Why “Starship Troopers 3” Made My Head Explode

I wrote this as a private rant after seeing the movie, and one of the recipients was a long-time friend who was, at the time, managing editor of  “Rue Morgue Magazine”. She published it as a capsule review, though I’ve never actually seen the issue.

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In 1997 Paul Veerhoven turned Robert Heinlein’s science fiction masterpiece Starship Troopers into a blockbuster action picture. Along with amazing CGI bug battles, the film also managed to convey an anti-Fascist message cleverly and humorously. The film was only vaguely successful, and it was seven years before an ultra-cheap sequel got made and instantly forgotten. How cheap? The bugs looked like people.

And now there’s Starship Troopers 3: Marauder.

Casper (“What happened to my career?”) Van Dien reprises his role as John Rico from the 1997 original after wisely skipping the previous installment. Joining him is a cast of cannon fodder including Amanda (“I took my clothes off in a Ken Russel film”) Donhoe, who plays a scheming admiral, and Jolene (“Star Trek typecast me as a frigid bitch and now I inject collagen in my lips to get jobs”) Blaylock as the hard-assed starship captain.

Unlike Starship Troopers 2, this is not a no-budget movie. Some hard cash got spent on this sucker. Sure there are plenty of tragically bad visuals, most of which feature poorly animated bugs and giant killer robots. But some of the footage is slick enough that you’re momentarily fooled into thinking this is an actual Hollywood feature. Exploding heads? Awesome!

Like the first film, Marauders also appears to have some amusing social commentary to offer along with its cheese, primarily a lightly painted subtext that seems to be taking the piss out of conservative Christianity.

Then it all goes horribly wrong.

Without warning, right at the climax, the movie careens into an obscene display of rampant American Fundamentalism, transforming all the “amusing commentary” into serious statement. Lead characters fall to their knees praying for salvation and are miraculously rescued. Cue halo of shining stars around requisite Virgin Mary surrogate. Blaylock gets religion, and gets it bad. The forces of the Federation declare “God is on our side”! Cue montage of crucifix shaped barrels blasting bugs on the fiery battlefield. Dante would weep with joy.

Some might suggest that this is in the vein of Veerhoven’s original, which did such a great job of making Fascism look loony. But that’s not how it comes across, and if it was their intent then the filmmakers have failed miserably. Van Dien is apparently a “true believer”, and one wonders how much of his soul Ed Neumier sold just to get his director’s credit. Then again, maybe it’s his shtick too.

Frankly, flagrant fundamentalist propaganda makes me ill, but this direct-to-the-DVD-discount-bin picture also ends up embracing/endorsing the fascism that Verhoven tried so hard to diminish. The apparent moral of this story is that unthinking obedience is “what God wants.”

Now that’s scary.

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