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The Starship Troopers Movie Trilogy You've Never Seen

Starship Troopers didn't impress critics when it first hit theaters in 1997. The sci-fi political drama directed by Paul Verhoeven was panned and summarily dismissed by many, despite receiving an Oscar nomination for Best Visual Effects.

The film, however, has withstood the test of time and left many wondering how people in the late '90s missed out on its biting subtextual satire. Later reappraisals have found that not only do its special effects hold up pretty well, but it actually works very well as a polemic commentary on the dangers of fascism and propaganda. There's a Nazi Germany connection to Starship Troopers that everyone ignores, though perhaps savvy 21st century viewers are finally starting to get the gist.

Changing perception of the movie and its growing status as a cult hit allowed for Starship Troopers to find its rightful place in cinematic history. The same can't be said for the sequels. In fact, a lot of people don't even realize there were additional Starship Troopers movies, though there's a good reason for that. Unlike Paul Verhoeven's film, the remaining two films in the Starship Troopers trilogy went straight to video. 

The Starship Troopers trilogy is certainly fascinating when glimpsed as a whole, especially given that it was never envisioned as a movie series. Let's take a closer look at the Starship Troopers movies you've never heard of, and try to figure out if this is a trilogy worth completing.

Starship Troopers 2 is a much different movie than its predecessor

The reason Starship Troopers works as well as it does is because it's essentially telling two stories at the same time. On the surface, the adaptation of Robert Heinlein's novel seems to be every bit as militaristic as the source material. It's only once you realize Paul Verhoeven was taking a more cynical, openly critical approach to the storytelling that the movie really comes together.

That, unfortunately, is not true of Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation, released in 2004. Directed by Jurassic Park's visual effects guru Phil Tippett, the first sequel is a much more cut-and-dried sci-fi chiller that deals with mind control and body invasion. Unsurprisingly, it doesn't super work.

Aside from the fact that both films were written by Ed Neumeier and they're set in the same Arachnid-infested world, there aren't many other similarities between Starship Troopers and Starship Troopers 2. None of the original Starship Troopers cast members returned, and the plot is largely devoid of anything that could resemble subtext. Combine those factors with the limitations of what was clearly a much smaller budget, and it all adds up to a film that feels, well, like a direct-to-video sequel.

Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation wasn't particularly well received — but that didn't spell the end for the franchise, and that may have been for the best.

Starship Troopers 3 gives us a little bit of hope for the series' future

Pretty much everything that was wrong with Starship Troopers 2 was actually kinda fixed for the third film in the trilogy. Released in 2008, Starship Troopers 3: Marauders enlisted the help of the original film's star, Casper Van Dien. With Johnny Rico back in action, the movie already feels more like what fans might have expected from the franchise.

Screenwriter Ed Neumeier served as director for Starship Troopers 3, and seems to have been committed to retaining some of the richer storytelling aspects from the first film. There's political commentary just like there was in that Starship Troopers scene that means more than you think! There's satire, too! Did we mention there's Mark Twain-descendant Casper Van Dien?

The responses were mixed as to whether Marauders was an effective third chapter to the Starship Troopers story — but the fact that it even tried definitely was an improvement over the sequel that came before it. Starship Troopers 3 was even nominated for a Saturn Award for Best DVD Release.

Believe it or not, that's not where the Starship Troopers story ends, either. While the original live-action trilogy seems to be complete, two computer animated films have since followed. There's 2012's Starship Troopers: Invasion and 2017's Starship Troopers: Traitors of Mars. Given Hollywood's current propensity for revisiting classic films, there's always a chance for the long-rumored Starship Troopers remake, which could give the story another chance at box office glory, too.