Directed by: Shinji Aramaki, Masaru Matsumoto
Written by: Edward Neumeier
Cast: Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, DeRay Davis, Justin Doran, Emily Neves
Swift shot: Some old friends are back in this animated, kick-ass film about legendary Space Marines, err I mean the Mobile Infantry (MI). If you aren’t familiar with the characters, they are loosely based on the classic bildungsroman about a group of high school kids thrust into a war for survival of their species. An invading swarm of giant, spider-like bugs mercilessly slaughters anything in their path. Traitor of Mars is the latest film to feature many of the original characters from the 1997 film Starship Troopers, also written by Edward Neumeier. Because Traitor of Mars is an animated film, there is no limit to the amount of effects. And we finally get to see the power suits that Heinlein introduced to our world back in 1959, which arguably launched the mecha armor craze that is still strong today.
Mars is a rebellious colony planet of the United Citizen Federation (UCF). Mars is basically considered a backwater wasteland, where our hero, now demoted to Colonel, Johnny Rico (Van Dien) has been exiled for something that isn’t really relevant to the story. Think of Mars like the shittiest post you can give to a commander in the Mobile Infantry. That’s where Rico has reluctantly taken command of a platoon he not so affectionately dubs, the Lost Patrol.
Every time they run a combat simulation, they die. In fact they are so pathetic they can’t get past the first drop mission. Their Lieutenant, or “LT” is Baba (Scott Gibbs), and he certainly doesn’t instill confidence in his platoon. But as the film progresses, Baba has to grow up and pick up leadership skills, literally on the jump!
The rest of the platoon are a bit cliche as far as war stories go, but they aren’t incredibly obnoxious about it. Camacho (Juliet Simmons) is seemingly always flustered and can’t ever find her bearing until it’s almost too late. Dutch is the bulky, brash machine-gunner who always manages to get torn in half in every simulation. And 101 (Davis) is the heavy weapons specialist who brings down some serious hurt on any bugs dumb enough to cross his path.
Maybe it isn’t fair to say the platoon is cliche, because most platoons in war films aren’t this inept. No one would believe they lived this long, if they were. But, these Martians are essentially screw-ups who probably are just in MI for the citizenship. See, in Heinlein’s novel and in the films, service equals citizenship. The only way to vote or to reproduce is to have served in the military. In this way, society isn’t full of people making decisions without understanding the sacrifices involved. I often wonder how that might play out in our time.
As fate would have it, Mars has been unknowingly infested by Arachnids (AKA the bugs) and Rico and his Lost Patrol are the only hope the planet has to survive. The “smartest woman alive” Amy Snapp (Neves) is the Sky Marshall and commander of the UCF. She sees Mars as a lost cause, and she makes all her decisions based on polling numbers. Neumeier had a lot of fun with this, given the current state of things with Twitter and the immediate feedback prevalent in society.
But while Snapp is planning on a final solution for the Martians, with the support of Earth’s people, one psychic Games and Theory (AKA Military Intelligence) commander, Carl Jenkins (Doran) has hatched a daring gambit to save Mars . . . which so happens to be where his old buddy Rico is currently wasting away his talents.
And Diz Flores (Meyer) is resurrected. [Readers of the Heinlein novel will appreciate that]
I can’t get into too much more about the plot without giving away some little surprises, but Neumeier mentioned the coincidence of the element of so-called “Fake News” creeping from his screenplay in a way that unintentionally mirrors our current political landscape.
Overall it was just a fun film that I will definitely be adding to my Blu-ray collection. The addition of the much missed power suits alone makes it a must watch for fans of Heinlein’s work. And I had to scour the NET to find the old Microprose PC game from 2000 that I used to play that I swear heavily influenced certain elements of the film. Many times while watching the movie, I kept having flashbacks of playing it and wondering how long the Lost Patrol would last under my command. [Incidentally, there was a 2005 Starship Troopers PC game that apparently stunk.]
If you are a fan of Neumeier’s other writing, I think this one holds up to his style, and I really loved the end credits metal adaption of Basil Poledouris’ original score from 1997. It made me want to suit up and jump – because, after all nobody lives forever!