Starship Troopers (1997)

Starship Troopers (1997)

A cult sci-fi classic that has been under-appreciated for decades

7.7

Movie

United States of America
English
Action, Adventure, Science Fiction, Thriller
1997
PAUL VERHOEVEN
Aaron Stielstra, Amy Smart, Anthony Ruivivar
129 min

TLDR

The one where a mediocre guy joins the army because of his smart girlfriend and somehow ends up being the hero.

What it's about

It's the 23rd century and the planet is at war with an alien species; a few teenagers, including Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien), have just joined the military and end up on the frontline.

The take

When citizenship and rights can only be achieved through federal service, you have no choice but to militarize. Johnny Rico is young, impressionable, but noble; in other words, he is an archetypal hero even if he initially enlists just to be close to his girlfriend Carmen (Denise Richards). From then on, Starship Troopers unfolds as a high-strung high school drama, but in the middle of a space colonization. During one such mission, a highly evolved insectoid race, Arachnids, proves to be the most dangerous enemy to human supremacy and the fight is on. What's interesting about Starship Troopers is that it shows how a well-oiled propaganda machine works and for that reason, it was accused of indoctrination and army endorsement. Even more, it was dubbed fascist, instead of the fascist satire it claimed to be. But today, it's indisputably a cult film and a great introduction to the Paul Verhoeven's work in Hollywood.

What stands out

Perhaps American audiences were not ready to see themselves criticized on screen by a Dutch director during the prosperous 1990s when Starship Troopers first came out, but by the 2010s, the film's reappraisal positioned it as a political satire. A strong, almost outrageous representation of the military-industrial complex in the States, Verhoeven's sci-fi film benefits from being over the top in everything: its acting, its convoluted plot, its politics. Yes, it is based on a 1959 novel by Robert A. Heinlein, but the visual reimagining of this futuristic, violent regime is stunning. Verhoeven cleverly weaves in the satirical tone in his use of special effects, as expansive and expensive as they could be back then (more than half of the budget spent on CGI to make the Arachnids come to life). But it's ingenious to use Hollywood's own power and capital to deliver an ironic look on imperialism and war, we give him that!

 

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