Friday, 17 June 2016

Classic Movie Review: Starship Troopers (1997)

Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers is an often forgotten sci-fi gem, especially since he is better known for his more high profile films Robocop and Total Recall. But with this movie, Verhoeven has made something a lot more relatable and extremely poignant even though it was made almost two decades ago.

In the distant future, the people of Earth are in a constant struggle against the alien Arachnids of Klendathu. Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien) decides to join up for federal service with the reward of becoming a citizen, which will allow him to vote and generally just become a proactive member of society (you know, something we should all strive to achieve). Spurred on by the ever present propaganda, Johnny joins his girlfriend Carmen (Denise Richards) and best friend Carl (Neil Patrick Harris) in signing up, only to get drafted into the Mobile Infantry, an army of expendable soldiers.

The thing that stands out and makes Starship Troopers such a great movie is the comment it makes on how war turns a regular society into a group of warmongering fascists. This is set up quite well in the Nazi imagery and propaganda films that are being shown to us at all times, but that is a rather surface level element of the movie. The real message of the story is that anyone can be turned into a extremist who hates another group of people (although in this case it's ugly bugs). To begin with, the characters don't really have an opinion of the insects invading, but after being told how to think by the propaganda, they soon come around to thinking their way is the right way. And the audience too participates in this, as we are shown the same constant videos about how the aliens are bad and only you can help.

That, of course, is only one of the elements that make this movie great. It's also a great action movie too. Verhoeven is more than capable of making an incredibly thrilling action movie. The war scenes on both land and in space are spectacular to watch and for a movie from this time, the digital effects are remarkable and hold up really well, something not a lot of people would expect.

This movie features some actors who you are surprised to see in it and others that you know you'd probably never see again. Neil Patrick Harris is probably the biggest one of these surprises, especially since he gives an incredibly solid performance. Late 90s heartthrob Denise Richards doesn't really stand out for her acting chops and neither does Casper Van Dien, but he plays a very likeable character. So does Jake Busey, who is probably better known for being crazy Gary's son. Michael Ironside has a particularly favourite role of mine.

Starship Troopers is a memorable movie for me (although probably not good to watch as a six year old) and it has definitely stood the test of time. It is pretty thrilling for a low-grade action sci-fi that will get everyone excited.

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