Review By Paul Mount, 3 out of 5

Paul Verhoeven? original STARSHIP TROOPERS was one great big bloody battlefield of a movie, a hymn to the gung-ho American fighting spirit whose irony was entirely lost on the American public who gave it the cold shoulder at the box office. The rest of the world got the joke though and the film was a sizable hit internationally. Those of us who cherished the first film (and can still watch it with glee even today) secretly yearned for a sequel but we never thought we? see one. We certainly never thought we? see one materialise as a straight-to-video low budget effort directed by the guy who did the FX in the first one. But here it is, cheap and cheerful and – here? the shocker – actually not at all bad.

Director Tippett and scriptwriter Ed Neumier have been quite wily here. With nothing like the budget of the first film at their disposal they had no choice but to strike off in an entirely different direction for their sequel. So where STARSHIP TROOPERS was a huge, sprawling balls-to-the-wall space opera extravaganza with shiny-toothed heroes and giant spaceships, the sequel is, out of necessity, a more intimate affair. Where the first film was SF, this is resolutely a horror film – a sort of ALIEN crossed with INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. And, apart from a slightly iffy script and some suspect performances, it works out okay. But just okay.

A group of bug-battling infantrymen (and, crucially, women) find themselves stranded on a gloomy, storm-lashed planet besieged by thousands of screeching killer arachnids. They take refuge in a desolate outpost and prepare for their final battle with the approaching hordes. But the bugs are even cleverer than the human have thought and they?e discovered a way of infiltrating the humans by quite literally infiltrating the humans. Paranoia sets in as the survivors quickly realise that not only do they have to fear the hordes of bugs outside but they no longer know who they can trust amongst their own kindzp>

STARSHIP TROOPERS 2 knows what it is and what it isn?. It knows it can? replicate the spectacle of the first film so it chooses to be a smaller, gloomier affair, hard to reconcile with the characters and scenarios of the earlier work. Of course we don? care about any of these characters – it? hard to tell one from another but it? not difficult to understand their plight as their number is whittled down by the crawling enemy within. Tippett? direction isn? as assured as it might be; he handles the occasional big FX set pieces well, the FX themselves are stunning if infrequent but the more traditional action scenes are clumsy and poorly-choreographed. But he? pitched this quite clearly as a horror film; hence the 18 certificate in the UK. There? some token nudity and some grisly gore which takes the casual visceral thrills of the first film into an altogether darker domain. Surprisingly enjoyable, STARSHIP TROOPERS 2 makes the grade because it recognises its limitations and plays to them. Thankfully not the dreadful ?ree-with-a-DVD-magazine?cheapo SF yarn I was expecting, it? a film which, whilst a mere shadow of STARSHIP TROOPERS, is hardly a disgrace in its own right. Worth a look.

THE DISC: Set mainly in the gloom there? not much to shout about in the picture department. The soundscape is fantastic though, with all five speakers on the go all the way through. The rear speakers are given a constant workout by the ever-present howling winds, the distant screech of arachnids, explosions, gunfire and nasty squelches when required. One of the best sound mixes I?e ever heard. Extras are few but OK, including a commentary, an FX featurette and some trailers. Also available as a two-disc box set with the first film which is unlikely to do this movie many favours but there you go, that? showbizzp>

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