Allowing for all the low-budget shortcomings that plague any straight-to-video production, Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation serves up 92 minutes of passable sci-fi action. Parlaying his veteran status as an animator, special-effects wizard, and stalwart survivor of the CGI revolution, Phil Tippett (with returning screenwriter Ed Neumeier) makes a woefully uninspired directorial debut with this makeshift sequel to Paul Verhoeven's 1997 blockbuster, retaining the jarhead militarism of Robert Heinlein's original novel while serving up more bugs, an all-new cast of attractive young stars, and all-too-familiar plot elements borrowed from a dozen better movies. "Bigger is better" is out of the question under such meager budgetary circumstances, so Tippett and Neumeier compensate with gruesome bugfights and gross-out effects at regular intervals, some standard-issue nudity, and escalating paranoia (echoing Carpenter's The Thing) when a new breed of bugs use human hosts (à la The Hidden) to overtake a stranded platoon of Federation soldiers on a bug-infested planet. Relying on murky confinement to hide nondescript sets, Troopers 2 has three engaging leads in its favor: TV regular Richard Burgi is solidly cast as the titular hero (he's the military equivalent of Pitch Black's Riddick); Colleen Porch is engaging as the most sensible Federation survivor; and screen veteran Ed Lauter makes the most of his salty role as a battle-hardened general. Unfortunately, they're adrift in a knock-off sequel (shot on high-def digital video) that could never do justice to its energetic predecessor. --Jeff Shannon
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