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This movie never fails to generate strong reactions, both positive and
Much of the negative criticizes the wooden acting, soap-opera beautiful stars, and unreasonably military tactics that lead to an enormous human body count.
But that misses the whole point. The actors and plotlines are supposed to be caricatures of themselves. We are presented with a seemingly utopian society, where everyone is beautiful, the world is united under a single government, and patriotism is rampant.
The further the movie goes, the more the viewer realizes just how horrific this supposed utopia really is. Patriotism is exploited to trick young men and women into going off to a pointless war. The beautiful people are mercilessly chopped to pieces by their insectoid opponents. And the united world government uses its control of the media to brainwash the public into supporting this bloody war.
Yes, the Nazi symbolism is a little heavy-handed. But that's the whole point -- the intertwining of this "perfect" society with such a deeply evil subtext is supposed to be disturbing. What's even more disturbing is how close to our recent (American) history this movie truly is. Yes, it's a caricature, but it's a caricature of a very real and frightening phenomenon.
How different are the government propaganda ads in Starship Troopers from the "Loose Lips Sink Ships" campaign or the "10% for War Bonds" posters in 1940s U.S.? How dangerous is it to have a society where everyone looks the same, thinks the same, and acts the same, even to their own death? This is the message behind Starship Troopers, and it's a chilling one at that.
And for me, it works.
Starship Troopers is a subtle and insidiously subversive movie that proved
frighteningly prescient in the wake of post-9/11 uberpatriotism. Both
Heinlein's book and Verhoeven's film are valid and interesting political
statements at opposite ends of the spectrum. Heinlein's novel was
criticized as fascist at the time of its publication, and for all his
obvious talent as a writer I'm inclined to agree. The movie is as much a
sendup of the original novel as it is a satire of jingoist American
politics. It really is a shame that despite the squeaky-clean heroes
plucked straight from the soaps, the Mormon extremists, the multiple-amputee
mobile infantry retirees and the propaganda shorts masquerading as news, the
vast majority still seems to regard Starship Troopers as a stupid action
movie and, for some reason, absolutely refuse to consider that it might be
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
_Starship Troopers_ is the greatest pro/anti-war film ever made. This is
something that no one seems to recognize considering that, when it was
released, most critics seemed to have been somewhat disturbed by the fact
that the `good guys' resembled Nazis and that was about as far as they
before blowing it off as just another shoot-em-up. No one has bothered to
re-assess the film since. Why has Starship Troopers with its profound
comments on war and human nature been relegated to the ranks of films like
_Rambo_ and _Universal Soldier_? One reason is that the satire is
subtle and another is that people are prejudiced against action films.
is probably justified though since the vast majority of them are pure
However, _Starship Troopers_ ruthlessly satirizes the genre while being
of the best of in its category, which is a feat that is quite brilliant.
There is so much about this film to analyze and it might even take a book
cover it all, so I will stick to only one thing here: the alien bugs,
are the enemy in the film.
The Earth is at war with these creatures. They're inhuman, vicious. This is graphically demonstrated through out the film but most notably via a propaganda website that the movie presents to us as a futuristic version of `Why We Fight'. At one point, a cow is lead into a pen holding one of these giant insects, which quickly cleaves the cow in two. We are horrified! These insects truly are barbaric, evil! Look what it did to that cow! They must be destroyed! (Yet how many of us had steak before seeing this movie?) Then the website narrator proudly states that people on Earth are doing their part in the war effort as we watch a woman and her children dump Earth bugs on the ground and stomp on them. These bugs are native to our planet. Like the American-Japanese in WWII, why are they getting picked on? How are the bug-stomping mother and her children any more humane and caring than the repulsive alien insects?
