When Rico, Carmen and Carl meet with the recruiting officer after pledging, and the officer shakes hand with Rico, it is revealed that he has lost both his legs. This is not done with any means of special effect or other trickery, as Robert David Hall--the actor who plays the officer--had both legs amputated after an accident in 1978.
Most of the adults in authority positions in the movie are scarred in some way: Rasczak (Michael Ironside) lacks an arm; the biology teacher has scars on her face, and is blind; and the recruiting sergeant has lost both his legs. Director Paul Verhoeven included them as a symbol of the belligerent history of the Federation.
The classroom walls display portraits of major philosophers; Aristotle, Baruch Spinoza, Friedrich Nietzsche and Hannah Arendt. All these thinkers are known for their influence on politics and political theory. Arendt notably worked on totalitarianism, an important theme of the movie.
Most of the arachnids appearing on film are CGI but a few life-sized, robotic models were built. However, during the battle scenes, the actors wound up looking at director Paul Verhoeven himself who would stand in front of them and jump and scream to elicit their reactions.
The base that houses the Fleet Academy is named "Tereshkova" after Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space. There are many more examples in the movie of the future being gender-neutral (meaning there is no bigotry based on gender), such as the mixed-shower scene and the female captain.
When Carmen Ibanez is taking the starship out of dock the first time, she flicks a switch to release the hoses attached to the docking platform. That switch is the power switch from a 1982 era IBM PC, the very first PC to see widespread use in home and office.
In the movie Jonny Rico's and some of the other characters' nationalities have been significantly altered from the original novel. In Robert A. Heinlein's novel the story focuses on the first-person narrative of Juan "Jonnie" Rico, a son of a wealthy Filipino family who enlisted in to the Mobile Infantry--a highly futuristic military unit equipped with powered armor and an arsenal of advanced weaponry. In the movie, instead of an elite fighting force equipped with Powered Suits they are a conventional army armed with conventional weapons but apparently without armored vehicles, artillery, most heavy weapons and other vital equipment.
This movie, along with RoboCop (1987), Basic Instinct (1992), Showgirls (1995) and Hollow Man (2000), is one of five separate movie franchises in which the first movie of their respective series (directed by Paul Verhoeven) were more successful than their respective sequels (not directed by Verhoeven); all the sequels either had low box office numbers or were released directly to DVD.
Fort Ticonderoga is a real fort in upstate New York that was active during the 18th century. It was used by the British during the Seven Years War with the French and then again by American troops during the American Revolutionary War against the British.
The heavy weapons mounted on towers featured in the bug assault on the base at Planet P were Degtyaryov-Shpagin Krupnokalibernyi DShK's ("Degtyaryov-Shpagin Large Caliber"), in a twin-gun arrangement on a gimbal mount. The DShK was designed in the Soviet Union in the 1930s and fires a 12.7x108mm cartridge, roughly the Soviet equivalent of the American .50-cal. BMG.
The German dubbing of this film, although changing a lot of the political issues of the story, is partly regarded as cult especially due to lines like "Das ganze Gehirn weggelutscht" ("They sucked his brains out") as performed by Joachim Kerzel.
In the German version the news commentator you hear all the time was dubbed by Egon Hoegen. This results in additional comic relief because he is the man who, with his rather dry and sarcastic voice, narrates every episode of Der 7. Sinn (1966) (a very well known traffic education show).
The design of the bugs are slightly edited revisions of an unused Shrieker design from "Tremors 2: Aftershocks". Both films special effects were supplied by 'Phil Tippett', who had been working on both films at the same time.
The tune Ace plays during R&R time is "Dixie," known as the de facto national anthem of the Confederate States of America and still played often in the Southern US. This is a reference to Ace's Southern heritage.
In the back-story of Jean Rasczak (Michael Ironside): Rascazk lost his left arm which had been grabbed by a Warrior Bug, during a mission on Klendathu and retired from the Mobile Infantry and became a teacher of History and Moral Philosophy in Buenos Aires.
The film was released into cinemas uncut in the UK with a '15' rating, but the BBFC (the British censors) felt they had been too lenient and the same version was upgraded to an '18' rating for video and DVD.
Some changes from the novel: 1) Carl is killed in a bug raid on a research station. 2) After Rico is promoted to sergeant He is sent to O.C.S. At a transfer station he sees his father has joined the M.I. There is a brief reunion. 3) The wore battlesuits in the novel. Each suit gave a soldier with incredible strength and tremendous firepower. Thus the name Mobile Infantry. 4) Carmen wasn't Rico's girlfriend. She was everyone's friend. After joining up they meet when he's a "third lieutenant" on a ship bound for combat.
Several references are made to WWII Medal of Honor recipient Rodger Wilton Young. During WWII as a small arms instructor, Sgt. Young was denied the opportunity to deploy with his unit when Japan entered the war. He requested that he be voluntarily demoted to private in order to see combat. His wish was granted. Career Sgt. Zim makes a similar request when Buenos Aires is destroyed. His wish is also granted. Also, during WWII, Young gave his life in combat by single-handedly bombarding a Japanese machine gun position with rifle fire and grenades during an ambush, allowing his platoon to escape. While rescuing Carmen from the Brain-bug, Sugar Watkins gives his life in an almost identical fashion by laying down rifle fire and detonating the Nuke so his friends can escape; The starship that Carmen is assigned is also named the Rodger Young.
In the shower scene, Shujimi (Anthony Ruivivar ) says that he joined the Mobile Infantry so that the federation would pay for his studies, which would otherwise have cost him "an arm and a leg." Shujimi later has his limbs ripped off by the bugs.
When Rico's father says he would rather take ten lashes in public square than see him ruin his life, it foreshadows what happens to Rico after Breckenridge's death; Rico himself receives ten lashes in a public square.
In the film, during live training, Djana'D (Tami Adrian George) shoots and kills Breckinridge accidentally, resulting in Rico's flogging. In real life, the two actors are together and have a child. They met on this film.
The reason Carmen's (Denise Richards) father detests Johnny is further elaborated in a deleted scene. Johnny parents aren't citizens; they have money. This is why Ace says to Johnny while training "you rich kids are all the same."
The tune Ace plays while Johnny Rico is dancing with Diz is the Mexican song "Las Golondrinas" (The Swallows). Since this melody is mostly played in farewells and closures as a way to say 'good-bye' to someone, it foreshadows the fate of Diz.
The recruiting sergeant says to Carl, who was chosen for military intelligence, "next time we meet, I'll probably be saluting you." Ironically, near the end, Sergeant Zim (who busted himself to Private to get combat) salutes Johnny Rico, who is now a lieutenant.
When Sergeant Zim is roughing up the recruits, he hits Shujumi in the right leg with his baton, which is ironic, as Shujumi later gets his right leg cut off by an Arachnid during the battle of Klendathdu.
In the scene where Carl influences his ferret Cyrano to go "bug" his mom; Rico tells Carl not to do anything like that to him. This foreshadows a scene near the end, wherein Rico saves Carmen as Carl psychically guides him though. Carl later says it's "classified."