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1 item from 1997

Film review: 'Starship Troopers'

27 October 1997 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Already sitting pretty with the year's biggest hit "Men in Black", Sony stirs up a far nastier nest of bugs in the long-awaited "Starship Troopers", unquestionably the year's most violent mainstream film in terms of raw body count and scenes of carnage.

Young and frisky stars, outstanding special effects and an exciting if episodic story line should help counter initial hesitation by moviegoers and result in a very big opening and solid theatrical runs here and abroad.

It took two studios and an army of filmmakers to bring Robert A. Heinlein's classic 1959 science fiction novel to life, and it seems like a smart gamble given director Paul Verhoeven's reputation for stylish sci-fi movies ("RoboCop", "Total Recall") and the public's appetite for epic warfare not seen on this scale since "Independence Day."

With much of Heinlein's controversial political agenda intact, Verhoeven on the rebound from the hyped-to-death "Showgirls", plays another sly game, pouring on the mayhem and "fascist utopia" rhetoric with a few clues hinting that humans will some day pay for being just as ruthless predators as the killer arachnids that are bombarding Earth with asteroids from their distant solar system.

Commencing with a segment from the Federal Network, a future media outlet geared toward inciting human hatred of the insect enemy and recruiting young warriors to fight in an invasion of the alien planet, "Starship Troopers" quickly backtracks into a nearly hourlong buildup to showing the disastrous results of that invasion.

Often silly and contrived, the first half of the film picks up after a slow start, when the ensemble cast goes in for mobile infantry and spaceship-pilot training. First seen as platonic sweethearts in a Buenos Aires school, Johnny Rico Casper Van Dien) and Carmen Ibanez (Denise Richards) are pledged to each other, but he's hotly pursued by his indoor-football teammate Dizzy (Dina Meyer), while his supposed true love develops an interest in a space fleet-bound stud (Patrick Muldoon).

Against the wishes of his "civilian" parents, Rico follows his heart and volunteers with Carmen, Dizzy and their brainy friend Carl Neil Patrick Harris) for Federal Service and the honor of "citizenship." Almost immediately, the group is broken up, with Carmen heading to the Fleet Academy and training on interstellar attack ships, while Carl goes into military intelligence and Rico ends up in the Mobile Infantry.

Inspired once upon a time by his no-nonsense teacher (Michael Ironside), Rico is in for a hard time as he loses ambitious Carmen and won't warm up to the all-too-willing Dizzy, who transfers to his unit.

By this point, one is starting to grow impatient for the promised warfare and on cue the bugs drop a big rock on Buenos Aires and the real action begins.

And quite a show it is when it comes down to fighting for survival against mindless creatures on stark, unfriendly planets -- from the huge Tanker Bugs firing blasts of plasma into space to battle scenes of such ferocity and gruesome fascination that potent repeat business is guaranteed.

Two sequences before the climax are so terrific they overshadow what follows. Having survived several encounters with the foe, the ground troops under the command of Ironside's character are ambushed at a compound and must fight off a horde of flying, burrowing giant spiderlike insects in an Alamo-like last stand. Also a knockout is a titanic space battle, when the ship piloted by Carmen and Muldoon's character breaks apart and they escape just in time.

Without question the production is a major achievement for all involved. With some 500-plus effects shots, many of which are incredibly intricate, "Starship Troopers" is masterfully conceived and executed.


Sony Pictures Releasing

TriStar Pictures and Touchstone Pictures

present a Jon Davison production

A Paul Verhoeven film

Director Paul Verhoeven

Screenwriter Ed Neumeier

Producers Jon Davison, Alan Marshall

Based on the book by Robert A. Heinlein

Director of photography Jost Vacano

Production designer Allan Cameron

Costume designer Ellen Mirojnick

Editors Mark Goldblatt, Caroline Ross

Music Bail Poledouris

Creature visual effects supervisor Phil Tippett

Spaceship visual effects supervisor

Scott E. Anderson

Casting Johanna Ray



Johnny Rico Casper Van Dien

Dizzy Flores Dina Meyer

Carmen Ibanez Denise Richards

Ace Levy Jake Busey

Carl Jenkins Neil Patrick Harris

Sgt. Zim Clancy Brown

Sugar Watkins: Seth Gilliam

Zander Barcalow Patrick Muldoon

Jean Rasczak Michael Ironside

Running time -- 124 minutes

MPAA rating: R


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1 item from 1997

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