Thursday, July 10, 2014


I watched SPACE NAZIS (oops, I mean STARSHIP TROOPERS) for the second time the other day. I saw this one when it was first released in 1997. I enjoyed it then and my opinion of the film didn't change after a second viewing.

The film is very loosely based on the classic science fiction novel by Robert Heinlein. I guess I should turn in my sf geek credentials because I've never read the book. I have a copy of it on my shelf and will get around to it one of these days. Maybe sooner than later. Since I've not read the book, I can't compare the film to the source material. As a movie, Paul Verhoeven's military science fiction adventure tells a compelling story of young recruits thrown into an interplanetary war with an alien race.

Casper Van Dien stars as Johnny Rico, a square jawed, blond Aryan type who graduates from high school in Buenos Aires and enlists in the mobile infantry. He joins up because his girlfriend, Carmen (Denise Richards) and buddy Carl (Neil Patrick Harris) have also signed up. Carmen ends up a pilot while Carl finds himself in military intelligence. Another classmate, Dizzy (Dina Meyer), ends up in the co-ed infantry. She has the hots for Johnny but Johnny only has eyes for Carmen until he gets a "Dear John" video from her.

The film plays out like a standard war picture. The first half is focused on the young characters and their experiences in basic training. Clancy Brown is a drill sergeant while genre vet Michael Ironside is a tough, veteran lieutenant who has already been wounded in battle against the bugs.

The plot kicks into high gear when the troopers finally land on the homeworld of the vicious bugs. There are some terrific (and brutally graphic)  battle sequences with hordes of CGI creatures. Lives are lost and heroes are made on the battlefield before the human troopers finally gain a tactical advantage against the bugs.

 Two things set STARSHIP TROOPERS apart from your standard sf/action fare. One is the not-so-subtle satirical tone that Verhoeven uses when depicting the world government. Recruitment messages, news broadcasts and other elements are used throughout the film to flesh out the back story.

But the most obvious thing about STARSHIP TROOPERS is the look of the military. Uniforms are drab gray and black, caps resemble those of German troops from WWII and when Military Intelligence officer Carl re-appears late in the film, he's in full-blown SS regalia. Verhoeven's take seems to be that only a totally fascist military has the will, the training and the discipline to defend humanity from a completely non-human threat, while service in the military earns veterans the right to vote in this brave new world.

STARSHIP TROOPERS has a bright, clean look throughout. Whether on Earth, outer space or on an alien world (Wyoming and North Dakota locations), everything is sharply defined by crisp cinematography. There's a great militaristic score by Basil Poledouris, the young leads are all attractive, the special effects impressive and the action sequences are well staged.

Of course, once I finally get around to reading Heinlein's novel my opinion of the film version of STARSHIP TROOPERS may change but for now, I'm giving this one a thumbs up.


  1. Of course Verhoeven also directed the original Robocop which worked as both a fun action picture and a sly sendup of corporatism. The new Robocop, which I watched the other evening, is a much more somber rendition of man versus machine and how much faith we should put into them. I preferred the original and I liked Starship Troopers as well! And I've tried rereading some Heinlein--Door into Summer and Citizen of the Galaxy. Both fun, but not as much fun as when I was 12.

  2. Very few things in life are as much fun as they were when we were 12.