The film is insanely violent. People are literally cut to pieces by the smaller creatures and slowly, painfully melted by a plasma the larger insects spray. However, the alien bugs fair no better. The people and cows getting hacked up relentlessly in this film horrify us but we cheer as machine rifles and grenades blow the giant insects apart. The body count is high on both sides. It is all literally and purposely utter, senseless violence. But then at one point a psychic uses his powers to read one of the alien's emotions. He triumphantly yells, `It's afraid!' and a legion of human warriors jubilantly cheer at this pronouncement. Who's barbaric here? What is humanity? These bugs are clearly not `human' yet they are intelligent, advanced, and most importantly they have feelings. If they can be afraid, can they not also be sad, happy, in love? These are questions the writer has left to us to ask with out leading us by the hand through what could have been a much more preachy film.
Considering the fact that, in his book _Stranger in a Strange Land_, Robert A. Heinlein--who wrote the novel upon which Starship Troopers was based--pointed out that there were millions of people already in America before the Europeans came and ruthlessly slaughtered these `subhumans' on their new property, it is safe to say that there is a lot more going on in this film than a simple slug-fest. The dazzling special effects and heart pounding action are all just a distraction--like all the noise in real life--from the more important things said here. Even the trailer and commercials for this movie were purposely misleading with Blur's delightfully mindless `Song #3' blaring and the singer yelling `Whoo-hoo!' as a stream of soldiers pour out of ships to go to battle. Every aspect of the film was one gigantic, satirical slap in the face of humanity and no one noticed.
Some may suggest that the satire was not intended but that would be incredibly insulting to screenwriter Edward Neumeier because that's what he excels at. If you didn't catch the not so subtle satire in his earlier screenplay for _Robocop_ then you're under the age of ten. Despite being so financially successful, _Starship Troopers_ is one of the most important, yet overlooked, movies of the 1990s from an intellectual point of view.
One of my favourite films, this one.
I love the way Verhoeven approached the idea of Man v Beast. Our "heros" are beautiful, white-teethed Americans, firm of body and morals; our villains are decapitating stick insects, cockroaches, and giant maggots.
Yet who are the real heroes ?
The white-teethed Americans are vacuous, shallow thugs. They are thrust into a war with the Bugs, whose planets, we are told, have been invaded by the Americans. The Bugs are justifiably annoyed.
I couldn't help but laugh at some of the "Nazi" parallels drawn by other reviewers. What Verhoeven is putting across in this film is not a polemic against Nazi ideology, but an attack upon American Imperialism in the latter part of the last century. He is satirising American crusades against other countries, whose inhabitants are portrayed in the American press as no better than Bugs.
Had Verhoeven wished to attack Nazism, he could have given the good guys German accents; he didn't, he gave them American accents. The "Nazi" symbolism as commented upon by other reviewers is not Nazi symbolism at all - it is totalitarian symbolism, full stop. It is right-wing, "bomb them back to the stone age" American totalitarianism.
Why do I believe this ?
Check out the scene where American kids are encouraged to stamp on cockroaches by an overly excited parent. Check out the high fives.
Verhoeven has done a mighty job here. He has made a film which has great action, great cinematography, very cute women (and boys) and yet the film still manages to take the mickey out of the New Order in a very funny and effective manner.
Based on the famous Robert A. Heinlein novel, Starship Troopers is set
in a world of the future where militarism is the norm, largely because
we've discovered alien civilizations of huge insect-like creatures and
we're at war with them. The film follows a quartet of high school
friends as they make their varied ways through the military.
Starship Troopers is both a tongue-in-cheek satire of society and an intense sci-fi/action/war film filled with horror-like insect monsters and a healthy dose of graphic gore. That's a genre combination that will not please all viewers, especially if the tongue-in-cheek humor goes over their heads. For those more in tune with the genre melding, Starship Troopers promises a quick, edge-of-your-seat ride from the first moments to the last.
The film can be looked at in three sections, with slight crossovers from one section to another. The first is focused on the social satire. The cultural differences of the future are given in mostly indirectly, and occasionally, the point is what hasn't changed, or perhaps what is currently (per the film's setting) in vogue as a retro element. The second and third sections could be seen as a sci-fi Platoon (1986), with the second section focused on military basic training and the third focused on wartime. Like Platoon, the basic training scenes show order and a clear sense of purpose, while the wartime scenes show comparative chaos.
