Starship Troopers (1997)
Starship Troopers (1997)

Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure Running Time: 2 hrs. 9 min.

Release Date: November 7th, 1997 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Paul Verhoeven Actors: Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, Denise Richards, Jake Busey, Neil Patrick Harris, Clancy Brown, Michael Ironside, Seth Gilliam, Patrick Muldoon, Marshall Bell

 


 

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ike “Robocop,” “Starship Troopers” narrates the various chapters of the film with hyperbolic commercials that promote patriotism, propagandistic news updates, talk show tidbits, and public service announcements. It bridges the gaps between scenes, but also creates the basis for the carefully worked satire lightly buried beneath the overt violence and testosterone. Set in the future, after the failure of democracy, veterans took control of the planets and created a fascistic federation with citizenship as a prize for those who serve their country. Regular civilians are looked down upon as helpless – chiefly against the forces of arachnid-like alien invaders that spread their spores across the universe to wipe out all civilizations.

There’s also the unsubtle examination of class incompatibility and inequality, especially when Carmen Ibanez (Denise Richards) joins the Federation to become a pilot, while Carl Jenkins (Neil Patrick Harris), with his psychic abilities and brainpower, lands a spot with military intelligence, and Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien), with his stereotypical jock statistics (focusing more on sports than education), gets placed as a grunt. “Mobile Infantry made me the man I am today,” exclaims the officer accepting Rico’s application, reaching over to shake the recruit’s hand with a mechanical arm and moving away from his desk to reveal the absence of legs.

Against the wishes of parents who want their children to attend Harvard, dozens of students become soldiers, attending a boot camp that jokily mimics “Full Metal Jacket.” Dizzy Flores (Dina Meyer) follows Rico, desperate to hook up, creating a love triangle with his girlfriend Carmen, who gets caught up with the idea of piloting starships as a career – under the guidance of Zander Barcalow (Patrick Muldoon), an influential man whose intellect and ambition more closely resembles that of Carmen’s own qualities. The interactions and relationships between the youthful characters aren’t dissimilar from those found in teen slashers, which mix exploitive violence with demographic-specific romantic complications to fill out the stories that generally reveal just a penchant for nudity and bloodshed. Further commenting on the evolution of society is the football-equivalent school sport, which utilizes both men and women, and, later, the infantry training exhibits unusually progressive, coed showers (included mostly to feature extra glimpses of gratuitous nudity).

The editing, with news footage and the obvious presence of cameras, makes “Starship Troopers” almost like a reality TV show, highlighting the self-serving sensationalism and generally horrendous nature of the media, along with blatant governmental errors and hypocrisy. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this technique is its unmistakable tongue-in-cheek attitude towards the characters and events; even during moments of combat and death, there’s a distinct deficiency of seriousness. Despite director Paul Verhoeven’s discernible admiration for brutality, there’s a goofiness to even the most blood-curdling attack sequences.

With the use of plenty of practical effects, realistic gore, and models blended into the computer graphics, the look of the film is spectacular. Even the spaceship scenes are convincing, with grand-scale battles (the best of which include an ambush on Planet P and the assault on Klendathu, the “bug” home world) and boisterous destruction never more than a few minutes away. The double-edged combination of caustic satire and science-fiction adventure is largely thanks to Verhoeven’s revisited collaboration with Ed Neumeier, who also scripted “Robocop”; though the dual concepts are certainly not as seamlessly entwined than in that aforementioned contemporary classic, “Starship Troopers” is still a strikingly clever accomplishment on both fronts.

– Mike Massie

  • 8/10