Starship Troopers

Mankind just became an endangered species
Mankind just became an endangered species


D: Paul Verhoeven

Buena Vista/Touchstone/Tristar (Jon Davison & Alan Marshall)

US 1997

129 mins

Action/Science Fiction

W: Ed Neumeier [based on the novel by Robert Heinlein]

DP: Jost Vacano

Ed: Mark Goldblatt & Caroline Ross

Mus: Basil Poledouris

PD: Allan Cameron

Caspar Van Dien (Johnny Rico), Dina Meyer (Dizzy Flores), Denise Richards (Carmen Ibanez), Jake Busey (Ace Levy), Neil Patrick Harris (Carl Jenkins), Clancy Brown (Sgt. Zim), Michael Ironside (Lt. Rasczak)

On the face of it, Starship Troopers may seem like a brainless science fiction action movie with the volume cranked to 11, but if you look at it through a certain eye, it's a far more clever than the plot might suggest.

Set in a future ruled over by a military hierarchy, a group of young cadets are groomed into a war against an insect-like alien species through society, education & media. The story has three principal characters, a brawny Gung Ho marine (Johnny Rico), an aspiring pilot with supermodel looks (Carmen Ibanez) and a geeky, bureaucratic intelligence officer (Carl Jenkins), all of whom finding themselves promoted through the ranks as they take the war to the enemy creatures home planet.

The film has a dark theme of totalitarianism running throughout it, inter-spliced with some obvious satirical references and how easily military mobilisation can be manipulated via media, education and social commentary.  Not one for subtlety, Paul Verhoeven was the perfect choice for director, especially since he once plied his trade making propaganda videos for the Dutch military, and his magic touch brings a good balance of comic-book style action, black comedy and satire, which makes this a film that can be viewed as throwaway sci-fi stuff or something much deeper.

Based on Robert Heinlein's original novel, it's very much an adaptation that chooses its own path, as it mocks the politics of war just as the original book does.

You could say that the biggest weaknesses are the performances of the cast, who play this out like a soap opera set in space, but all the blatant overacting was an intentional directorial instruction by Verhoeven, who wanted to mock the overly patriotic war movies of the early 1940's.

There's also some metaphorical references to the Gulf War, as well as a message that there are no winners in war, and our perception of victory is merely down to how it is presented to us by the press and media.

There is a fair amount of cheesiness to the proceedings which may make it difficult to see all the clever elements, but the phenomenal special effects are simply out of this world.

A few inferior sequels followed, none of which are particularly worth watching. 


Casper Van Dien in Starship Troopers
Casper Van Dien in Starship Troopers