Spoilers will like to know more.
There was no chance that I’d review Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop without reviewing its later sibling in film style, Starship Troopers (I skipped over a few titles, I know). This is the case of the movie subverting the source. The original novel by Robert A. Heinlein was delivered as a straight endorsement of militarism in the wake of the obvious, non-human enemy. What Verhoeven did was turn the concept on its head by simply dialling it up so high without ever breaking character. And yet I find it fascist- I mean, fascinating when people are not able to see what the movie is actually saying.
Starship Troopers (1997) is an over-the-top ultra violent satire of military might and patriotic fervour. Director Paul Verhoeven The heroes are all good-looking poster boys that are supposedly fresh out of high school. Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien), Dizzy Flores (Dina Meyer), Carmen Ibanez (Denise Richards) and Carl Jenkins (Neil Patrick Harris) are young and the world is at their feet. So, naturally they join the military. The actual plot of the film feels like it’s more propaganda than the actual propaganda.
The movie takes its time getting started with an almost unnecessary first act setting up the back story for everyone involved. Rico is in love with Carmen. Dizzy is in love with Rico. Carmen wastes no time flirting with rival Zander to make Rico jealous. For all we know this could’ve been Riverdale. Eventually, Rico starts to take things seriously as the movie has been hinting at the violence unleashed by the aliens, called the arachnids. You can’t miss Michael Ironside as Lieutenant Rasczak, a role that is just classic Ironside.
The propaganda shown as actual war propaganda is not subtle. War letters are on fire. The number of dead is shown on screen. It’s all so eerily familiar that you could be forgiven to start looking for a certain news network’s logo on the corner of the screen. The story of the young kids that become war heroes against all odds is certainly the other, supposedly subtle, face of propaganda. Will you be one of them, asks the screen. Kids are also added into the mix as they “do their part” by stomping bugs while their mom applauds hysterically.
The movie also takes its time to illustrate the difference between the grunt on the ground and the pilots flying for the fleet. This is one of the last movies that although CGI was the rage, and it does rely on it for the whole bug attack, it does employ miniatures for the starships which makes look rather nice even today. Eventually, even the “safe” job of a pilot will be at risk as the insects prove they can attack spaceships in orbit with ground-to-space biological artillery.
The CGI has aged poorly, but the gore is still there. The dialog is classic one-liners. One phrase that iconically identifies one character is later mused on by another, evidence that the torch has passed from the older generation of heroes to the new. And it’s all old school fascism and hyper-nationalism. The Nazi imagery is everywhere and nowhere. At no point in time does anybody ever consider diplomacy. At no point there’s a voice of dissent. Even studying the enemy as intelligent is consider laughable by critics at first.
Recommended for a subversive look at patriotism and militarism with a dose of ultra violence and gore to keep you entertained. Definitely not a family movie or an action blockbuster. It will draw some people who don’t like it for the right reasons and some who will like it for the wrong ones. Some effects do hold up surprisingly well with the spaceships being depicted by miniature models. On the other hand, the CGI is a bit dated. The satire, on the other hand, is pretty much relevant today.
That will do for now.