Friday, 6 November 2015

Starship Troopers 3: Marauder (2008) review/love letter

It is not often I watch a movie and go "why have I never heard about this one before, it is amazing!", knowing there and then that the movie will become one of my new favourite things, but that's exactly what happened when I watched Starship Troopers 3.
I was one of the people who really liked Starship Troopers the movie, and I still credit it for stopping the incredibly annoying "these bad aliens are attacking the earth because they're aliens"-trope films like Independence day and Titan AE perpetuated. But, any interest I had in the subversion and social commentary alluded to in first movie was extinguished by the travesty of a body-snatcher "horror film" Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation. Bleh.

Marauder is the third film in the series by writer Ed Neumeier, and the first one he directed himself  - apparently to firmly answer once and for all the debate over whether the first movie was a satire or not.
Marauder just ramps everything up; the satire, the social commentary, the propaganda, the mass-manipulation, the "to defeat our enemy we're becoming our enemy", humans still underestimating the bugs, people benefiting from the war going on forever as both sides try to vanquish each other completely instead of trying to find a compromise.. He even brings in the Mech suits and the planet-destroying bomb fans of the books wanted in the first film.

It takes some time to understand the tone of Marauder, it keeps jumping from over-the-top, comedic propaganda broadcasts to the bloody reality of war, but as we progress the propaganda clips build a more and more ironic view of the Federation, as we see both the glossy outward image, and the behind-the-scenes scheming.
I really appreciated that the movie took its loss and combat seriously, keeping the comedy in the dialogue and non-life threatening parts. There are of course weaknesses to the movie - the budget is low, some of the actors really struggle to pronounce their lines and the dialogue in itself is trying a bit too hard to be cool (also Casper Van Dien plays one scene great - the meeting his old friend/bar struggle is really well done - and then he sort of phones it in for the rest of the movie), and the movie flounders revealing the (by then) rather obvious plot twist - but everything is alleviated by the amazing over-the-top performances of Stephen Hogan as the Sky Marshall and Amanda Donohoe as the wannabe new sky marshall. No matter what the rest of the movie had been, I would probably have recommended it anyway just for those two. You need to see Hogan's slow reveal of his character's true motivations, it's masterful.

I still do not understand why this one isn't a more well-known cult film, it seems like it should appeal to people who like movies like Stranger than Fiction, Thank you for Smoking, Cradle will Rock - subversive films that deal with human motivation and how we can be manipulated.
One theory is that the movie can be read as both highly pro-religion -and- highly anti-religion. I'm still not sure what the writer/director was going for, but I'd say it's pretty safe to say the movie is anti-organized religion, and it can definitely be read as anti-military - all highly controversial subjects a lot of movie viewers seem to react negatively to (at least that's what I've concluded from reading IMDB comments over the years. People hate both religious films and anti-religious films, and don't you dare say anything negative about the military).
It is not being subtle about it either. In fact, it is being so unsubtle about its symbolism that it is rather genius, culminating in two of the main characters getting engaged in front of an exploding planet.
In the end the humans won a small victory, all our main characters have been subdued into new positions, and the Federation is ready to keep fighting the "righteous", never-ending war, now with a new weapon in their arsenal, in the most depressing happy ending I've ever seen.

It. Is. Glorious.

"In related news; peace terrorist Elmo Gonif and 51 of his closest friends where hung this morning, in what many believe to be the all-time record for executions in a single day since the 21th century!"

Also, it has boobs.

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