Saturday 28 March 2015

Movie Review: Starship Troopers (1997)

A satirical humans-versus-bugs science fiction action epic, Starship Troopers is ridiculous fun.

In the distant future, the entire world is governed by The Federation. Citizenship and voting rights are bestowed on those who serve the government, preferably in the military. The rest of the population are merely civilians. Earth is under threat from massive bugs who reside in the distant world Klendathu and its surrounding planets. With the war heating up, high school lovers Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien) and Carmen Ibanez (Denise Richards) graduate and join the military. She is smart and joins the starship pilot training program, where she is paired with fellow trainee Zander Barcalow (Patrick Muldoon). Johnny is athletic and joins the Mobile Infantry, where he reconnects with classmate Dizzy Flores (Dina Meyer). Dizzy has a crush on Johnny, but his heart is set on Carmen. Carl Jenkins (Neil Patrick Harris) is another friend of Johnny's, and he joins Military Intelligence.

The humans woefully underestimate their enemy, the war against the bugs takes a bad turn, an entire Earth city is destroyed, and Johnny's Mobile Infantry unit loses a lot of soldiers. A new aggressive battle plan is formulated, and Johnny is re-assigned to the Roughnecks, a battle-hardened division under the command of the tough-as-nails Jean Rasczak (Michael Ironside). The humans drive towards the heart of Klendathu to try and understand the intelligence behind the bugs and annihilate their threat.

Directed by Paul Verhoeven with an A-budget of over $100 million but occasionally donning a saucy B-movie ethos, Starship Troopers fluctuates between wildly enjoyable and cringe-worthy creakiness. Vaguely based on the Robert A. Heinlein book of the same name that Verhoeven claimed to have never read, the film carries a mean satirical streak that celebrates unifying neo-Fascism with a friendly face as a natural destiny for an Earth embarking on interstellar battles. Verhoeven litters the movie with public service announcements that evolve Orwellian domination into the corporate culture of good-for-you information, all ending with the itchy friendliness of a "would you like to know more?" question.

The scenes that attempt to develop the characters, and therefore require acting, are cheesy and sometimes step into dreadful territory. The one thing Verhoeven did not spend money on was acting talent. The young actors were selected to look good in a multi-ethnic society that only breeds beautiful and athletic offspring, but their lack of ability in front of a camera is almost painful, matched only by often inane dialogue courtesy of screenwriter Edward Neumeier.

The film's ending appears rushed, the gory war seemingly coming to a sudden pause with an unexplained capture. Either the budget was exhausted or sequels were being planned, but in any case the conclusion is unsatisfying, other than the enduring image of Neil Patrick Harris in on overcoat straight out of the Nazi SS closet. No serious sequels were forthcoming, other than straight-to-DVD level low budget knock-offs.

But it's the second half of Starship Troopers that really shines. Most of the clunky romances are set aside as Verhoeven focusses on the war, and the film excels as a humans against bugs action extravaganza with expert special effects deployment. Verhoeven loves his gore, and within the high-adrenaline combat action he lets loose with numerous scenes of broken bodies, the huge arachnids impaling and decapitating en-mass, and even engaging in old fashioned brain sucking. None of it is for the faint of heart, but the slick visuals and elevated levels of excitement are quite thrilling.

Starship Troopers falters when the humans have to talk to each other, but soars on the killing fields of insane interplanetary wars.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

1 comment:

  1. FANTASTIC!! Movie I Give it 5 Stars

    Would You Like To Know More?


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