Fantasia 2012 Review: STARSHIP TROOPERS: INVASION
Citizens! If you have ever wanted an opportunity to see Paul Verhoeven's pitch-perfect satire of fascism stripped of both its irony and wit, look no further than mecha-suit aficionado Shinji Aramaki's animated sequel Starship Troopers: Invasion and prepare yourself for a whole world of dumb, that's full of guns, but rarely fun.
It is a shame because as an animated film Invasion is able to leap above the franchises' DTV sequels in terms of scope and scale, as well as bringing back the franchise's original trio of protagonists. The film starts with a rescue team dropping in to evacuate a military facility run by a paler and creepier Carl Jenkins that has become overrun with bugs, and ends with a desperate attempt by ever stalwart (and now Solid Snake-looking) Johnny Rico and Carmen Ibanz to prevent an infested Federation capital ship from landing on Earth and inciting the titular invasion, with a barrage bullets, laserblasts, chainsaws and the threat and explosion of four nuclear missiles in between. The film even throws in a heap more casual female digital nudity with a camera gaze more lecherous then your b-picture slasher. While, I'm sure the twelve-year-old boys reading this are already standing at attention, know that you're all better off playing Invasion writer Flint Dille's Pitch Black game Escape from Butcher Bay as you can get most of the above, but with the welcome opportunity of dispatching all the sub-dimensional characters you're otherwise forced to endure in this tone-deaf... thing. Seriously, even twelve-year-olds will roll their eyes at character call-signs like Ice Blonde and Ratsazz ("I'm called Ratsazz cause I don't give a rat's ass about anything!").
I'll concede that Starship Trooper fans might get some delight at seeing Johnny Rico, Carmen Ibanaz and Carl Jenkins all sharing a story together again, though none of the original cast returns to voice characters, despite Casper Van Dien's role as Executive Producer, apparently also known as someone who says "AWESOME" to whatever the filmmakers show him (confirmed by Casper at the Q&A). Ed Neumeier is also credited, but I can't imagine he had any input beyond allowing chunks of his original screenplay to be re-used as awkward call-backs in this iteration, though there is one witty moment involving a glassless toast and drinking to the dead and the next one to die. And there is the welcome return of Basil Poledouris' Klendathu Drop theme, yet even its effect is neutered as its rearrangement has unfortunately left it buried under a cacophony of engine whirs and explosions. Maybe the fact that the Troopers can jump really high like they did Heinlein's original book will please someone.
One would at least hope that based on Aramaki's gorgeous Appleseed films that there would be at least some visceral and creative action to latch on to, but beyond an impressive technical sheen to all the proceedings, the bug brawls are simply lethargic stretches of bullets tearing into waves of bugs. There's no inventive choreography to any of the mayhem until the last few moments of the movie, and even there the drama is just as inert. The body count may be high, but it all feels so utterly arbitrary and when the film does arrive at a conflict that has the potential to be milked for tension or even sustained urgency, its immediately resolved, with the characters getting exactly what they need, when they need it. It's all so numbingly tedious. The Fantasia screening began with a reverie of "wooos" and "kill'em alls" from the audience, but thirty minutes in only a few lonely "yeahs!" could be heard, likely from people already planning to name their next of kin Ice Blonde or Ratsazz.
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