That the film could be compared to something like Platoon shows that although director Paul Verhoeven and screenwriter Edward Neumeier are aware that the material could easily be seen as absurd, they have the chops to make it believable and suspenseful at the same time.
This is not to say that Starship Troopers is a rip-off of any other movie. The film-making here is highly original, and we could almost see the entire film as a computer-based CNN-styled collection of wartime newsreels of the future. It remains quick, witty and intense throughout. My only regret is that they didn't incorporate Yes' song Starship Troopers in the score somehow.
The truth is that this is a brilliant film that, like Verhoeven's
earlier "Robocop", is an insightful satire and critique of fascism and
at the same time succeeds as a sci-fi thriller. It can be enjoyed at
both levels, though obviously it is much richer when the viewer
comprehends the satirical and critical level as well.
It's not as if the satire is so subtle it's hard to get. If anything, it hits you over the head with it. But at the same time, it is very disciplined and consistent in not tipping its hand and giving the game away, which to me makes it much more successful and enjoyable than if the satire and social critique were blatantly broadcast. That's the strange and wonderful thing about "Starship Troopers" and "Robocop" -- one viewer might totally not get it, while to another, the critical/satirical level is totally in your face and is what the film is really all about.
I don't know if I'm describing it well, but watch it with the film-makers' commentary turned on (on the DVD version), and director Paul Verhoeven and writer Ed Neumeier lay it all out very clearly: the film is about how war makes fascists of us all. Very timely today (2004) with US imperialism wreaking havoc in Iraq & Afghanistan.
On a technical level, the film is excellent. The bug special effects are top notch and the whole bug society and hierarchy is deeply thought through, as is the future Earth society's politics and technology. The acting is excellent, and the balance between the characters' interpersonal story line, the bug war story line, and the underlying political satire and critique, is perfectly handled.
A truly exceptional film, Verhoeven's best so far, topping even "Robocop" in my opinion, and fully deserving a 10 out of 10 score, which I rarely give.
This film is about the ignorance of conquerors and the fact that war
makes fascists of us all. Now that doesn't sound like a lot of fun,
does it. But guess what: it is fun (by the truckload - at least if you
have a pitch-black sense of humour and you do realise what this film is
and what it wants to achieve).
Paul Verhoeven was a master at making Sci-Fi films which worked both as perfect mainstream popcorn cinema and as very intelligent social commentary on the direction - he felt - society was headed. And despite the fact that the over-the-top satirical elements and highly political undercurrents in Robocop and Total Recall were only appreciated by a few critics at the time, those two films became huge hits at the box office: because they also offered great action, amazing special effects and overall great entertainment.
My guess is that Verhoeven felt encouraged by that success, and so with Starship Troopers, he didn't just sneak in some subversive parts: he went full-blown satire. Sadly, that didn't go down too well with audiences and critics alike; apparently most viewers didn't get the film at all (the - seemingly - good guys wear Nazi uniforms? What the heck?). Verhoeven even got accused of being a fascist, and it took the director's commentary on the DVD to finally make it once and for all clear what Starship Troopers is about and what the writer's and the director's intentions were.
I wonder whether the studio execs realised what Verhoeven was up to with that film; maybe the director just took their 100 million dollars and ran with it. The result, in any case, is a unique oddity that I personally feel is on par with films like District 9 or even Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove. It's a masterpiece. And much like another glitch in the Hollywood machine, David Fincher's Fight Club, films like that rarely get made (and not with such budgets), because more often than not, they end up as flops.
