Following the victory over the “brain bug” on Planet 'P' at the end of the first movie, the Federation has issued orders to push on and take the fight back the Bugs on their home territory. Fighting against rapidly increasing odds on one of the Bug's worlds we find a group of mobile infantry troopers who are rapidly being overwhelmed by the enemy.
Retreating to the only possible fallback position, an abandoned military fortress, the troopers find none of the original inhabitants save one, Dax, who has been imprisoned in the buildings incinerator after killing his commanding officer. After he assists the troopers in a battle to repel a Bug attack, Dax is put back on active duty pending a court martial some time in the future but, whilst he appears to be no threat to the troopers, another far deadlier threat lays in wait. The Bugs have been busy and they have developed a new weapon, one which threatens to topple the entire Federation from within.
The sequel to the 1997 movie “Starship Troopers” which was made with a budget of $95 million, “Hero of the Federation” was made on a comparatively miniscule 5% of this and shot in only 26 days. Recorded onto high definition video, (see picture notes below), and featuring a mostly unknown cast, the production was tightly squeezed in many areas and, unfortunately, this is extremely apparent.
Heavily influenced by Vietnam movies and using the claustrophobic setting of the fort in a nod to the Alien movies, (as well as reducing costs), the movie aims to bring home the eroding effects that the protracted war has had on the troopers. By focussing in on one small group of soldiers in an unimaginably large conflict, besieged by an overwhelming Bug force, low on equipment and supplies and without enough troops to back them up or even evacuate them, the troops should be war weary and their faith in the Federations' propaganda on the wane. Unfortunately, whilst the idea is on the ball and would make a great sequel, this movie just doesn't pull it off. The screenplay is flat and plods along, featuring lines of dialogue that let you know the movie is in serious trouble. When the General states that something “won't matter a hill of beans” he really could have been referring to the plot itself. Not knowing whether to be a war movie, a sci-fi movie or a straight out gore movie, the end result is somewhat of a mess.
Budgetary pressures have also reared their heads with some of the practical effects. The troopers weapons which were so well done in the original, are replaced here with guns featuring flashing blue lights instead of muzzle fire, an effect which would be more at home in a Tom Baker Doctor Who story than a sequel to the weapon fest that was the first film. It is also fair to say that the movie is a victim of its own plotting with most of the action, and a fair amount of gore, taking place in the last third of the film. This would not have been a problem had the first two thirds cranked up the pressure in anticipation but, instead, the middle third of the movie seems to drag along. Many scenes seem jarring and out of place. None of the troopers behave logically or seem to notice any of the odd behaviour on show until it is too late. This does make you think that large sections of the story have been dropped in as padding until the Bugs can get their act together, at which point the movie tries to switch into a gory horror movie in an attempt to shake up the audience..
Surprisingly, the CGI effects are pretty good which does tend to show up the inadequacies in the rest of the production. Bug effects ranging from a massive sweeping siege on the tower by the traditional giant scissor like Bugs, small, spider-like new bugs and some excellent effects on the carriers of the new “weapon”, are all well rendered and composited adding to their believability.
As a big fan of the original movie, itself an ultra expensive and well done “B” movie, the animated Roughnecks shows and “B” movies in general, this movie was extremely disappointing. All the elements seem to have been there in the story but a combination of budgetary constraints, a plodding script and bad pacing seem to have squashed this bug movie underfoot.
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