Starship Troopers (1997)
By: Mr Intolerance on May 13, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Touchstone (Australia). Regions 2 & 4, PAL. 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, German DD 5.1, Spanish DD 5.1, Russian DD 2.0. , French, Italian, German, Spanish, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Portuguese, Hebrew, Greek, Croatian, Slovenian, Estonian Subtitles. 129 minutes
The Movie
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Starring: Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, Denise Richards, Jake Busey
Screenplay: Edward Neumeier
Country: USA
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Based extremely loosely on Robert Heinlein's novel of the same name, Starship Troopers is a great deal of good, solid fun. What I find extremely funny about the whole thing is that for a film that on the outside is so right wing it could make you sick, it is so championed by friends of mine with left wing politics. I put that down to Paul Verhoeven's satirical direction – yet again, as with RoboCop and Total Recall, Verhoeven takes a very acerbic look at American society - in this case a US society involved in the first Gulf War - makes it look at itself, and makes itself cringe at that look.

The fact that what we're looking at is a future fascist world state fighting a race who are effectively fighting for their own home world is part of Verhoeven's genius – he's making us cheer on a bunch of Nazis despite ourselves, who are colonising in the worst methods of the Christians and the US Army, a planet and a populace that wants to retain its own identity. While the bugs have a very scary look from the outside, they are basically fighting for their own rights for freedom and liberty from the human oppressors. We, with a very US-centric point of view, are the bad guys. I can't believe that when this film came out, it was lambasted as being a fascist film – did all of earth's movie reviewers have a simultaneous irony by-pass operation at the same time? Plus, this is a Dutch director, who as a child suffered under Nazi rule – don't we think he'd be a little critical of right-wing politics? Further, if he's seeing this in contemporary US society, shouldn't we be showing some concern?!

The basic idea is this: Earth is under attack from an insectoid/arachnoid race, called disparagingly by the humans, "bugs", from the Klendathu system, who are hurling meteors at us. Of course we're trying to colonise their planets, so we can't be totally absolved on the colonisation front. The film states, as director Paul Verhoeven tells us in the commentary track, "War makes fascists of us all" – an unpleasant, if true, fact. As he did in RoboCop, and to a lesser extent in Total Recall, Verhoeven uses the media as a weapon against itself – parts of the film are a conscious assault on propaganda films such as the US' Why We Fight movies of the 40s, and the Nazi propaganda films of the same context, such as Der Ewige Jude or Triumph of the Will.

Johnny Rico, our hero, is a bit of a fuck-up. Useless at school, he becomes a grunt in the mobile infantry; the lowest possible entry point into becoming a citizen in this New World Order. His gal, Carmen (the frigid cock-teasing cunt) becomes a pilot, his best mate Carl (Doogie Howser, no less!) a high-flying member of the science corps.

Johnny's made a terrible decision in joining the military – he's done it so that his girlfriend Carmen will like him. She, of course as all women will, bins him spectacularly, having an eye for the main chance, as all women do, that main chance being a fly-boy in the space-fleet, the glamour corps of the service. We follow Johnny's travails through boot camp, where he's responsible for the death of another soldier, and through battles on the bug homeworld of Klendathu. This is where the film really breaks loose.

The special effects run wild and free – as much as I despise CGI effects, they're kind of OK here; the bugs are uber-cool, the splatter is outrageously gooey and over-the-top, the fire-fights and explosions rock. Some of the veteran tough guy actors are obviously having a whale of a time – Michael Ironside and Clancy Brown deserve special mention here. Matter of fact, the whole cast seems to be acting like every day on set was Christmas – like all of Verhoeven's films, this is great big dumb fun, and yet still retains a message, and a worthwhile one at that. His subversive, left-wing political savvy has never deserted him.

Starship Troopers, like I said, is great fun, but also a searing assault on fascism, if you're looking for deeper meanings. Watch how our hero goes from naïve dickhead to gung-ho super-soldier if you disagree. An analogy for the US people at the time? Maybe, but nonetheless, if this film isn't in your collection, there's a gaping Starship Troopers-size hole there.
The 1.78:1 transfer looks about as good as this film is going to look, at least on DVD. It's the business.
If you like machine gun fire and explosions you'll love the 5.1 channel track provided here… and the Basil Poledouris score is as monumental as you could hope for.
Extra Features
Screen tests of Johnny and Carmen (yawn…), a featurette (nothing too much here), the teaser trailer, deleted scenes, scene developments (with director's commentary), and a director's commentary, which, if you like the film, is most definitely worth a listen.
The Verdict
As a scathing satire of US imperialism, this is easily accessible and obvious. As a savage indictment of fascism, this is the stuff.  As a no-brainer action flick, this is great leave-your-brain-at-the-door material. In any regard, if you dig sci-fi, action or horror (or any mix of the above), Starship Troopers is the film for you. I defy you to watch this and not be entertained.
Movie Score
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