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Sequels are a very contentious subject within the world of movies, most of the time they fail to live up to their predecessor and only a handful are deemed a success. In 1997 controversial director Paul Verhoeven’s released Starship Troopers which was a hit with many sci fi fans. The movie attracted audiences worldwide and it was a surprise that a sequel took seven years to appear. Tasked with making the sequel was visual effects supervisor Phil Tippett who was responsible for working on the effects for the original Starship Troopers, and other films such as Jurassic Park and Return of the Jedi. Starship Troopers 2 marked the directorial debut for Tippett, but surely if anyone would be able to recreate the atmosphere of the original it would be him! Read on to find out if this sequel was really worth making.

Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation
Movie
Starship Troopers 2 is set a few years after the events of the first movie. Things haven’t changed much since then, so in essence the humans are still fighting against the arachnid warrior bugs! The movie throws the audience right into the thick of things when we are introduced to an infantry unit, stranded on a hostile storm swept planet called Zulu Angel. At the point where we join them, things are not going particularly well as the troops are surrounded by hoards of bugs and their only safe haven is an abandoned outpost. Upon their arrival at the outpost the unit stumble upon another survivor who has been locked inside the furnace of the building.

This man turns out to be Captain Dax (Richard Burgi), who has been imprisoned for allegedly killing his commanding officer. The unit initially decides to keep Dax locked up, but they soon find themselves enlisting his help. The outpost provides short term safety, but it is only a matter of time before the bugs will find them. That turns out to be the least of their worries though as it soon becomes clear that there is a new superior breed of bug on the planet!

From the outset I would like to point out that I wasn’t expecting a great deal from this movie. However, I found it reasonably entertaining and for that reason the mark this film receives is slightly inflated considering my expectations. The second thing that is probably worth pointing out is the fact that Starship Troopers 2 is nothing like the original movie. If you are expecting a CGI fest and plenty of humour then you will be largely disappointed. Instead what we are given is a sci-fi horror which adds nothing new to the genre but still manages to do ok. It would be far too easy to criticise this movie, for example, aspects such as the acting and dialogue could easily be associated with a B-movie, but even taking those areas into account, the film saunters along and doesn’t outstay its welcome.

Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation
There are large sections of this movie which have been blatantly borrowed from other movies. The creators of this movie were obviously fans of Pitch Black and Aliens because these two movies were clearly used as a base model for the story and special effects here. Most of the action scenes are shot in complete darkness so as to ensure that the special effects budget was kept as low as possible. Gone are the fancy action set-pieces that frequented Paul Verhoeven’s movie and instead at times this sequel employs the philosophy that if you can’t see the enemy, then it is more menacing! This spoils the movie during certain scenes because you really can’t see what is happening, however it is perfectly understandable considering the movie’s budget. All in all, considering the financial constraints for this movie, Starship Troopers 2 is about as good as you could expect, but be warned, that doesn’t make it a good film.

Video
Starship Troopers 2 is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and it is a difficult transfer to judge. As mentioned earlier, dark scenery is cleverly used to disguise the special effects in the movie. Therefore, the success of this transfer is largely down to how well it replicates the dark colours and thankfully it holds these scenes together well. Black levels were for the most part solid and true, while during some of the lighter scenes the other scale of the colour palette was occasionally put to the test. Grain levels are a little disappointing and at several points in the movie there was certainly too much grain evident. The other minor issue I have with this transfer is the image which seemed to lack definition and appeared too soft at times. Overall though, considering the budget for this movie, Columbia Tristar have produced a transfer which puts some higher budget titles to shame.

Audio
Packaged with this release are three soundtracks, all of which are in Dolby Digital 5.1. The languages accounted for are in English, Czech and Hungarian. I wasn’t expecting a great deal from this aspect of the disc but I was pleasantly surprised, as the rears are put to good use during some of the battle scenes and the overall experience produced is first class. It helps that the movie has lots of battle scenes, so there are plenty of opportunities for the gun fire and alien noises to be flashed around the soundstage. My subwoofer was also tested during some of the more intensive set pieces. Dialogue levels were spot on throughout and the musical score was mostly constrained to the front speakers. Subtitles are provided in English, Dutch, Arabic, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Norwegian, Polish, Slovenian and Turkish. The menus are static but are well designed and look the part.

Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation
Extras
Due to the limited budget available for this title I wasn’t expecting a jam-packed extras section. While the selection available is by no means extensive, there are a respectable number of extras available which should give fans an insight into the movie and how it was made. I’ll start off by mentioning the Commentary by Director Phill Tippett, Producer Jon Davison and Writer Ed Neumeier. Most commentaries can be grouped into a handful of categories and this one would definitely be classed as a technical commentary. All of the commentators involved give a good insight into how the movie reached the screen and obviously have a love for the film. This commentary goes into details such a lighting and camera angles, basically you name it, this documentary covers it! The only problem is that the commentators are quite boring and don’t have much banter going amongst them.

There are a couple of featurettes on this disc and the first one is called From Green Screen To Silver Screen. This featurette shows how the visual effects were created for the movie. A few scenes from the movie are focused upon and we are shown the processes involved, from storyboards through to how the final scenes looked when slotted into the final cut. This is quite a technical featurette which will probably interest fans of special effects. I enjoyed this featurette and wanted it to go on for longer. If you have ever wanted to know about the world of special effects then this nine minute featurette should be a good starting point.  The second featurette on this disc is entitled Inside The Federation. The director and writer start off this extra by talking about how they came about drafting the story for the movie. Various other members of the crew also reminisce about the movie and the ideas behind it. As this documentary moves along we get to hear from the cast too, who talk about their characters and how they develop during the movie. As you can see this is a standard run of the mill documentary, but it leaves no stone unturned. It lasts for over thirty minutes and covers most topics that fans would want to know about.

That just leaves a few short extras to talk about; the first being a Photo Gallery which displays twenty photographs from the production of the movie. The final extras are all trailers and we are given the option of watching trailers for eight Columbia Tristar titles which include the likes of Spider-man 2, Bad Boys 2, Welcome To The Jungle and Hellboy.

Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation
Overall
Direct to DVD releases are becoming increasingly popular these days; last month saw the release of Wild Things 2 and now we have Starship Troopers 2, the sequel to Paul Verhoeven’s cult-classic. Reviewing this type of release brings additional challenges for us reviewers, as more often than not you readers will look to reviews before parting with your hard earned cash. So, I guess the million dollar question is should you take a chance on this sequel? After much pondering I would probably recommend this as a rental title. I was a huge fan of the first film but to me this sequel is trying to cash in on the success of the original, and is nothing more than a mediocre attempt which suffers immensely due to its low budget. Columbia Tristar have produced a reputable disc which doesn’t disappoint or impress. I am sure that some people will find the lure of another dose of bug bashing to be too much, and will purchase this disc anyway. Just be careful, you have been warned!  


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