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Starship Troopers: Invasion (2012)

Starship Troopers: Invasion is surely a curious beast. Not only is it a belated animated sequel to Paul Verhoven's cult classic Starship Troopers, but it's also a Japanese co-production directed by Harlock and Appleseed's Shinji Aramaki. It's not the first time Japanese studios have produced animated versions of existing Hollywood properties, but they generally take the form of spin-offs like the Animatrix or the animated Supernatural. Invasion is unusual in that it's intended to be an official sequel set in the same universe as the original, and even featuring some of the same characters. This makes it an interesting prospect for both fans of the original flick and for anime fans.

Starship Troopers has already spawned two live action sequels, but this feature wisely chooses to ignore them. They were direct-to-video cheapies of the worst kind, with the second outing Hero Of the Federation being a particular abomination. When you can't even get Casper Van Dien back.. you know you're in trouble. The third one was quite an improvement in comparison, but was still not a patch on the original. Therefore saying that Invasion is the best of the sequels is the very definition of damning with faint praise, but that's not to say it's not worth a watch.

This is actually the second Japanese adaptation, following a little known 80's video series. Japan has long had quite a love affair with Robert Heinlein's original novel, which is seen as being quite influential on Japanese science-fiction. The original novel had mech-style powered suits, so it's barely surprising that it was so popular in the land of Gundam. Although sold as a sequel to the 1997 live-action film this is actually more faithful to the original source material, in some ways at least. The opening lines are lifted directly from the novel, and the suits appear on screen for the first time.

Yet in other areas it does stick closer to its live-action predecessor. The alien bugs look exactly as you would expect them to, and the action looks just like it should. The animated version also shares the original's preoccupation with gratuitous nudity and bloody violence, so it's much closer to a true sequel then the afore-mentioned straight-to-video clunkers.

The animation looks pretty impressive and has a more realistic look than Aramaki's earlier CGI efforts. This does put the end result perilously close to the uncanny valley, but it generally avoids tumbling in. Although characters from the original appear (including Johnny Ricco), no effort has been made to make them resemble the actors who portrayed them- and perhaps this is for the best. In the end, Invasion is a fun time for fans of the original, and a welcome return to the universe. While much of the elements that made the first film so fun are here, the satirical edge of the original is sorely lacking. Ultimately it makes for diverting enough 90 minutes, but nothing more.

STARSHIP TROOPERS: INVASION is now available on Blu-Ray and DVD and is also streaming on NETFLIX (UK and CANADA)