For no other reason other than I'm a cinematic masochist, I suggest to my friend Benno we should watch a brace of seemingly unnecessary sequels, to find out what makes them tick. Unsurprisingly, he agrees. But then he's convinced we should put in a bid to get the rights to Hawk The Slayer and make a follow-up.
We start with Starship Troopers 3: Marauder. Starship Troopers was a big-budget blockbuster that did pretty well and has also spawned two sequels and a cartoon television series. The initial concept was very simple - a group of grunts fighting hordes of killer bugs in the near future, given a satirical twist thanks to a script by Robocop writer Ed Neumeier. The problem with big action films like this is they cost a lot of money and have a great many special effects. After all, the entire insect enemy was computer-generated. The first bug you see in Starship Troopers 3: Marauder looks like it has been drawn onto the screen by hand.
'This is going to be terrible,' says Benno. 'I can feel it.'
Ten minutes later, he's changed his tune. The film is genuinely innovative and well-written. There're allegories to the Middle East conflict, effective metaphors for Guantanamo Prison and intolerance to U.S. citizen dissent, even a hilarious pro-war song sung by the leader of the goodies. It has a number of intellectual references to religion, suggesting the only true God is firepower and weaponry, suicide bombers and talking about murdering people who believe in "the wrong God". It's also impressively gory.
'Are the bugs supposed to be Muslims?' I ask.
'I think so,' says Benno. 'And the freaky Sky Marshal guy is George Dubya - a religious fanatic talking about how war is crucial. This is amazing!'
'I like the way they use shadows and infra-red imaging, rather than relying just on CGI,' I say. 'It's not that bad, although there's certainly more stuff shown via television screens than before.'
'I like the comedy Army recruitment ads.'
'Would you sign up to fight the bugs?' I say. 'Or would you be like the guy who is supposed to be Ron Kovic from Born On The Fourth Of July - ranting about peace in a wheelchair?'
'I don't know. What about you?' replies Benno.
'Well, I've got a bad back, so they probably wouldn't let me in the army. I would have a desk job. Or work in the kitchen or something. I'd prefer that to being on the front line, especially when the baddies can suck out your brain.'
'Yeah, I know what you mean. I'd probably apply to make the adverts. I mean, I'm a cameraman, they need someone to shoot it, right?'
'So you wouldn't be a war reporter?'
'I'm not going to wander round an alien planets filled with killer insects holding only a camera!' says Benno. 'I wouldn't mind if the camera was also a rocket launcher, or something. But I have a feeling the bugs don't defer to a press pass.'
'I expect you're right,' I reply.
We're on something of a sequel-based high when we sit down the following night, thanks to Starship Troopers 3, which is a genuinely cracking film. Not shit film good - real film good, a flick far superior to most of the dour action pap puked onto cinema screens today.
Wild Things 3 feels like a late-night movie. We're not proved wrong. Never before have there been so many slo-mo "getting out of the pool in a skimpy bikini" scenes in one film. The firstWild Things was a well-constructed twisty-turny thriller starring Denise Richards and Matt Dillon about three con artists who steal some money and then gradually kill each other thanks to greed and distrust. It has become something of an Internet phenomenon courtesy of a raunchy threesome scene between Richards, Dillon and Scream star Neve Campbell. This second sequel knows where its bread is buttered and features a whole bunch of lesbianic activity, as well as basically copying the original plot. Only with crapper dialogue and worse acting.
'This is really boring,' says Benno, as we watch yet another slo-mo shot of a girl's jugs (aren't the characters supposed to be 17?).
'The leading bloke looks like a poor man's Tom Berenger,' I add.
'I never thought I'd say this, but I'm bored of the lesbians.'
'Me too. Why did they turn this into a franchise? Was it just because they think kids will rent it to see two girl kissing? You can get that on the Internet?'
'Yeah, but this is classier, isn't it?' says Benno. 'It's not like downloading porn. You can pretend you are watching a proper film, even if you are just waiting for teenage girl-on-girl.'
'You're probably right,' I say. 'That's the kind of thing I would have done when I was younger. Especially when we didn't have the Web.'
'The Hispanic girl is quite fit - shame about the "posh" one. And when did it become movie lore that high-diving is a rich girls' sport? I would have gone for lacrosse.'
'But the women in the Olympics don't wear bikinis, they wear swimsuits.'
'You're over-thinking this.'
Turns out the mother planned the whole thing. There - now you don't have to watch it.