Starship Troopers (1997) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Starship Troopers has just been issued in a new special edition 2-disc DVD set. There aren't any new deleted scenes or anything of that nature, but there are many, many elements for fans of the movie: two commentary tracks, and an endless list of  "making of" featurettes. If you are into this movie to begin with, and want to know how they did the special effects, it's a must-have. If you dislike the film, there is nothing new to persuade you otherwise.

As for me, I really have mixed feelings about Starship Troopers. It draws me into the story, then it loses me, then it hooks me back in again. I think the reason for that is that the film is ambivalent about its characters and the society they live in. Just as I'm about to root for the individual characters, it starts to make fun of them. Just as I am about to root for the humans in their battle against the bugs, the script goes to extra lengths to assure me that these people are neo-Nazis. On the one hand, it is a sprawling adventure, a juvenile story of the human race versus giant insects from outer space. On the other hand, it is a parody of that kind of film. On the one hand it is a cutesy teenage love quadrangle about how their young lives are affected by war, ala Pearl Harbor. On the other hand, it shows that none of those teens are capable of thinking for themselves, that they are only mouthing the words which have been washed into their brain, and the script feels free to kill off the principals in the quadrangle, thus simplifying the romantic choices considerably.

The science of the film is just as inconsistent as the tone.
  • On the one hand, the human race is capable of travel at ultra-light speed, and the teens talk of being "millions of light years apart". They have communications capable of simultaneous "live" transmission of battle reportage from a planet zillions of light years distant.
  • On the other hand, they go into battle against the insects armed with World War Two armaments. Given that the entire world is controlled by a single militaristic government, you'd think that they would have made some progress in weaponry while they were developing spaceships and news broadcasts that can cross the galaxy instantaneously.


there is a co-ed shower scene
  • Casper Van Dien and Jake Busey show their buns, along with several others. (Anthony Ruivivar, Erik Bruskotter, Matt Levin
  • Dina Meyer shows her breasts, along with several others. (Mylin Brooks, Tami-Adrian George)

Meyer also shows her breasts in a brief sex scene.

Blake Lindsley shows her buns mooning Denise Richards

Frankly, I don't even understand the physics involved. The insects from a far-off planet are capable of launching their spores far into space as kind of a meteor. In fact, they use this technique to destroy Buenos Aires. But how can this happen? The insects have no technology - no weapons, no buildings, no electronics - they simply spit the spores into space. OK - I'll buy that for the moment, but how did they manage to get the spores to travel to the other side of the universe? "Millions of light years". Without the technology necessary to exceed the speed of light, wouldn't that attack take billions of years?

The strange dichotomies in the film, one might say schizophrenia, are a result of having been born from a militaristic mother, namely Robert Heinlein's juvenile novel, delivered by a libertarian midwife, namely director Paul Verhoeven. It's a strange combination that keeps the film from deciding whether it truly loves and admires the militaristic culture, or despises it. By the way, when I say Heinlein's novel is juvenile, I am not being pejorative. The nomenclature is his own. He wrote stories for adults and stories for boys. This story came from his juvenile series.

In the last analysis, the director and the screenwriter were too contemptuous of their source material. They want me to identify with individuals and a society that they are mocking. Well, boys, which is it? Are the humans Nazi thugs, or brave freedom fighters? I can't decide.

DVD info from Amazon

Disc 1:

  • Commentary by Paul Verhoeven and Cast Members

  • Commentary by Paul Verhoeven and Ed Neumeier

  • Feature Film

  • Isolated Score

Disc 2:

  • Deleted Scenes

  • Documentary: "Death from Above"

  • Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes

  • Screen Tests

  • Scene Deconstructions by Paul Verhoeven

  • Special Effects Comparisons for Eight Sequences

  • Widescreen anamorphic format

I couldn't laugh at the characters, and I couldn't identify with them. Just when I was laughing at the propaganda film which shows little children stomping cockroaches, because "everyone is doing his part" to defeat the insects, the script starts tearing my heart by showing that the giant insects really are trying to destroy the human race, and have wiped out Buenos Aires. Just when I have become convinced that it is a sappy love story, it turns into a space version of Saving Private Ryan.

The casting provides the same sorts of problems. It seems to me that Verhoeven's satirical eye disposed him to cast the worst actors he could find to play the two leads (Denise Richards and Casper van Dien), just for the purpose of showing us the sheer banality of the characters. These are shallow, beautiful people doing what the state tells them to do.  So I was treating these people as disposable props - until the script turns around and asks me to love their nobility and sense of sacrifice.

In the end, I still didn't know whether I am supposed to deplore the fact that the human race has evolved into a mind-controlling fascist state, or be thankful for it, since that seems to be our only hope for survival as a species.

Offbeat movie, to say the least. I love some things about it. I hate some things about it. 

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two and a half stars. Ebert 2/4, Berardinelli 3/4, 3.5/5

The People Vote ...

  • with their dollars: it was a solid but disappointing at the box office. It grossed $65 million, but the production budget alone was $95 million.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. Big, slick sci-fi adventure that can't decide whether it is a comedy, a love story, or a war film. In many ways, a great film filled with crazy fun and adventure. In many other ways, a film too smarmy and paranoid to assay its serious underlying themes. It's a creature film. It's making fun of creature films. It's a stirring war film. It's a parody of war propaganda. It's a love poem to military fascism. It satirizes military fascism.

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