Saturday, October 9, 2010

STARSHIP TROOPERS (1997) - Doogie Howser, Space Nazis, Aliens...and Satire?

I'll start out this review by just putting it out there that Starship Troopers is one of my favorite movies of all time. The first time I saw it I was just a kid and took it to be another dumb action movie with explosions, a crapload of gunfire, and people getting sliced in half by giant spider aliens. The great thing about this movie is that it can be several different things at once. It's a decent, campy action flick with some great moments and a few memorable scenes and characters, despite the bland acting and over the top cheese factor. It's also good at being pretty faithful to the satirical tone of Robert A. Heinlein's original novel as a commentary on the nature of war, fascism and its effect on society (LOL who cares amirite?). As sci-fi, it ain't too shabby, and while it won't be knocking Blade Runner off anybody's top ten lists, it is a lot better than the direct to video crap that you see crowding Blockbuster shelves.

Rico and his wimmenz. I'll take the one on the right, thanks.
Paul Verhoeven's film deviates a bit from the book, but the basic plot is easy enough to follow. We are introduced to the college age protagonists: the popular, athletic but not too bright Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien in his single memorable role... ever), his somewhat annoying girlfriend Carmen (Denise Richards), the obligatory computer nerd Carl (Neil Patrick Harris) and Dizzy Flores (Dina Meyer looking bomb) who has a thing for Rico yet no one else in the damn film sees it. Despite the fact that most of the cast is made of crap tier actors, it doesn't really make any difference since the characters are as one dimensional as they come.

The sooner you get em killing things, the better. Verhoeven is the man.
 Rico and gang are just finishing up school and they decide to join up for national service. They each go their separate ways onto fulfilling careers. Oh wait... there's also an inter-species war between humans and giant 12-feet tall alien spiders that can send asteroids to smash into earth. The fascist yet adored human government declares war on the Arachnids, and shit proceeds to get real. Rico and Diz end up joining the Mobile Infantry as grunts, while Carmen becomes a pilot and falls in love with some irrelevant douchebag named Zander or some shit. Carl becomes a psychic and can talk to ferrets. This is the stuff great plots are made out of, obviously.

In the future, no one gives a damn if you have a knife stuck in your hand. DEAL WITH IT.
Once the boring stuff like character back story and development is out of the way, things begin to take a turn for the better. Rico and his fellow space Nazis go toe to toe with thousands of the giant spider looking things as humankind sets out to show those inferior insects who's the boss, and a general shitstorm of epic proportions is unleashed. Humans get dismembered in very inventive ways, the alien planets get raped by waves of nuclear bombs, giant space ships are shot down by green fireballs shot out of a giant bug's ass, etc.

There's a few things that ticked me off about the flick. Obviously it is not a movie meant to be taken seriously, I understand that. But honestly, how believable is it that future humans can travel faster than light, and have space stations built around moons, but the Mobile Infantry fight like a bunch of idiots running around spraying bullets from the hip? Why do they need to send in soldiers at all instead of just nuking the place from orbit? My theory is that it was done so that the audience gets to enjoy seeing the always awesome Michael Ironside blasting away at the arachnids as he yells out one-liners.

Service guarantees citizenship dawg!
Paul Verhoeven being the cool cat that he is, packs the movie with loads of unnecessary gore, some nifty CGI, plenty of nudity, and heaps upon heaps of violence, which combine into the fun-filled goodness that is Starship Troopers. Could you expect anything less from the man who gave us great guy movie classics like Total Recall or Robocop? Some people I know take offense with this movie thinking it glorifies fascism and militarism,  while some can appreciate the underlying satire, and some see it as just a shitty piece of film-making. I see it for what it is in terms of being a thoroughly enjoyable two hours of action, hilarity and gruesome fun. This is a B-movie that knows from the start that it's getting a pass and an A-movie budget, and makes no attempts to transcend that.

A word of warning: DO NOT WATCH THE SEQUELS. Never. Not even if you're drunk. For god's sake they are terrible. If you don't want to ruin the memory of the epicness that is this movie, do not watch those abominations. If you're tempted at all, cut your hand off. Trust.

tl;dr: in the future fascist humans fight giant spiders and it makes for great viewing - 8.5/10


  1. Love this movie, dont know how many times ive watched it.

  2. It's a classic. I end up watching it whenever it's on TV haha