Most frequenting AVPlay or AVForums will be more than familiar with some if not most of Paul Verhoeven's work, Robocop, Total Recall, Showgirls, Hollow Man and Basic Instinct - the list is quite extensive. Certainly he has dipped his toe into the world of Sci-Fi on a couple of occasions so how well does he fare with this 1997 bug fest? Again most here will already know the overall plot of Starship Troopers so I hope not to linger too long on the actual plot summary itself.
Adapted from the Robert A Heinlein novel of the same name it follows the maturing journey of 4 young people as they enroll in the military and find themselves propelled into a brutal war against some intelligent, highly adaptive insects. Set on a future Earth of no determined year it quickly becomes apparent that the society in which these people live verges on militaristic and is no doubt fascistic in nature. For people to become citizens and take an active part in society, be that voting, writing, having kids they must serve at least two years military service. Unless you're wealthy you're pretty much resigned to joining up. Most of our four protagonists enroll in the military for this reason. Rico's family though has money - he's along for the ride because of his girlfriend. Johnny Rico and Dizzy Flores with low intelligence are cannon fodder taken up by the Mobile Infantry. Carmen Ibanez (Rico's girl) has always wanted to fly and has the smarts to be snapped up by the Airfleet. Finally Carl Jenkins, as well as being intelligent, shows aptitude in telepathy and wanders off to Military Intelligence.
Bar Carl, we follow the initial training of these young heroes until finally full scale war breaks out and they are forced onto the front line to engage these devilish multi legged beasts on their own turf.
When released Starship Troopers was ridiculed for the actors chosen to play the leading roles, this I have to say is pretty much the correct response. Rico, Flores, Ibanez and Jenkins are given very little depth to their characters, the actors pretty much failed to bring the creations to life. What we are left with are wooden statues meandering through a reasonable script looking as though they needed hand holding for much of the way. Where are these people now? Well they came from the depths of banal TV and in the main have migrated back there. I have to say that if you want to watch one of the most heart rendering death scenes then Troopers is the one for you. Not deeply touching due to the scene being acted out, quite the opposite. When one of our characters dies the acting has to be one of the worst I have seen and as such you could be brought to tears either through laughter or the shock that anything could have been this bad.
Get past this though and you're in for a pleasant little romp around the galaxy. From the initial scenes set in school we realise that Verhoeven's off again showing a world controlled, not this time by corporations, but military propaganda through the media. As in Robocop this is presented as TV interactive newsreels and again as in his earlier flick proves to be an amusing dig at the powers that be. In the 50's the B-Movies - of which Starship Troopers is a worthwhile addition to the genre - the bad guys were representations of the then Americans greatest fear... Red Commies. Here though Verhoeven is perhaps trying to say that the bad guys might not necessarily be the exoskelital creatures our jingoistic group are sent off to fight but the very society that promotes that sense of expansion and hatred towards others.
As mentioned, the movie has a good sense of satire but if you don't care for that or are having a night where you just want entertainment then it succeeds in droves. It's pleasant to watch our characters progress through their training, mature and finally be trust into battle. Confrontation with the bugs is a no holds gore-fest. Not here do we see a couple of disease carrying multi limbed nasties, no. Thousands swarm in to take the fight to our plucky humans, all perfectly CGI integrated into the main picture. They're brutal and take no prisoners. If King and Country or Blood and Guts is your viewing pleasure for the evening then you can't go wrong. So much mutilation from the bugs, so much derring-do from our own side you can't help but champion one or the other.
Ultimately let down by some atrocious acting it's a wonder how well this would have been received had they chosen some actors with more calibre. To those ends though we do have the ever admirable Michael Ironside doing what he does best, looking moody, and Clancy Brown in a role that fans of his will simply love - "Medic!" In the end Verhoeven produces a true blast from the 50's Sci-Fi B-Movie past. One where the creatures are not what we expect but truly alien... in masses we could only hope for. External space scenes are shot with such absolute precision and beauty it's hard not to become thoroughly immersed and allowed to be taken on this ride. This Blu-Ray release only contributes to this feeling; bar a few minor lapses the visuals are so crisp on a large enough display device you really will believe you're there, part of the action, watching out for your buddies and your own back. Get your stomping boots on and enroll, highly recommended with mates, beer and pizza.
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