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