden’s Captain, Carmen Ibanez (Luci Christian) had been overridden and then placed as a guest in the starship Alesia. After sometime, the team led by Daugherty (Sam Roman) is ready for some R and R, with some members of the unit indulging in some playful lewd behavior and well….sex. But then, something seemed to have gone wrong, as the Alesia is ordered by John Rico (David Matranga) to turn around and investigate why they had lost communication with the John A. Warden. Now, the team is faced with a new kind of menace and it will take all their courage and skills to try and save the Earth from invasion….
“Invasion” is pretty light in dishing out fresh applications of characterization but instead tries to take inspiration from the groundwork set by Verhoeven’s film. It plays on the established relationship between Carl, Carmen and Rico and tries to make them into the drama of authority type figures who has some unspoken tension between them. Carl is much colder and much more enigmatic this time around, while Rico having suffered through many tours of war, wears an eye patch with scars all over his face. Carmen is more or less the same, but she appears to be a woman who is strong-willed and determined to save her ship. It was cool to see a new film with familiar characters from the 1997 blockbuster, but we also get to see some new ones with characters call sign “Hero”, “Bugspray”, “Holy Man”, “Ice Blond”, “Ratzass”, “Trig” and others. The new characters have some rather interesting back stories to them, but “Trig” (Emily Neves) definitely stood out as the lady sniper who seems to take pride in the number of her bug kills.
The story is pretty simple and has its share of dramatic moments. These moments may feel a little familiar as it follows the mood of the original with some influences of other military movies of this kind. It is all about ‘the man next to you’, the desire to go home and the definition of a war hero. There is the usual brotherhood and dynamics that made such movies work. The soldiers have their own set of rules and they live them. The film may have some weak areas in the screenplay, but I have to admit, the script got interesting during the dramatic points. They were stronger than I thought they would be, that while the film never loses a beat during the action, the drama added the needed emotions to make the action carry meaning.
This CGI-animated flick takes the tempo of Verhoeven’s film, the bug designs have all been created to emulate the original while the soldiers’ looks are a mix of the original film designs and that of the TV series. The starships were definitely lifted from the designs of Verhoeven’s film with some nice additions. The film also carries the same familiar doses of sex and nudity as with the original, but I have to admit, the nudity and execution had the fingerprints of sleazy Japanese animators; this may serve the film well for some viewers (they looked photo-realistic), but “CGI-nudity” never did excite me as much as the real thing. “Ice Blond”, Carmen and “Trig” did get naked quite a lot to try and add some bits of titillation to excite its target audience.
Japanese anime designs were also obvious with the set pieces; the exo-suits and the mech suits were no doubt touches by the director who made his name with “Appleseed” and "Appleseed Ex Machina” since their designs were somewhat similar. The animation work when in motion and during the action were pretty cool; explosions, gunfire, blood and gore looked very cool, there is plenty of blood and even some insect goo. I found the flying body parts and the floating blood to be real nice touches. I do have some mixed feelings with the animation of the facial expressions, I found them to be a little flat when it comes to the male face designs. The hair and texture were spot on and were on par with some of the more decent Japanese CGI work I’ve seen in video games, but inferior to the best CGI work out there. Some movements were a little too stiff. But the colors and the animation rendering was a little uneven, some moments looked a little dry and gloomy.
“Starship Troopers: Invasion” was an entertaining animated romp. Yeah, the film was stronger during the moments it paid more attention to drama, and while the film was fast-paced and action-packed, the shootouts do get a little repetitive after awhile. The film was fun and had some credibly intense moments of action, but I am not sure, at its core, the film felt more like Cameron’s “Aliens” and the recent “Battle: Los Angeles” than something that came from the book or Verhoeven’s film. I mean it is all about the troopers standing their ground or running while shooting (yeah, there is some mano-mano man vs. bug fight), but it does have its share of good twists. While “Invasion” lacks the charm and the cleverness of the original movie, it was enjoyable for fans of this movie universe since it had touches of the wartime politics of this world. Yeah, it works for what it is despite some flaws and the feeling of being in an insignificant video game.
Timid Recommendation, RENTAL First is Advisable [3 Out of 5 Stars]
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