2003, US, Directed by Phil Tippett
Colour, Running Time: 88 minutes
DVD, Region 2, Columbia, Video: Anamorphic 1.78:1, Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Ah, the six million dollar ’sequel’ to Paul Verhoeven’s classic film, directed by Phil Tippett (who?). On an arachnid-infested planet a group of infantry fighting off the creatures are forced into holding up in an abandoned outpost where they join up with a rebel commander to face the threat of a previously undiscovered ‘bug’ - one that can burrow into humans and effectively take control of their new host. Following a brief (and unconvincing) outdoor battle with the primary arachnids the majority of the story takes place in this outpost as the soldiers are picked off one by one.
It’s a potentially interesting though derivative idea - characters having no choice but to stay put in an outpost on an alien world while the threat outside is put into the background due to an altogether more sinister parasite inside the building taking over each of them. Actually if you take The Thing, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Aliens and Verhoeven’s original, mix them all together and reduce your available budget and resources substantially, you might get this film. It is unfortunately mundane at best: the outdoor battles are shot in darkness and smoke (i.e. hiding the fact that it’s a cheap studio set) with creature CGI that looks suspiciously reused from the first film. The outpost set is better and the new bug is quite creepy but the whole thing is put together in such a boring and pedestrian manner that you can’t help but become distracted by just about anything else (my wallpaper needed changing for example). Even the mock promotional army TV articles seem to miss the satirical point that was so well expressed by Verhoeven. Why should a successful (critically more so than financially - it only scraped back it’s original budget at the box office) and rather major production such as ST warrant a low budget shot-for-video sequel? Perhaps they were scared of spending $100 million again (understandably so I suppose but they didn’t need to stoop quite this low). Apparently the animated series (Roughnecks) was better, but I never got around to seeing that.
ST2 (shot on HD) looks okay on SD DVD but surprisingly grainy in darker scenes. Accompanied by a 5.1 track and commentary you have a better specified disc from Columbia Tristar than the film deserves. The movie kind of worked for me on some levels the first time I watched it but the second time around I was quite bored. There was a great franchise with ST but Hero of the Federation stamps it dead (maybe not? Another sequel has been announced continuing Rico’s exploits for a possible 2008 release).