Apart from the underlying themes, on the surface Starship Troopers also has a lot going for it: amazing effects that still hold up very well and insanely intense battle scenes with more blood and guts than even the meanest gore-hound could wish for. So no matter how it came about that a studio ever green-lit this and gave Verhoeven a 100 million dollars - I for one will forever be grateful for this unique subversive masterpiece. My vote: 10 out of 10
Favorite films: http://www.IMDb.com/list/mkjOKvqlSBs/
Lesser-known Masterpieces: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls070242495/
Favorite Low-Budget and B-Movies: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls054808375/
Favorite TV-Shows reviewed: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls075552387/
Again the same story of: "go to watch a movie after read many reviews telling you how bad it's the movie just to find something incredible" and really it was. I remember wait to see and action film about great space heroes, and even when I found heroes and action, I found a awesome and satirical story about the evolution of the human race and how the path of war falls in a road to hell. More than that, Starship troopers it's that kind of science fiction films with great a big special effects but at the same time a terrific script. A shocking story, more realistic and cruel than many movies about real conflicts, where you can feel the havoc and the pain of any battle. The acting it's good, the soundtrack it's one of the best works of Basil Poleoduris. After this you can read the book of Robert Heinlein founding how far goes Paul Verhoeven in every scene and every character creating. But the best of all is how everything has a reason, there's no word or scene without a meaning, even the promise of the beginning remain intact making clear some disturbing things about some character(s). An movie to watch more than two times.
This movie is about war and militaristic society and its effect on mankind.
I agree with Leonard Maltin (the professional movie critic) that everything
is directly modeled on WWII battles and WWII movies.
The enemy is irrelevant, and characterizing the enemy is not important. That is why we never get any explanation for why the bugs are attacking us, how their weapons work, etc.
The movie is extremely gory to make the point that "war is hell", and war consists of a lot of "blood and guts". It is also making the point that our tolerance for violence is constantly accelerating. In this future world, it is no big deal to get stabbed through any part of the body, it is even a part of military training. Pain is of no concern, you simply call for "Medic!" and get on down the road.
The movie does not try to be cute or funny. The viewer does not have to listen to the aliens being called all sort of combinations of cuss words by the heroes.
The characters are realistic. They sometimes do the right things for the wrong reasons and vice versa. At times we are not sure who is good and who is self-motivated.
I also liked the shower scene. Just the concept of 19 year-old, physically-fit, men and women casually showering and bunking together is fascinating.
It is obviously one of those movies that you either love or hate.
On one level this is a pure action flick at its best. Amazing effects,
mindless violence by the tanker-load and the good-guy gets the girl.
Nothing more to say, really.
However, this isn't a pure sci-fi action film; this is military sci-fi in all its fascist glory. Guns, warriors, alien scum and pretty explosions rendered in a disciplined manner. I wouldn't call it tongue-in-cheek, its too hardened for that. I wouldn't call the satire in your face or subtle; its more... subliminal. Sublety by another name perhaps. I don't read so far into films as others do; maybe I'm right for it, maybe I'm not. You just cant get it so wrong. Certainly people spend less time actually reviewing films.
Uncharacterized enemies, a one sided view the situation, rampant jingoism, those are the trademarks of militarism. This film catches them well in a futuristic setting. A little slow to start but still enjoyable, with just the right sense of innocence and its loss, replaced with the hardened edge that invariably lies within success. When the action finally gets going, it really gets going. The effects are stunning for 1996 when they were made, and even 10 years on they'll still be impressive. I thought Casper van Dien was more impressive than the film really shows; certainly the screen test on the DVD seemed to show a greater depth IMO. Denise Richards was a little too wide smile for the film, but Dina Meyer pulled off the 'chick with a gun' more convincingly than any other woman I've seen on film (they always seem uncomfortable with it, but Meyer carried herself naturally). Her character was pretty good too ;-) . Clancy Brown clearly enjoyed himself, hamming up the stereotypical drill-instructor pleasingly, and Michael Ironside was wonderful as the hard-nosed and competent Leiutenant. The cheesiness beloved of action films was there but it never became too cheesy to detract from the work (unlike say 2004's King Arthur). Another thing that takes this to the level of military sci-fi.
Basically, brilliant. As clever as the others here say, depending on the level you watch it, but maybe not subtle in the way some like to think. If you want a working definition of the military sci-fi I've been harping on about, this the one i refer you too. I just wish there were more examples like this.
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