First off: Casper Van Dien should only play Johnny Rico for the rest of his life. He totally and completely sells the Rico facade so well that, if I ever got the chance to hang out with Casper, I would demand that he be addressed only as Rico, and that the conversation topic would remain strictly on killing bugs. But although he's great in Marauder, the rest of the movie - like the Federation - has both its good and its terribly awful sides.
New faces in Marauder include big-lipped lady pilot Lola Beck (Jolene Blalock) and Dix Hauser (Boris Kodje), who both served with Rico at one time and, like him, have moved up the military food chain. Lola is an ex-girlfriend of Rico who is now shaking it up with Dix, who is a real...well you get the joke. But more important than the new troopers are the new bugs: Marauder gives us a few new battle-ready insects including an exploding pill bug (similar to a grenade), scorpions that shoot hot blue goo out of their asses and, best of all, the biggest brain bug of them all... which just happens to be as large as a planet. And if you thought the first brain bug looked like lady bits, wait until you get a load of its master. If this bug was ever shown on television it's going to have to be pixelated tremendously.
The story takes off with the reuniting of old friends Rico, Lola and Dix on a once-peaceful farming planet in the "outer colonies" (hello Firefly reference). Dix and Lola fly about with the famous pop star Sky Marshall, who can't take three steps with out a fan asking for an autograph and also happens to be the most powerful man in the universe. When the planet comes under bug attack, Lola gets stranded on a desert island with the Marshall and - one ego-fueled back and forth later - Dix sends Rico out to save the love of his life (That would be Lola, in case you're wondering). Cue Rico getting naked (including quickie frontal shot) and putting on the infamous Power Suits.
The storyline is hastily strung together based around what seemed more like what the movie could afford and less what the writers wanted to do. There were quite a few moments when asshole moves made by major characters were quickly forgotten because, really: who has the money for character development?, and a lot of plot troubles were swept under the rug in favor of more explosions and decapitations. Which normally is fine by me, but the important thing about the original Starship Troopers is even though it was cheestastic, it made me care about the characters. True, watching Dina Merer gasp her way through what could be considered the world's worst death scene was excruciating, but I was still sad to see Diz go because I fell in love with that character and her stereotypical actions. Unfortunately for Marauder, the only characters I cared about were the Sky Marshall and Rico, because I already loved the rough neck and SM was the only character they cared to give a back story that wasn't just "she's religious."
While the original movie's director Paul Verhoeven took a producer's chair on Marauder, a lot of the best parts of the original Troopers were missing. Sure, the Sky Marshall schtick is pretty funny (and his anthem "It's A Good Day To Die" will be stuck in your head forever) but the whole, "sign up and die for your government" takes a back seat to religious spoofing which makes little to no sense. So while you'll be getting plenty of new recruiting commercials, be prepared for the religious humor which doesn't commit enough to actually be funny. It's actually quite disappointing that director and writer of Robocop fame, Ed Neumeier, would make a commercial aimed at recruiting gays into the Federation's Fleet with the hilarious tag line: "People say boys don't give good H.E.D. but I do," from an incredibly effeminate soldier, and yet he glosses over the religion jokes with a simple, people who have faith can be silly. If you're not going to tackle the issue with some sort of poignant moment (be it serious or funny) then why bring it up?
That being said, it's worth the rental just to hear the announcer ask "would you like to know more?" Plenty of Marauder is squash-the-bug good fun; don't look for the spot-on humor, but, hey - it's a DVD, so there had to be sacrifices somewhere. Personally, I would have loved a Neil Patrick Harris cameo in his hilarious Nazi uniform (there was no NPH to speak of sadly), but I did like the addition of giant crosses to the front of the Federation suits. Rico had to carry the brunt of acting with a deadly serious face while delivering ridiculous dialog on his own shoulders. If only Neurmeier had taken to time to work out the religious humor, we would have had a movie that would have adults everywhere screaming for Power Suit toys.