Starship Troopers

One thing you should know about me: I’m absolutely in love with monster movies.

These flicks come in a wide variety. From “Tremors” to “Godzilla”, there are plenty to choose from for raw, man-on-creature violence.

In 1997, Paul Verhoeven, director of classic action films like “Total Recall” and “Robocop,” graced theaters with a beast of an intergalactic war film based on the landmark novel by Robert A. Heinlein. While met with mixed reception at release, “Starship Troopers” now has a dedicated cult following that recognizes it to be an absolute blast.

In the distant future, mankind has discovered a race of giant bugs on a faraway planet that, unfortunately, has a good grasp on the idea of domination. The two races are plunged into war, hellbent on exterminating each other. We follow John Rico, a student on Earth who enlists in the war effort, along with some of his close friends. Their journeys take them to distant planets, all with the goal to kill a galaxy’s worth of bugs.

In typical style for this director, there is some enjoyable political satire that pokes fun at fascist governments, making this a unique sci-fi world to explore. While it isn’t explored in great detail, the seeds are planted for the viewer to pick up on in areas like the costumes and the overall call-to-arms tone. At the core of it though, this is an action tale and the story strings together action sequences while still having satiric undertones.

From scene to scene, there are some brilliant characters that give the movie part of its high energy. Though at times, they can drift into cheesy territory just from dialogue alone. However, this is the kind of cheesiness that fits the over-the-top style and so you go along with in high spirits.

Rico makes for a likable lead. Casper Van Dien plays the role with as much charisma and emotion as other more famous action stars with the same coiffed hair and chiseled jaw. Then there’s Lt. Rasczak, played by Michael Ironside. He also turns in a badass performance as the stern leader with some of the most brilliant lines. Other actors like Denise Richards, Neil Patrick Harris, Jake Busey and Clancy Brown all seem to feel right at home in their varied roles. With most of the core cast being fairly young and unknown in status, their contradictory presence in these violent surroundings hammers home the satire perfectly.

Now let’s get to the action because it’s too cool for words. This is one of those action films that can ramp up heart rates and make you want to charge into the battle onscreen. Battles are grand in scale and filmed with 100 percent clarity. There are beautiful wide shots of soldiers unloading bullet after bullet into what are essentially enlarged ant swarms, and the editing is excellently timed throughout. Limbs fly, blood spurts — it’s awesome.

The special effects are equally impressive. The film is going on 20 years old as of this article and they still look better than a lot of action blockbusters these days. A wonderful mix of detailed CGI and animatronics for the bugs, plus scale models for the spaceships are blended together seamlessly with high believability. One bug swarm might be scary enough to warrant a loading of the pants region.

Lastly, the score by Basil Poledouris is fantastic. There are plenty of killer war rallies and crescendos that are loud and powerful. It pumps you up like every other aspect of the film and can make even the most mundane parts of life heroic. This is one of the more memorable scores I’ve heard.

“Starship Troopers” is amazing fun all the way through. It packs a lot of brilliant action, social satire and cheesy dialogue to make it a great time with a crowd of viewers. And with word of a reboot on the way, now is the perfect time to relive it or check it out for the first time. This movie’s held up very well over the years and I encourage anyone to give this one a try if you haven’t.

-Nick McCann

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