The Mobile Infantry is back in action in new animated Starship Troopers movie Invasion . Reuniting original movie characters Johnny Rico, Carmen Ibanez and Carl Jenkins, it features a bug-infested ship on a collision course with Earth, and gives a first screen appearance for author Robert Heinlein’s legendary power suits. We spoke to Ed Neumeier, writer of the three live-action movies, and Johnny Rico himself, Casper Van Dien, about the Troopers’ return.
You guys are back in the Starship Troopers universe! Why is the time right to come back to that universe? And why in animation?
Edward Neumeier: We did Starship 3 about five years ago so we’ve thought about doing it for a while. A couple of years back Sony came and said, ”We’d like to another Starship Troopers but we’d like to do it in animation this time.” My sense was that it was a really good call. I’d been able to make a movie for almost $8 million live-action and I was very happy with it, we had a good time together; but I knew that if they didn’t have more than $8 million they weren’t gonna make a live-action movie that was as good. So when they said they were gonna do it in animation I thought, “thank goodness because now we can really do some things with that.” Then I saw who they had hired to direct: Shinji Aramaki, who did Appleseed . And I thought, “Oh this is a perfect fit.” And everything I’ve seen and talked about with director Aramaki has made me really happy.
This is a very particular, detailed, “real” style of animation. Was that important?
EN: Listening to so many people that love animation and anime, that’s a great style. More profoundly, I think our whole business is heading towards the animation model; so for me this has been the great training ground of what movie-making and visual effects and now, as I watch these guys do it, taking it to digital life I feel like I’m watching the future of our business.
Casper Van Dien: What Shinji did that was amazing was he was able to combine the three films that Ed wrote, and combine it with the novel and his own anime style, and really combine everything and make a great universe and honour the tradition of the book and the films together with his, and his world. It’s really fantastic.
EN: Yeah, I think the nicest thing for me is that Shinji is a visionary. When you look at Appleseed you go “oh, this guy’s been doing something for a long time and now we are the lucky recipients of it”.
CVD: He respects and honours the universe as well, he respects the fans I think. He’s gonna make something that everybody’s gonna love as well as the vision he has which is pretty amazing.
Casper, what is it you love about the Starship Troopers universe?
CVD: I loved the book when I was a kid. I loved the writing and directing directing. Ed and I have been pals for a long time. I love the world that he’s created I think that he’s a very dark, sick, perverse man and I love that about him.
EN: It’s a nice world that you can play a lot of human issues in. It’s always exciting – because if it gets boring you can just throw in a bug!
The power armour has been introduced now. How did you feel about that?
EN: Some people think the real reason to do a CG or animated version was to do the power armour from the books! Director Aramaki is known for his mecha designs and I knew that he would do that well.
CVD: I wanna strap on that uniform!
Speaking of which, how is it hearing a different voice coming out of Johnny Rico’s mouth?
CVD: It sounds a lot like me, it sounds like Johnny Rico which is fantastic! Maybe I’ll come back in a future film or something if we continue to do this. I wasn’t able to do this one because of work and other stuff so its unfortunate but I got to be around creatively. They would show me and my creative input in this was, “Oh my god it looks amazing!” They were very honouring and respectful of us to bring us in, and it was a lot of fun.
For this one you’re bringing back Carmen and Carl and Rico, the three main characters from the original movie. What is it about those characters that’s special?
EN: The continuity, and the hope that you can through an apocalyptic galactic war and survive.
A lot of the film is set on a spaceship, was it important to choose a new environment, to get the bugs off a planet and do something in space?
EN: There are some CG issues that made spaceships more interesting, maybe more practical. But it is “Starship” Troopers after all! And as you’ll see, the bugs are pretty aggressive so they have not only been actually able to hit a space station and take it over but… well I’m not going to give it away!
The mythology of the bugs seems to be expanding; there’s even an intelligent bug in this one. Was it important to develop the universe and add more elements to it?
EN: I always thought with Starship Troopers it was kind of about the way nature moves on; there’s a weapons and they grow a defence, they’ll make a better weapons system, and nature grows, does that every time. It’s a cycle. So to me they are getting smarter and more fearsome, they are developing. They can actually biologically develop new weapons.
In the West animation is often thought of as a medium for kids perhaps – but this has got some adult themes and visuals in it. Is it important to the franchise that it has a grown-up tone?
EN: I think for anime and for that market, this tone is appropriate. I think its possible that even in the West you’re gonna have a breakthrough of more adult animation, as CG and live-action merge. Adults will want to see more adult-themed things.
CVD: Even in animation nowadays, with Disney animation, they make jokes that are a little bit more for adults. As a father I’m looking back and going “wait a minute?” Maybe my kids don’t understand it but I know I do! This just takes that to an even higher level.
Are you hoping that this is a series of more Starship Troopers ?
CVD: It kind of leaves it open for that I think…
EN: I think they’d like to make more if this is done well and I know Sony has plans to make more Starship Troopers feature films in the future.
CVD: We’d love to be a part of it and we’ll just support it even if we’re not.
EN: They’ll wheel us out occasionally!
Starship Troopers: Invasion is out on DVD and Blu-ray now.