Paul Verhoeven's American movie career has certainly had its ups
and downs. Starting off with the excellent Robocop (1987) and
Total Recall (1990), he then started to give us terrible 'sex' films,
such as the stylish yet mediocre Basic Instinct (1992) and the
downright awful Showgirls (1995). So, he is obviously better at
directing action films, and Starship Troopers sees him return to
the action genre. Whether it is actually any good or not is
The films opens well, with a twenty second newsreel telling us
about an attack from giant bugs (much like the classic B-movie
Them!), and showing us an entire squadron of soilders getting
mained, ripped apart, and generally dying in nasty ways. The film
then cuts to 'One year later', and this is where the problems begin.
The first problem is that the first thirty minutes of this film is more
like an episode of Beverly Hills 90210. We are introduced to the
characters, and the whole 30 minutes is like watching a very dodgy
afternoon soap. Anyway, Casper Van Dien plays Johnny Rico,
who wants to join the Starship Troopers so he can stay with his
girlfriend Carman, played by Denise Richards. Dina Meyer plays
Rico secret admirer, Dizzy, who also joins the Troopers, and
basically we see Rico and Carman being gooey with each other,
and Dizzy trying to get into bed with Rico.
The audience has to suffer this until the bugs destroy the whole of
Buenos Ares. War is declared, and Rico, Carman and Dizzy all go
and kick some alien butt. The plot is forgotten, the film forgets the
meaning of dialogue (e.g the dialogue is crap) and it just gets on
with the death, violence, and sex.
The action scenes are good, with the bug special effects looking
very professional. However, after the 3rd bug attack, it all gets a
bit repetative. The main problems is that there is not enough
species of bugs. There are about five in this film, and only two do
anything intresting (the brain and tank bug) The rest are sadly dull.
However, the deaths in this film are suitably gory, with arms, heads
and legs getting ripped off, and even one unlucky person getting his
brains sucked out. The film isn't as violent as Total Recall, and
swearing is pratically non existent. This seems odd, as the first
thing I would say when a giant bug is heading towards me wanting
to rip me apart would defintely be "Oh f***!"
The cast (mainly a bunch of newcomers) are average, but this film
dosen't really require great performances. If I had to choose a best
performance, it would go to Michael Ironside (Scanners, Total
Recall) who is suitably hard-ass as Lt. Jean Rasczak. The special
effects, especially the larger bugs, are great, and the many
companies who contributed to the effects (including Industrial Light
& Magic) have done a great job. Sadly, though, the model heads
and hands look appaling fake, much like Total Recall. Why they
didn't use CGI is beyond me, as it would of looked much better
than the models the film uses.
Paul Verhoeven directs well, especially with the "Federal Interlink"
sequences, a series of televison 'adverts', something he pioneered
with in Robocop. The action is well directed, but the first 30
minutes are horribly done, almost directed like a television
programme. The screenplay, based on a book by Robert A.
Heinlein, is pretty bad, mainly because it set's up all these
characters, and then forgets about their backgrounds when the war
against the bugs actually begin.
Starship Troopers, then, although mostly fun, has some major
flaws that affect it. Perhaps if the first half hour had been cut, it
would of been more enjoyable. If you can get past this, and some
other dull parts during the war, you'll probably enjoy this film,
especially if you were looking for an outragesouly violent action
movie. Just don't expect a good script, a strong plot and
excitement straight from the start. Just about recommended.
Copyright © 1997 David Wilcock