Monday, November 12, 2012

Starship Troopers: Invasion (2012) direct-to-video animation review

Overall verdict: 6/10

The Good: Visually captivating designs, top notch Computer graphics for a modest budget, unrelenting action, professional voice cast

The Bad: little character development, messy story narrative, generic stock characters, lacks any of the clever underlying themes of its predecessors, relies too much on eye candy.

Current Availability Status: on DVD in local shops. Blu-ray available online

The Arachnid Bugs are back but not in some second rate low budget Direct-to-video movie. This time the Starship Troopers franchise explodes onto screen as an R-Rated, cutting edge CGI feature film from the director of Appleseed Ex Machina and Halo Legends. The result is the beautifully animated but ultimately shallow STARSHIP TROOPERS: INVASION. At very least, this movie has learned from previous mistakes and manages to be decent entertainment fare with enough action and eye candy to thrill all.

Although in CGI, this is not a continuation of the critically acclaimed "Roughnecks: Starship Trooper Chronicles" CGI TV series. Instead, it is a continuation of the movie series that started with Paul Verhoven's first film and continued in two direct to DVD live action movies.

A big plus,especially for fans of the franchise, is that the characters from the first Starship Troopers movie return and play major roles in the story. Johnny Rico, Carmen Ibanez and Carl Jenkins are now seasoned veterans with Rico now a general leading his "Marauder" Mech squad (introduced in Starship Troopers 3), Ibanez a fleet captain and Jenkins the ever secretive head of paranormal warfare. Sadly, STARSHIP TROOPERS: INVASION relies too much on tying into the previous movies that it is barely able to stand on its own.

No introductions or character development are given to the returning characters. A cast of new characters are featured but none of them go beyond your typical "hard edged space marine squad" stereotype characters. There is the token Asian character who (surprise surprise) practices kung fu, big tough African American, the tough chick and the quiet gal for sexy factor, strong silent hero, the list goes on. At least the voice cast does a top notch job that is only limited by the mediocre script which only calls for wannabe "tough talk".

The story also starts off in a complete mess with a Mobile Infantry taskforce sent to evacuate Fort Casey, a base overrun by the Bugs. Carl appears with a secret weapon and with no explanation steals a ship, Captain Ibanez takes another ship and goes in pursuit, a Bug Queen is introduced, our main squad tries to retake the first ship and people die. No one knows the characters motivations or their personalities aside from the superficial characterizations. Beyond that, newcomers who are not familiar with the franchise would just be lost among the jargon, the characters who all just seem to know each other without any introduction to who they are or a recap on what they had gone through in the past together. The film's main mistake is grounding itself too strongly in what has come before and thus making the film near inaccessible to newcomers to the franchise.

If it is not the convoluted heap of a story that would win over viewers, it is definitely the action and the visuals. STARSHIP TROOPERS INVASION brings back the powered suits and the mechs that were featured in the original novel but absent from the first movie. Not only is this movie the closest one can get to the book in terms of the Federation's weapons and tactics, but it looks awesome too. The CGI featured in this film is nowhere near the big budget Pixar movies, but it gives Final Fantasy Advent Children and Resident Evil Damnation a run for their money in terms of visual splendor. Hair flows, movements are smooth, and the filming style mimics that of live action movies, thus making the CGI look a lot better than it really is. The movie truly earns its R rating with bloody dismemberment, gore and even explicit nudity.
 Yes, more explicit than this.
 Battles are rapid, tight and epic; they would have definitely required a budget higher than the previous 3 movies combined if they were in live action. All this is set to a soundtrack score by Tetsuya Takahashi who successfully incorporates themes from the previous Starship Troopers movies.

Leave it to the Japanese to be able to visualize Starship Troopers right. Ironic in that Starship Troopers (the novel) was highly influential in the creation of the "Real Robot" genre first popularized by Mobile Suit Gundam. But like previous Japanese CGI projects, style overpowers substance and no amount of visual beauty, creative directing or eye candy can excuse a confusing, convoluted mess of a story with none of deeper themes that its predecessors had nor the complete lack of character development. Watch this purely for the action, the visuals and maybe that one nudity scene.
*******************Review End******************
Go For it: if you are a fan of starship troopers and would like to see the film franchise continued in a new, visually astounding medium. Or if you liked japanese CGI productions like Appleseed and Final Fantasy
Avoid it: if you yearn for the dark humor and clever political themes of the original Starship Troopers movie as there are none here, or if you prefer character development over character nudity and dismemberment.

Entertainment: B+
Story: C-
Characters: B-
Animation: A-
Art: A
Music: B+
Voice work (english): A-
Replay Value: B
"Brains": D