Starship Troopers

This review was written almost eight years after I saw the film in theatres. At that time, even though I appreciated the satiric aspects, it seemed distant to me as America was bubbling (pun intended) with affluency. Since then, it seems as though that society as a whole has watched this movie and decided to mimic it.

Buried within Starship Troopers is some semblance of satire and social commentary, but trying to eke out intellectual content amidst cheesy effects, groan-inducing dialogue, and terrible acting is a thankless task.

Based on the novel by Robert A. Heinlein, the setting for the movie is in a future where man is fighting a war for survival with giant bugs from the planet Klandathu. Given the weapons and the intelligence of the human characters I would've loved to have seen the bugs win, but unfortunately this is Hollywood: The standard scenario for killing a bug involves firing several machine gun (!) rounds at the bug, and then, as the bug keeps going and going and decapitates a few soldiers, someone with a slightly higher IQ figures out grenades or bazookas work better. Of course, the humans don't learn and repeat the same modus operandi each time. And they call the bugs stupid.

The focus of the movie is on a group of high-school friends: Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien), a Good Citizen, Carmen Ibanez (Denise Richards), his love interest, Dizzy Flores (Dina Meyer) who is interested in Johnny, and Carl Jenkins (Neil Patrick Harris) who is interested in Dizzy. All of them are patriotic and want to do their duty to the human race and so after graduating from high school, they join the Federal Service: Johnny and Dizzy end up joining the mobile infantry, Carl ends up in military intelligence ("two words combined that don't make sense"), and Carmen becomes a pilot. The motivation for the battles between the bugs and our band of losers tenuously involves the capture of a "brain bug" so they can figure out how these bugs think.

The effects, particularly those involving the space ships, are incredibly underwhelming for the most part. It amazes me how so much money could've been spent making this film (~$100 million) and produce scenes that look like they were made with cardboard. The bugs are done really well, however, though the green goo is overused. The ditziness of Carmen (the constant smile) gets tiresome after a while. There is lots of gratuitous nudity.

Oh yeah, with respect to the intellectual depth: in many ways Starship Troopers exemplifies what a joke the notion of a military state is, particularly with the newsreel clips and recruitment ads that are interspersed through the film. The newsreel clips also illustrate how the art of the sound byte can be used to manipulate the masses. Unfortunately the commentary takes a second place to the cheesy effects. Starship Troopers has its moments, but I recommend skipping it.

Movie ramblings || Ram Samudrala ||