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By Christopher Zinsli | July 2, 2004

I remember seeing a special on TV back when “Jurassic Park” came out that explained how the special effects guys integrated the computerized dinosaurs with the live actors. In one scene, they paid attention to the actors’ eyelines when placing the digi-dinos so that it would look like the characters were actually watching dinosaurs. The makers of “Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation” apparently didn’t see the need for such trivial details.

After running out of battlefield chaos shots swiped from the 1997 original, the dark and uninspired sequel resorts to allowing its characters to fire their toy guns off screen indiscriminately. Retreating from the computer-generated enemies, the troopers (who all seem to be named Kipper, Duff, and Dede) make their way to an abandoned outpost. The surviving soldiers activate the security perimeter, a series of glowing towers that, disappointingly, no one ever refers to as “Bug zappers.”

With a cast of even more relatively-unknowns than the original, the script from series scribe Ed Neumeier emulates the blowhard fascistic dialogue that made the first “Starship Troopers” such campy fun, but with none of the subversive glee. His sub-par dialogue could have been saved by good acting (or even intentionally bad acting), and the poor performances could have been overlooked had the writing been better. Neither, of course, is the case.

In the bowels of the outpost, the team discovers Dax (Richard Burgi), a former militaryman who has been locked up for killing his superior officer. The gruff Dax is, naturally, released and immediately takes charge of the squad, over the objections of the fussy Lt. Pavlov Dill (Lawrence Monoson). Soon, though, three visitors make their way to the outpost, and, one by one, the troopers start acting strangely.

You see, the newbies have been infected by a previously unknown mind-control Bug with plans to defeat the human race from the inside. They do this by reproducing in the torsos of host humans and then French-kissing another human to pass on the Bug. Some of the infected troopers, like the one played by “Nip/Tuck” alum Kelly Carlson, prefer to do this buck-naked.

The closest thing to an emotional center of the film is the newly pregnant Pvt. Lei Sahara, played by Colleen Porch. The regrettably named Porch emotes like a Thermian from “Galaxy Quest” and, coincidentally, bears a passing resemblance to Missi Pyle, who played (you guessed it) a Thermian in “Galaxy Quest.” Porch has the kind of face that should never, ever be seen through a short lens at close proximity, yet director Phil Tippett allows this to happen more than once.

An Oscar nominee for his effects work on the first “Troopers” and a winner for “Jurassic Park” (I know, go figure), Tippett makes a lackluster debut at the helm. But it’s not like anyone helped him out much. Sony gave him about 5% of the original film’s budget and hi-def video instead of film, and scribe Neumeier handed in what feels like a first draft. A genre-jumping horror film at its core, “Starship Troopers 2” has a couple of gooey scenes that will bring smiles to horror-philes’ faces, but not too much else going for it.

The DVD contains your usual smattering of extras, commentary track, Making-Of doc, and photo gallery. A nifty featurette showing how the effects guys did their job step-by-step has the unintended result of revealing the seams in the completed FX shots, and the doc sports a visit to the set by special effects granddaddy Ray Harryhausen.

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