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Starship Trooper

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Starship Trooper

Starring: Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Rated: R
RunTime: 129 Minutes
Release Date: November 1997
Genres: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, War, Action

*Also starring: Denise Richards, Jake Busey, Neil Patrick Harris, Clancy Brown, Seth Gilliam, Patrick Muldoon, Michael Ironside, Rue McClanahan

Review by Mark Fleming
3 stars out of 4

Many a director might have drifted into self-imposed exile after the critical mauling and universal audience derision that greeted Showgirls. Instead, Paul Verhoeven has dredged up a 1960's sci-fi novel, introduced grinning all-American teenagers, injected sledgehammer satire, then drenched the whole wacky concoction with swarms of all-dismembering, brain-sucking, killer insects. The whole premise is so OTT it works splendidly. Verhoeven has dispensed with any link to convention and created a futuristic splatterfest, mining a rich seam of irreverence.

This film does not require any of the protagonists to have developed anything resembling a third dimension. Michael Ironside gives a competent reprise of his role in the similarly camp 80's TV series V. The youngsters enthusiastically ham it up, flashing Osmond-white smiles as they prepare to willingly sacrifice themselves for some vaguely defined and meaningless sense of 'citizenship.'

Once the troopers are plunged into war, the pace fairly thunders along. Much has been commented on the satirical aspect; that the film is lampooning militarism and the gung-ho spirit that drives much US cinema. There are public executions on prime-time TV, scientific debates about bug slaughter; and, most tellingly, 'Big Brother' style public announcements which continually interrupt the narrative. However, with a sufficient pinch of salt, it is possible to enjoy this crazy film without over-reliance on deeper justifications for the buckets of green insect blood and severed human torsos.

Starship Troopers sends up those 50's B-movies where Uncle Sam quashed the alien menace on a weekly basis. That a future Earth possesses nuclear weapons and the technology for inter-stellar travel is gloriously swept aside in favour of a chance to engage in enthusiastic man-on-bug disembowelling. The superior computer graphics give the battles a realistically gory edge and prevent the plainly daft concept from becoming a bore.

Those battle scenes on the bug planet of Klendaatu are a delight: Casper Van Dien's single-handed ambush of a double-decker bus-sized cockroach is particularly juicy. The special effects are way above average. My only downer is too much time is spent on character introduction on Earth, and on lengthy cadet training for an army whose tactics only ever seem to consist of mass charges.

However, the actual battles are wonderfully visceral affairs that put any bloodless John Wayne jingoism to shame.

Copyright 2001 Mark Fleming

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