Director – Phil Tippett, Screenplay – Ed Neumeier, Producer – Jon Davison, Photography – Christian Sebaldt, Music – John Morgan & William Stromberg, Visual Effects Supervisor – Eric Leven, Visual Effects – Tippett Studio (Animation Supervisor – Pete Konig, Creature Design – Craig Hayes), FedNet Sequences – VCE.com (Supervisor – Peter Kuran), Special Effects Supervisor – Michael Lantieri, Production Design – Anthony Carbone. Production Company – TriStar Pictures/Jon Davison/StarTroop Pictures Inc.
Richard Burgi (Captain V.J. Dax), Colleen Porch (Private Lei Sahara), Ed Quinn (Private Joe Griff), Ed Lauter (General Jack Gordon Shepherd), Lawrence Monoson (Lieutenant Pavlov Dill), Brenda Strong (Sergeant Dede Rake), Kelly Carlson (Private Charlie Soda), J.P. Manoux (Technical Sergeant Ari Peck), Cy Carter (Private Billie Otter), Jason-Shane Scott (Private Duff Horton), Drew Powell (Private Kipper Tor), Sandrine Holt (Private Jill Sandee), Billy Brown (Private Ottis Brick)
A troop of Mobile Infantry soldiers are engaged in heavy combat with the arachnids on an alien planet. General Shepherd orders the unit’s psychic Pavlov Dill to lead the remaining survivors to one of the hotel forts. Though they get there, Dill proves autocratic and incompetent in command. At the fort, they find a Captain Dax imprisoned inside the furnace, placed there for killing his superior officer. Trying to fight off the arachnid hordes, Private Sahara, who realises that she too might be a psychic, frees Dax on intuition and he proves capable of leading them to organise the hotel’s defences. They are later joined by Shepherd, who has been rescued by three stray soldiers. However, once they are in the hotel, there proves to be something strange about the three new arrivals. The newcomers make sexual advances on the others and soon after the rest of the troop begin acting strangely too. Dax and Sahara come to realise that the newcomers are housing a form of arachnid that is capable of taking over and controlling the human body.
I was not much of a fan of Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers (1997). While there were some excellent effects, the film marginalised Robert Heinlein’s excellent source novel and allowed Verhoeven’s proclivities for bludgeoning violence and black humour to come to the fore. Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation is a sequel that was released directly to video. The sequel was produced by Jon Davidson, the producer of the original, and written by Ed Neumeier, co-writer of the first film.
Direction has been handed over to Phil Tippett. Tippett is best known in the industry as a visual effects man, specialising in stop-motion animation. He created the holographic chessgame sequence in Star Wars (1977), the Tauntauns in The Empire Strikes Back (1980), the ED-209 sequences in RoboCop (1987), was the dinosaur supervisor on Jurassic Park (1993) and of course in charge of creature effects for Starship Troopers. Tippett later went on to direct Mad God (2021), a stop-motion animated feature film that he took thirty years to complete.
While I disliked Starship Troopers, I must admit that I found the zero-expectation Hero of the Federation a far more enjoyable film. Phil Tippett and Ed Neumeier largely dispense with any lingering connections to the Heinlein novel – there is, for instance, no mention of the quasi-fascistic military state and the philosophy behind it, which was what the book was principally concerned with. Moreover, Phil Tippett plays the soldiers vs bugs conflict as a straight war film rather than dishes it up with a fierce streak of black humour as Paul Verhoeven did.
Paul Verhoeven always gives the impression that he is indifferent to the characters in his films; by contrast, Tippett pays more attention to his characters and crafts them as a likeable troupe of standard war movie grunts. Particularly good in this respect is the central performance of Richard Burgi, an actor who has filled bit parts and is probably best known as the super-powered hero of tv’s The Sentinel (1996-9) and was a regular on tv’s Desperate Housewives (2004-12), who is excellent as the individualistic, tough-as-nails Dax.
The latter half of the film abandons the war movie aspect and becomes something entirely different – an alien body snatcher effort with the bugs taking over various of the troupe and nobody sure who is who anymore. Tippett passes through most of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) clichés and one scene with the female newcomer that seems to have been borrowed from Species (1995) and serves it up with a reasonable competence. There is a way out scene where Ed Quinn drags J.P. Manoux’s desiccating body behind him, its limbs falling off behind it, and then tears the top of the head off to reveal a bug inside and tosses the bug into the room with a group of soldiers.
Tippett is certainly not unstinting when it comes to gore in the latter half with various scenes of fingers being chopped off, heads battered in, split open, severed and shoved inside microwaves to be splattered and one victim being incinerated to the skeleton. Rather invigorating stuff really.
Borrowing a line from the joke credits started by Renaissance Pictures with Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (1994-9), the end credits note that “No animators were harmed in the making of this motion picture.”
The Starship Troopers franchise was continued with the subsequent Starship Troopers 3: Marauder (2009) and the anime films Starship Troopers: Invasion (2012) and Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars (2017).