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Book Buzz: Starship Troopers Nostalgia
The upcoming DTV debut of ST3 prompts a look at the glory days of theatrical release.
By Pat Ferrara
May 26, 2008
Casper Van Dien as Johnny Rico against the "Tanker Bug" in STARSHIP TROOPERS
© TriStar Pictures
First there was the CGI-animated television spin-off ROUGHNECKS, then the financially crippled DVD sequel STARSHIP TROOPERS 2: HERO OF THE FEDERATION. A smattering of comic and game adaptations, including Markosia’s steady stream of graphic novelizations, have since propelled Heinlein’s mythos from the initial film’s debut. This week sees the stateside release of Markosia’s 100-page graphic novel Starship Troopers: Damaged Justice, but to say the fledgling military SF franchise is on firm ground would be a gross overstatement.
Paul Verhoeven’s brilliant adaptation of STARSHIP TROOPERS back in 1997 seems like a lifetime ago, especially when every other installment in the Trooper franchise has been a pale comparison of this worthy original. ST2’s horrendously low budget rendered the direct-to-video sequel almost unwatchable and unfortunately the second sequel isn’t looking all that much better.
Set for a July 29th video release, STARSHIP TROOPERS 3: MAURADER looks like a noticeable improvement upon the last chapter but is obviously nowhere near the blockbuster quality of the first. Edward Neumeier, the screenwriter for the past two installments, has taken over the directorial reigns on MAURADER.
From the official trailer it’s clear that ST3 is, like its predecessor, still suffering from poor visual effects and unoriginal storytelling. The Arachnids look stilted and clumsy while the story itself seems to be a tired rehashing of the first, replacing the brain bug with a new “scorpion” bug. The new Trooper film does look interesting, but it’s a far cry from the A-list execution of Verhoeven’s product.
Are the glory days of the Starship Trooper franchise over for good? Will the Heinlein-inspired sci-fi adventure ever grace the big screen again as something more than just a Coca-Cola freeze frame? In all likelihood probably not, but here are some damn good reasons why it should:
You Can Never Have Enough Swarming Aliens…or Co-Ed Shower Scenes
Most science fiction fans don’t want to wait until Starcraft 2’s release to see more beautifully rendered shots of undulating, alien bug hordes. Campy scenes like the wacky high school sports match or the infamous co-ed shower sequence from the 1997 original were always balanced by kickass action set pieces and delightfully gruesome battles involving massive groups of Arachnid warriors. Mixing cheesy one-liners and memorable camp with loads of destructive man vs. bug action is what made the first STARSHIP TROOPERS not just great, but arguably fantastic.
Verhoeven’s Visual Effects Rocked
You sink $105 million into a futuristic sci-fi action movie and it’ll show. A combination of phenomenal model-building and powerful CGI rendering (fueled by Pixar’s RenderMan), Verhoeven’s STARSHIP TROOPERS was a feast for the eyes and a wet dream for every male action fan in the 13 to 35 age range. But in an Oscar year dominated by Cameron’s juggernaut TITANIC, STARSHIP TROOPERS was effectively swept under the “Best VFX” rug.
After more than a decade, however, Verhoeven’s spectacularly violent slaughter fest still trumps the visuals of most current SF entries. Where are the Mobile Infantry’s new assault rifles and nuclear grenades? Or how about the Fleet’s newly renovated Roger Young-class warships? Even if budget constraints prevented the first film from going out with an intended climactic bang, promises were made in that final bit of military propaganda and this amateur VFX filth the sequels are touting just isn’t up to snuff.
Denise Richards is Probably Crazy Enough to do Another One
After the bizarre allegations from ex Charlie Sheen came to a very public and awkward head last week, Denise Richards may come out the worse for wear of all the TROOPER originals. Crazy, down-on-their-luck actresses will take what they can get, even if it’s a sequel to a project they instantly regretted doing in the first place.
