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Sequel: Starship Troopers 3

For the longest time the notion of a sequel was associated with one single premise: Cashing in on the success of the previous film. It wasn’t until films like the two Indiana Jones movies shattered box office records that it really started to dawn on people that the humble sequel could actually mean another reasonably good film. However it isn’t all smooth sailing, to this day it’s wise to exhibit caution when approaching a cinema (or blockbuster) with the intention of viewing a sequel.

While no rule (or list) is infallible, there are some golden guidelines that will help you avoid sitting through another ‘Highlander 2: The Quickening” or “Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation” [ST2] – In fact, the whole reason I’m writing this is because word has hit the street that there are plans for a third Starship Troopers movie [ST3] in the works. So with that in mind, lets use the Starship Troopers series as our ‘poster child’ for these guidelines:

Guideline #1: Ask HOW?

If the all the I’s have been dotted and all the T’s been crossed in the plot of the original movie ask yourself how there’s room for a sequel. Remember too that some ‘open endings’ are meant to be that way. Sometimes you’re suppose to be left wondering if someone survived or what the future holds for the characters you’ve just spent (approx) two hours with. You’re smart, you don’t need to have it all handed to you so don’t always assume that an ‘open ending’ means ‘setting up for a sequel’.

At the end of the the first Starship Troopers movie they’d found the key to defeating the bug, the hero and the hottie had reunited and the misfit had found his place in the world (universe?)… Surely there was never any room for a sequel here.

Guideline #2: Ask WHY?

This is kind of like asking HOW, but looking outside of the plot. Why make a sequel? Clearly a movie has to prove its worth at the box office to even be considered eligible or sequel worthy in the eyes of those who front up the cash to make them. It’s the completely understandable, yet incredibly frustrating (from a movie fan standpoint) concept of ‘return on investment’. Sometimes it is merely the fact that a movie made massive amounts of money which drives the desire for a sequel to be made… And that’s not always the catalyst for producing a good movie… Dumb and Dumberer anyone?

Guideline #3: Ask WHO?

Finding out who’s in the sequel and who is involved in making it can often tell you more than you need to know and that you should avoid it like the plague. Generally, if a film worked it’s because all the pieces came together: A great concept, a director who was in tune with the story and it’s message and a cast that fit their roles perfectly.

Doing a quick scan of the credits for “Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation” you’ll see that only one name from the original (core) creative team remains: Ed Neumeier. Ed was credited for writing the screenplay for the original film which was (quite loosely) based on a novel by Robert A.Heinlein. Paul Verhoeven didn’t return as director and none of the original cast returned… not even Michael Ironside!

However, returning cast members are not always a sign that all is ok. When a ‘bit player’ is elevated to a major role it can often mean that they are filling the shoes of another cast member who was unable (or refused) to return, this can mean that the character dynamic it completely wrong or off balance or that an actor who simply isn’t capable of ‘carrying’ a film is put in exactly that position. Additionally, if a character DIED, was CLEARLY DEAD with NO WAY OF SURVIVING (yeah, I’m looking at YOU Juan S�nchez Villa-Lobos Ram�rez!) get ready for some implausible shit when you see them returning for the sequel… Mind you, I’d be more than happy to accept some implausibility if they worked out how to get Dina Meyer back for ST3! (see: Guideline #5)

Guideline #4: Ask WHEN?

Sometimes multiple sequels are shot at the same time. Back to the Future 2 and 3 where one of the first sets of sequels to be shot concurrently. More recently examples include the two follow-ups to Pirates of the Caribbean and, of course, all three Lord of the Rings movies. All of these sequels were released almost a year apart and while each consecutive title most likely went through a tweaking process right up until the day they hit cinemas they were mostly ‘in the can’ from early on. On the scale of things, a year isn’t a very long time in the process of making a movie. Sure some films are shot in a relatively short period of time, but not without an extended creative period. The point is, unless a sequel has been in the works since before the previous film was release, beware of the ‘all to soon’ sequel!

Now, while the ‘all to soon’ sequel should set off your ‘shitty sequel cometh’ alarm so should any movie (this doesn’t just apply to sequels) which seems to take forever to show up… Especially when you know that production has long since started. The business of making movies is a long tedious process which involves far too many people who (mostly) aren’t that interested in telling stories or entertaining the masses. The longer a film stays in the pipeline, the more likely it is that creative film makers will lose control and, in the end, bean counters will be the ones that push it out the door in a simple attempt to redeem the money already invested in the film. Of course this isn’t always the case, but if you factor the ‘WHEN’ element in to the guidelines I’m outlining here it’ll certainly help you avoid seeing Indiana Jones 4.. I mean, seeing a bad sequel.

Guideline #5: Ask WHERE?

(“Where are they now?” Or “Where were they last time?”)

This one is pretty simple really: If you’ve only ever seen the stars of a movie in THAT movie then you can be pretty sure that they’re not demanding Brad Pitt money. They’re probably just happy for the work. This also works as a strike against the possible credibility of the sequel when an actor is absent from one instalment only to appear again in the next.

Casper Van Dien has apparently been working pretty solidly since well before he appeared in the original Starship Troopers film… Although I’m at a complete loss to actually name a single thing that I’ve seen him in either before or after its release. The fact that he’s associated with the third instalment of the series can be construed in two ways: An attempt at restoring some credibility is being made with the third film (by creating a tighter link to the first film) OR that the third film will be just as big a crap-fest as the second and Van Dien works very cheap these days.

This kind of patchwork appearance by characters or, even worse, the pretence that the previous film just didn’t happen (eg: The Highlander 3 plot development bear says “What highlander 2? There was never a Highlander 2! Nobody is an alien… Stop telling lies!”) doesn’t give a whole lot of credibility to the series. Why take any care with this next film if they can just pretend it never happened next time around?

Personally I loved the original Starship Troopers and it’s satirical take on wartime propaganda and if I’d followed these guidelines myself, I’d have avoided sitting through the gawd-aweful sequel that followed it. Like any set of rules though there are exceptions; Which is why I called these guidelines instead. And while, on paper, Starship Troopers 3 looks to have a 5 out of 5 on the ‘shit sequel’ meter we really don’t know too much about it at this point. I really do hope that there is some sort of restoration in this next film because while I don’t agree with the idea that the original movie needed a sequel in the first place, if they’re going to make them anyway lets at least hope that they’re good! Want to know more: [source]

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