Starship Troopers; Paul Verhoeven’s semi-satirical take on Robert A. Heinlein’s novel about a future militaristic Earth engaged in a ruthless war with a race of giant homicidal bugs that come under the heading of “icky.”
I remember disliking this film when it came out in 1997. What I didn’t realise was just how much I disliked it and how since 9/11, when real soldiers are fighting real battles, it leaves an even worse taste after revisiting it. I certainly didn’t expect a faithful treatment from Hollywood for Heinlein's book. Hollywood was not going to make a straight pro-war film in the 1990s (or today), so Verhoeven tried to lighten things with some fairly heavy-handed satire and by pointlessly, and unfairly, conflating Heinlein’s militarism with Fascism. He also followed his first instincts as a director and made it an incredibly violent piece. There are times in watching Troopers that you say to yourself “I’ve seen every way a giant bug can kill a man… Oh, there’s another.”
This is one of those sci-fi films that don’t pass the reverse engineering test. That is, if you take out the sci-fi elements, does it still work as a story? The answer is a resounding “no” as the mixture of what passes for a plot feels like a very poor quality ‘50s B-grade war film with every cliché thrown in, the military tactics make Paschendale look like a stroke of genius, and there is a romantic subplot too painful to follow as a cast of too-pretty actors from the depths of the 90210 era go through their paces. You have the feeling that recruits in this army of the future had to submit their head shots along with their medical records and that the first qualification of being a pilot was to look good in riding pants. Worse, for such a stunningly beautiful woman, Denise Richards comes off looking like she’s made out of plasticine every time she smiles. Whenever she flashes that wall of ivory, it’s as if her brain has suddenly disengaged.
|"I like potatoes!"|
|Embarrassing precedes disgusting|
Perhaps this is excusable on the grounds that women of the future are made of sterner stuff. Miss Richards certainly demonstrates this, as in the last ten minutes of the film when she has a bug drive a claw the size of a kitchen chair through her shoulder, yet she not only can stay conscious, she can also stand, walk, run, fire an assault rifle, and saunter to a waiting transport while having a casual conversation with her friends. Things like shock and blood loss are apparently a male prerogative.
|Is he in this film?|
And to think that Verhoeven left out the Power Suits, the only really cool thing in the book, for all that.