Get Neil Patrick Harris back into his German trench coat, sign up Richards and her ta tas for one of those co-ed shower scenes and pen Jake Busey back into the script if you seriously want to jumpstart this franchise.
Casper Van Dien is Johnny Rico
Leaden in Tim Burton’s SLEEPY HOLLOW and utterly forgettable in TARZAN AND THE LOST CITY, Casper Van Dien may not be the most talented thespian out there, but he is Johnny Rico: a no-bullshit, wise-ahead-of-his-years Mobile Infantrymen who’ll kill you himself if you don’t hold weight.
A staunch supporter of the Trooper franchise since the first film launched him to B-actor status, Casper’s limited emotive range makes him the perfect fit for Johnny Rico…and probably nothing else.
Whatever you think of its translation to the screen, Robert A. Heinlein’s politically charged SF masterpiece is the best hope for the franchise’s future. Within the pages of this Hugo Award-winning novel are the blueprints for a smart, crowd-pleasing military SF epic. As topical and controversial now as it was during its initial publication in 1959, Heinlein took a polarizing stance on the necessity of militarism, the merits of civil virtue, and the boundaries of Fascist and Communist satire.
New in Hardcover:
Eyes of a King, Catherine Banner (Doubleday Canada)
What the Mouse Found and Other Stories, Charles De Lint (Subterranean Press)
DarkGlass Mountain: The Twisted Citadel, Sara Douglass (Eos)
Doctor Who Short Trips: Defining Patterns, Ian Farrington (Big Finish)
Classic Dan Dare: The Reign of the Robots, Frank Hampson (Titan Books)
Illustrated by Don Harley.
Doctor Who Short Trips: Snapshots, Joseph Lidster (Big Finish)
Haggopian and Other Stories, Brian Lumley (Subterranean Press)
Signed edition illustrated by Bob Eggleton.
Doctor Who Short Trips: Destination Prague, Steven Savile (Big Finish)
Bring Down the Sun, Judith Tarr (Tor)
New in Paperback:
The Clouded World: The Fledging of Az Gabrielson, Jay Amory (Gollancz)
Saga of the Seven Suns: Metal Swarm, Kevin J. Anderson (Orbit)
Night Child, Jes Battis (Ace)
The Lost World, Arthur Conan Doyle (Penguin)
Daemonomania, John Crowley (Overlook TP)
Jennifer Scales: The Silver Moon Elm, MaryJanice Davidson & Anthony Alongi (Ace)
DarkGlass Mountain: The Serpent Bride, Sara Douglass (Eos)
Quid Pro Quo, Manna Francis (Casperian Books)
Starship Troopers: Damaged Justice, Tony S. Lee (Markosia Enterprises LLC)
Illustrated by Sam Hart & Shanth Enjeti.
Icarus, Roger Levy (Gollancz)
Ravirn: Codespell, Kelly McCullough (Ace)
Moonworlds Saga: Voyage of the Shadowmoon, Sean McMullen (Tor)
Percheron Saga: Goddess, Fiona Mcintosh (Eos)
Stargate SG-1: Do No Harm, Karen Miller (Fandemonium Books)
Butterfly Wishes, Ladonna Paulette (Tiger Publications Inc.)
Sign of the Zodiac: The Touch of Twilight, Vicki Pettersson (Eos)
Galactic North, Alaistair Reynolds (Ace)
Eight short stories and novellas by one of SF’s best contemporary writers.
New in Audiobook:
Landover: The Tangle Box, Terry Brooks (Brilliance Audio Unabridged)
Narrated by Dick Hill.
The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick (Blackstone Audiobooks Unabridged)
The phenomenal series opener to The Void Trilogy. Narrated by John Lee.
The White Plague, Frank Herbert (Tantor Media Unabridged)
Narrated by Scott Brick.
Check back next Monday for all the latest info on current sci-fi, fantasy, and horror book releases. Questions or comments? Hit me up at Pferrara.firstname.lastname@example.org.