Starship Troopers may be one of the biggest cinematic disappointments I have ever had to sit through. All the hype that was built into this big-budget calamity acetified whatever pleasure I hoped to have had after viewing the film. The extreme gore and violence may please its targeted audience and it may have its jaw-dropping moments, but it cannot overshadow its flakiness. Not only is watching Starship Troopers a travesty, but it is an insult to Robert Heinlein, the great science fiction author who made this story famous.
Pull the trigger now
I have not had the delight to crack open Heinlein’s 1959 novel, but history tells that kids devoured each page, smothering themselves in science fiction violence to the point of memorization. In other reviews, it is stated that Paul Verhoeven only echoes Heinlein’s political text, shredding any canny dialogue and challenging characters. Due to the success and familiarity of its novel, it might have been more interesting to see how Starship Troopers would have faired if it stayed faithful to the story.
Sometime in the next millennium, human society is threatened at becoming extinct by gigantic alien critters from outer space. With strategic battle tactics, all these bugs live for is to terminate. They do not want to breathe the same air as mankind. In order to defend for freedom, the U.S. enlists several starship troopers to perpetually try and wipe the pesky invaders out. They even go as far and say military time needs to be served in order to gain citizenship.
If you are looking for a witless action movie that does not care about formulating the roles of its characters or putting experienced actors on screen, Starship Troopers should be right up your alley. The characters that could attain any interest at all are a coterie of high school friends. There is a romantic saga that is just as platitudinous as any episode of “Dawson’s Creek.” Johnny (Casper Van Dien) likes Carmen (Denise Richards) who finds both Johnny and Zander (Patrick Muldoon) attractive and plays with both of their minds. Dizzy (Dina Meyer) and Carl (Neil Patrick Harris of “Doogie Howser” fame) are friends intertwined in the group as well. All sign up after they graduate but only Johnny and Zander go through the rigorous, no-holds-barred training camp instructed by Jean Rasczak (Michael Ironside, who also appeared in Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall) to suit up for the infantry. Carmen, with that smile she gives as to say, “I know I am beautiful,” trains to be a pilot and Carl becomes a colonel.
The battles promptly grow tiresome, watching each soldier fire an incessant amount of rounds into each bug until they finally realize that they need to go with something bigger and create some loud booms. Ammunition is wasted, lives are taken, blood is shed, green glop from the aliens cover some humans, blah, blah, blah. Verhoeven tries to keep us entertained with his abundant gore and his distributed nudity (a distasteful ritual in his films), but it is all antiquated.
With a huge budget of $100 million, “Starship Troopers” was a total flop at the U.S. box office, grossing only $22 million domestically and $57 million worldwide. I can guarantee that the reason is because the flawed movie is so full of corniness. It is constructed so that even an 8-year old could understand what is going on between the bloodshed. Then again, this is what Heinlein had intended; a simple book with a touch of science fiction and violence for young boys.