Based on the book of the same name by Robert Heinlein Starship Troopers opts to take a different approach to the usual approach to novel adaption. In fact fans expecting a rigorous adaption, it is not what you will get. On the other hand those in need of a true ‘popcorn-flick’ you will not be disappointed.
Starship Troopers is a blast from start to finish providing two hours of solid entertainment with little intelligence getting in the way. It also marks a return to the Sci-Fi genre for Paul Verhoeven, creator of both Robocop and Total Recall. As with those two movies Verhoeven applies his own signature style to the source material. As such the dystopian future has a presentation that is mostly tongue-in-cheek and the level of violence and gore is outrageous. This includes bodies being ripped apart at every turn with a copious amount of blood adding to the effect, to the point the audience will quickly become desensitized.
The story begins on earth at some time in the future where society has evolved into a utopia which one single government oversees. It’s on earth where we first meet our hero Johnny Rico portrayed by a then relatively new Casper Van Dien. Johnny is a teen studying in high school on the brink of graduation along with classmates Carmen Ibanez (Denise Richards), Carl Jenkins (Neil Patrick Harris) and Dizzy Flores (Dina Meyer). The group is considering signing up to federal service – the futuristic military which would allow them to gain citizenship within society. While the early sections of Starship Troopers come across as cheesy daytime TV these scenes merely set up the characters.
Following on from the school-type sequences we are thrust straight into military boot camp as Johnny undergoes training to become an infantryman for the federation. Its nothing we as an audience have never seen before with the recruits taking punishment under their hard-nosed trainer portrayed superbly by Clancy Brown.
It’s actually all of this setup where the audience may have a gripe. Sometime into the training the alien species (known as bugs) humanity is at war against fires a meteor from their home planet of Klendathu at earth. This destroys half of Argentina, instigating retaliation from humanity as our heroes are called up to fight. Once the war with the alien species begins there is no room for breath and Verhoeven masterfully orchestrates human actors with CG aliens to create scenes of war that provide both excitement and tension leaving the viewer with a Cheshire cat grin of delight.
In the mix there is also Verhoeven’s stylistic ‘news breaks’ as seen in used in Robocop to help flesh out the society through propaganda-like segments and help advance the narrative quickly, while some may hate this break in the film it helps get back to the CG bug hunt where the films strengths really lie. Although some of the CG is a bit suspect and in some cases completely fake, the majority of the film sees movie magic with epic battles both on the ground and in space.
Starship Troopers won’t win an Oscar, but its complete B-Movie type fun and one of the better examples of low budget fun. While this is nothing like the book if you want a fast paced thrill ride with epic space battles you’re in the right place.