After the events of Starship Troopers: Invasion, Rico (Casper Van Dien reprises the role after his absence in Invasion) has been demoted and sent to the Martian colony where he is as far from the action as possible and training a new group of recruits that are so pitiful in their training simulations, he has dubbed them the Lost Patrol. At his side is Ratzass (Leraldo Anzaldua), a character introduced in the previous film, and while they both long to be in the middle of the fight, they work hard to do their duty and train the Martian recruits.
Lost Patrol consists of Lieutenant Baba (Scott Gibbs), a character that's in command but still has a lot to learn; One-Oh-One (DeRay Davis, 21 Jump Street); Camacho (Juliet Simmons), the squad's only female; the loudmouthed Dutch (Chris Gibson) and the quiet Geo (Greg Ayres). Before the end of this movie, their budding skills will be tested, they will form a stronger unit and, unfortunately, not all of them will make it out alive.
While Mars is supposed to be a safe place in the war, what no one accounts for is a stealth bug asteroid crashing into the surface several years before and the local colony of aliens slowly building up their numbers. Just when the Federation decides to send a massive force, led by Admiral Carmen Ibanez (Luci Christian), into the heart of their enemy's territory, the surface of Mars explodes with bugs and the small military presence on the red planet is quickly overrun. Now it's up to Rico and his Lost Patrol to stop the creatures at all costs, and when they get word that there is something more nefarious going on, the endless waves of bugs isn't the only thing they will have to contend with.
While Rico and his team are the focus of the film, and it's quite clear that a major driving force of the story was to show off Infantry in power suits against way too many enemies, the pivotal point of the story is all about a power struggle happening on Earth. General Carl Jenkins (Justin Doran) has learned about a plot that plans to take advantage of the bug invasion, and he finds himself at odds against Sky Marshal Amy Snapp (Emily Neves) who is apparently not only the most loved Sky Marshal ever, but was also recently declared the most intelligent woman in the Federation. Of course, that comes from the propaganda machine that makes Starship Troopers such a fun franchise to watch.
The film's story is fun, but the visuals are a mixed bag. Each character, model, and set piece looks great, especially in 4K. Where there is a failing comes in many of the overly exaggerated movements the characters make. I was shocked to find out that their animation was motion captured, I had assumed the over exaggeration was an attempt in-software to make the characters more expressive while in their power suits, but given that it was mo-capped, those larger-than-necessary movements must have come from the physical actors, which just seems worse in my opinion. The only other aspect of the film's CG that got to me was the not-quite-right lip synching. These actions were off just enough to make me force myself to not look at the character's' lips because it always led to annoyance. Unfortunately, there are some scenes that show their faces really closely from inside their power suits, and you can't help but see the mismatched lips during those occasions.
All that being said, there is one scene that was really good, but I think a lot of the reason it didn't fall victim to the animation problems of the others is because it wasn't an action sequence. At one point, Rico finds himself in a tough spot and he is visited by his dead lover, Dizzy Flores (Dina Meyer reprises her role from the first film) in a way that doesn't take away from the overall story. This scene has the two of them exploring their past and discussing what could have been and it all works really well as a pause in the action. Everything from the animation to the acting and writing really sells this scene, well except for the two CG characters attempting to kiss. That still isn't quite right yet.
Traitor of Mars comes with several interesting featurettes. Two of them focus on the film's Japanese production teams, the same one used in the previous film. In these interviews, the crew talks about what went into the redesign of the power suits, how they made the bugs bigger and badder, and even what went into bringing the characters to life. It's clear from these featurettes that much of the team enjoyed working on both films and used their experience from Invasion to make better CG models in Traitor of Mars.
The other featurettes fall under the "Expanding the Universe" series. These are interviews with Van Dien and the writer for most of the movies, Edward Neumeier. In one, they talk about their experiences with fans and other members of the filmmaking community over the past 20 years, while another focuses on Neumeier's experiences and motivations behind the writing of the three other movies he was involved with (the only one not to his credit was Invasion), while the third is all about Traitor of Mars and the acting and writing experiences of this latest installment.
If you've been following the Starship Troopers franchise so far, then Traitor of Mars is a good addition to your collection. It's not as good as the original, but it harks back to that first film in many appealing ways. Couple that with some solid fighting sequences and an fun story and I definitely rate this film higher than some of the others in the past. If you've only seen the original movie and are looking for a new one to watch, Traitor of Mars is a good place to jump in as Rico himself hasn't really been a main focus in the other films and besides a few ups and downs in his career, you haven't missed all that much in order to enjoy this film.