Starship Troopers was released on November 7, 1997 by Tri-Star Pictures and Buena Vista International. It’s a sci-fi action adventure satire film directed by Paul Verhoeven, written by Edward Neumeier, sporting a soundtrack by Basil Poledouris with creature effects designed by Phil Tippett and Craig Hayes (all of them worked on Robocop) and it’s all based on the Robert Heinlein novel of the same name.
I honestly don’t know where to start with this movie, and that’s certainly not a bad thing, cause I have a lot to say, but before I get carried away, go check out what my friends Dr. Q at Craft Beer Tasters and Cody from Three B Zine have to say about this film.
Back from the FedNet break already? So anyway, this movie has quite the cast;
Casper Van Dien as Johnny Rico
Dina Meyer as Dizzy Flores
Denise Richards as Carmen Ibanez
Jake Busey as Ace Levy
Neil Patrick Harris as Carl Jenkins
Clancy Brown as Career Sgt Zim
Michael Ironside as Lt. Rasczak
Dean Norris (Hank from Breaking Bad) as a Commanding Officer
Rue McClanahan (from The Golden Girls) as a Biology Teacher
In the near future, Doc Terror and his cyborg companion… *cough* I mean, we humans have started exploring the cosmos and colonizing planets. Along the way we’ve encountered alien “Bugs” or Arachnids. They originate from a planet called Klendathu. These bugs appear to be smarter and a sort of turf war begins.
Meanwhile back on Earth, we have fascism and military rule over things, a place where Citizenship is earned through service. Johnny Rico, Carmen, Dizzy and Carl are high school seniors in Buenos Aires, they all enlist in the Federation after graduation. Carmen becomes a pilot, while Carl with his psychic powers joins Military Intelligence, which leaves Rico to join the Mobile Infantry.
Rico and Dizzy meet up in Mobile Infantry (MI) training, and we’re introduced to tough as nails Sgt. Zim. Things quickly go south for Rico, Carmen breaks up with him view mail, his squad loses a member in a live fire exercise, he’s whipped for it, then the Bugs attack Earth, killing his family and everyone he knows. Wanting to avenge his home he’s deployed on the first strike on Klendathu, which is a huge disaster, Rico’s listed as Killed in Action. But he’s reviving in a bacta-tank thingy. When he gets out he’s reassigned to the Roughnecks, along with Dizzy and Ace, here they meet up with another familiar face… Jean Rasczak, their teacher from high school, who’s a Lieutenant in the MI.
While on mission they’re deployed to Planet P where they’ve walked straight in to the Bugs’ trap. Rasczak dies, the Dizzy. At Dizzy’s funeral Carl appears, he’s now a high ranking officer and tells Rico that they’re looking for a Brain-Bug, and Rico is now given command of the Roughnecks. Carl physically guides Rico to the Brain-Bug and the MI flushes it out, and then they take it back home to perform experiments on it and learn from it. We then end with a propaganda clip starring Carmen, Ace and Rico as models for viewers to strive for.
The good; gotta mention Basil Poledouris’ score, I’ve always loved his music. But in this film there’s this grandness to the score, it’s just looming and booming. The musical is just powerful and epic, what else would you expect from Poledouris in this epic war movie? The match is simply perfect.
I love how layered this film is. It makes re-watching it that much more enjoyable.
On one hand you have a war movie, bang-bang-shoot em up. Soldiers fending off an alien invasion, shooting their rifles, firing their missiles and throwing their bombs at the opposing force. It’s a pro-war movie, sign up and fight, fight, fight!
On the other hand you have a brilliant satire of fascism and militarism. Having, “war making fascists of us all,” being the overall message. Then drawing from Nazi propaganda with the similar uniforms of the military members and the wartime newsreels. Stuff is ripped right out of World War II.
On the other other hand you have a coming of age story, Rico joins the military right after high school, he loses his girlfriend, his family, his home town and gets thrust-ed into war and has no choice but to be a man in charge of other soldiers. He then forms a new family within the military society, the only people he’s going to know when here on out.
From the moment he signs up we get clues of what he’s giving up, the desk-jockey who congratulates Rico on joining, “Mobile infantry made me the man I am today.” He’s literally half a man, his legs are amputated and he’s got a prosthetic arm. This wouldn’t be something I would look forward to. Yet Rico continues full speed ahead
On the other hand (how many hands do we have??) it’s an anti-war movie. It’s been said that all war movies are anti-war. But done in a satirical manner. They casted relatively young unknown actors at the time, and they casted good looking ones, so their acting wasn’t as strong (CW hello?!). It was a choice that they made. But that’s part of art imitating life, “fresh meat for the grinder,” youth is who signs up for the military and youth is what they take away.
We have the war machine that turns Rico in to a soldier through and through where killing becomes second nature and human lives are expendable, he kills his commanding officer/teacher, albeit a mercy kill, but at the end of it all Rico realizes that he’s disposable, just another cog in the machine, another brick in the wall…
All you have to do is take a look at the troop transport ships.
Now compare that to the retrieval ship, the drop ships are two containers wide, they have two doors, while the retrieval ships are one container wide with just one door.
The military contractors even designed their ships with the notion that not all soldiers will be returning back.
This brings me to the special effects.
The Bugs themselves, the film wisely uses CG Bugs along with practical Bugs in the best way. Close ups are practical, while the wide and action shots utilize the CG ones. It also helps that the CG bugs look amazing and they still hold up.
Next are the ship models, this is probably the last Hollywood film to use models instead of cgi ships in space. And for that I applaud Starship Troopers.
The bad; the effects on the humans aren’t as great as the bugs, or how they are in Robocop and Total Recall. I would’ve liked the human deaths to be more realistic.
Which brings me to the helmets, when Breckinridge reports a malfunction with his helmet he dies, it’s because his “helmet is all screwed up.” Sometimes it looks like everyone else’s helmet is in the same boat, particularly with Lt. Rasczak, which leads me to believe that’s why he died…
Overall, I love watching this movie, because every viewing I’m watching a different movie.
I’d pair a viewing of this film with Strawberry Crush. Originally it was just Orange Soda, Crush went on to offer many other flavors.
The Orange Crush Company was founded in 1911 by Clayton J. Howel and Neil C. Ward. Ward made the recipe for Orange Crush. It was then purchase by Procter and Gamble in 1980, and are now owned by the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group.
The reason I chose this soda is purely for it’s nostalgic quality. When Starship Troopers came out I was in high school and would often grab a Strawberry Crush. The sweet taste will carry you through the Mobile Infantry’s sweet victory of the Bugs on Klendathu.
The armor used by the MI is so memorable, and they made a lot of them to dress up the extras, so whenever it shows up somewhere I instantly recognize it.
There was a time when my Monday consisted of Starship Troopers. That VHS copy must’ve been fully worn out, we had a library of tapes to play on those Mondays, but we chose to know more and popped in Starship Troopers again and again and again.
Earlier or later I remembered hearing about how this was the favorite movie of some of my “peers” and I couldn’t help but think that they weren’t getting this movie at all, the arrogance of youth huh?
Here’s to long gone Mondays filled with the Roughnecks and Strawberry Crush.