- Gareth Crook
Starship Troopers (1997)
When this was first released, I like a lot of people thought it was rubbish. Fun, but rubbish. Now not to say it’s purposely so, but there’s certainly some tongue firmly cemented in cheek elements here that were lost on me. I’m not going to tell you this is brilliant cinema, that is stealthfully clever, or even a modern cult classic... although it might be able to claim the latter, in the so bad it’s good category. There’s definitely more to it than meets the eye though. It’s an action film. Young intergalactic solders battling against invading giant bug aliens. Our largely young and naive cast are learning about civic duty, war, violence being the solution as school teacher come gun toting commander Rasczak (Michael Ironside) explains. He’s the no bullshit drill sergeant type. Although not as much of a hardass as Zim (Clancy Brown) the actual drill sergeant, updating his role slightly from his Shawshank days. It’s wacky assemble cast all round. Casper Van Dien is Johnny Rico with the perfect chin. Denise Richards is Carman Ibanez, who Johnny is smitten with. Dizzy Flores playing Dina Meyer who fancies Johnny and to complicate things further Doogie bloody Howser (Neil Patrick Harris) plays the nerdy geek. Not to mention Gary Busey’s kid Jake, with that bewildering toothy smile and a haircut you could set your watch by, oh and he’s called Ace, of course he is. There’s a lot of yeehaw teen America energy to say the least. The acting is... horrendous. These people can not act. At all. It’s a wonder if they knew they were bad, whether it’s on purpose, who knows. I’m sure director Paul Verhoeven knew what he was up to though. It’s all dialled up to utterly absurd, from the perfect white teeth to the garish blood splatter. There’s a staggering amount of effort involved. Masses of extras, some huge sets, surprisingly good visual effects... and lots of purposely crap ones, think Robocop and you’re close. On graduation our young hero’s sign up to The Federation (that’s the army) as we move from high school drama to Full Metal Jacket with lasers. Testosterone levels are off the charts. For all it’s kitsch cheesiness, it’s pretty slick and let’s face it, the giant bugs look great. Just as well really, as for the last hour any shred of nuance is lost in favour of an all out bug blood bath. By the end, our fun loving sex hungry teen idealists have turned into hardened components of the war machine, a clear indictment of war and Verhoeven’s thoughts on it, complete with nazi-style uniforms as they count their losses in triumph. It’s set up for a sequel, which I believe did get made (in fact several), but I think I’ll leave it here. Honestly I thought I’d enjoy this rewatch more than I did. Cutting a good half hour might’ve helped, there’s a lot of unnecessary filler and after a while the ridiculous dialogue wears thin. Still, it is what it is and it’s not quite as rubbish as I recall.