clownfoot -> RE: Starship Troopers (19/11/2006 2:57:42 PM)
Everyone loves Paul Verhoeven. I mean, imagine for a moment a world without the uber-violence of Robocop and Total Recall, the nudity and sex scenes of Basic Instinct and Showgirls or little seen Dutch gems like Flesh and Blood and Spetters, both of which caused a hell of amount of controversy for some explicit rape scenes and sexual content. The world would be a much duller place, wouldn't it? This is the man who's given us a malfunctioning ED-209 shooting an exec into curry paste with a couple of mini-guns, a rather stylish and unsubtle execution of a police officer ("give the man a hand”), a man melting in toxic waste, Arnie's eyeballs popping out of their sockets, gunshot wounds where the bullet entrance looks like an incredibly messy exit hole, a blink and you'll miss it shot of Sharon Stone's beaver (that kept 15 year-old lads busy with the pause button on the old VHS remote) and, well, the most ridiculous sex scene in a swimming pool you're ever likely to come across. The man's a half-deranged genius - Sam Peckinpah on speed even - and we should all be eternally grateful for the Dutch maestro pervading the Hollywood system with his own brand of visceral all out hyper-violence, incessant nudity and starkly refreshing satire and humour that all of his American films seem to ascertain. Like them or loathe them, Verhoeven films get people talking. So it's wonderfully refreshing that Starship Troopers is really no different whatsoever, remaining your typical Verhoeven action filled gore-fest. Yay!
Humans don't like bugs. And guess what? Bugs don't like humans either. But these bugs aren't your ordinary cockroaches – these bugs are big, fast, vicious and incredibly smart, when compared to your regular Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien). So when the bug homeworld of Klendathu decides to fling an asteroid towards Earth, which happens to vaporise Rico's home-city of Buenos Aires from the map, it's no surprise that Rico, his old school chums and many another civilian (both male and female) are happy to go to war against the bug threat – looking to wipe-out them out, once and for all. What follows is one big monster-mash as the beautiful troopers of planet Earth are torn apart, decapitated, sliced, diced, stabbed and ripped in half by the rampaging hordes of bugs during a failed attack on Klendathu. Somehow surviving the bloodbath, Rico, along with long-time admirer Dizzy Flores (Dina Meyer) and wise-cracking compadre Ace Levy (Jake Busey) begin to climb the ranks within a specialist unit of hardcore grunts, that are soon turning the tide of battle against the bug hordes! Hoogah!
Based on Robert A. Heinlein's novella of the same name, Starship Troopers is essentially a moistening militaristic wet dream glorifying right-wing fascistic political leanings, yet based within a wonderful B-movie melodrama of blood and guts. It's a wonderful juxtaposition and certainly a direction that makes more of Heinlein's source novel than one could have expected. Whilst on one hand we have the sweaty muscled fetishism behind the technological components of the war machine and Johnny Rico's buttock-clenched rise through the ranks, which Heinlein would have appreciated, Verhoeven has then added his own personal touch to proceedings.
Along with a cast of beautiful nobodies from dismal soap operas like Melrose Place, with awful dialogue not out of place in such dismal soap operas and costumes with more than a hint of Nazi regalia about them, Verhoeven and screenwriter Edward Neumeier (who previously scripted Robocop Verhoeven) also add a subtle satirical note to the machinations of the adrenaline pumping savagery. It's great seeing Hollywood starlets being wiped out in a fistful of gore, but it's equally amusing when you consider the bonkers mad Dutchman has managed to get away with an ostensibly large piss-take of American imperialistic foreign policy within the content – both with reference to tactical naivety and overt gung-ho-ism. Furthermore, the Federal Network sequences that serve as bookmarks to each new chapter of the film have more than a knowing nod to the current programming on modern American news channels, such as Fox news. Filled with propaganda vignettes such as foot-stomping bug squishing, military hardware being passed to children to play with and a reminder of an execution of a murderer to set your video-recorders for, the Federal Network picks up on issues of modern day American right-wing politics with veritable ease – and then proceeds to poke fun at the extremity of such a political ideal by taking the scenes to their most logical extreme. Just note the Mother laughing like a bloodthirsty hyena in the foot-stomping vignette – marvellous!
Many would disagree with the satire involved suggesting it limp at best, with Verhoeven revelling in the hyper-violence of Starship Troopers and embracing the facets dictated by Heinlein instead. Indeed the film seems to move from satire to outright jingoism with unnerving consistency, but when you have troopers spouting quintessential cheesy dialogue along the lines of "come on you apes, do you want to live forever” "they sucked his brains out” "you're some kind of smart bug” and you decide to name the hero of the opus the barnstormingly brilliant Johnny Rico, it's difficult to see Starship Troopers being anything other than a piss-take. And this is where Verhoeven excels further – the film works either of two ways! If you're not interested in the satirical elements invested in the film, then just hold on to your seat for some utterly superb balls-out B-movie action and carnage of the highest order.
With James Cameron's Aliens the obvious movie template - hell the troopers carry weapons that are virtually pulse rifles and the drop-ships aren't a far throw from Aliens' imagining either – this is where the real fun begins. Whilst lacking the taught, tense structure of Cameron's masterpiece, the main difference between the two movies, Starship Troopers revels in the context of all out war against the bug scourge, yet replaces six acrobats in Alien suits with some of the most impressive CGI crafted for the medium. Indeed, the CGI is still as impressive today as it was back in 1997. Large spaceships hurtle past each other in magnificent glory before being spliced open from fire being spurted out of the backside of a rather large beetle with Bangalore belly. Likewise, a full-scale assault on a fortified outpost by thousands of arachnids is lovingly and beautifully composed – easily one of the best sequences of the film as our Troopers attempt to hold the encampment. Verhoeven's eye is also brilliantly deployed – a wonderful sequence before the troopers engage in their first sortie is choreographed in such metaphorical fashion that it has the troops mobilising into drop ships in a thoroughly insectoid fashion.
The plot is artificial at best, merely serving to highlight Rico and school chums signing up, going through a Full Metal Jacket light boot camp before climbing the ranks, but you're not really here for the plot are you? No, you're here for the wall-to-wall carnage. There's nothing more fun than seeing humanity getting splattered across the screen by massively impressive beasties and Starship Troopers doesn't disappoint. Grunts are unceremoniously butchered throughout in a mass of gore, much to the delight of the audience. Indeed, your enjoyment of Starship Troopers will probably depend on how much fun you can garner from a host of beautiful people from Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place being slaughtered by rather large bugs. Along with a rip-roaring theme as the action hots-up, more ridiculously benign dialogue delivered by, frankly, poor actors, Denise Richard's hair-lip and a bombastic finale, there's very little to fault Starship Troopers as an entertaining blast of B-Movie hokum.
And if your still not convinced about Starship Troopers qualities, here's a list of ten reasons why it's an essential purchase, if not a must see: -
1. It features Michael Ironside, he who brilliantly has his arms loped off at the elbow via an unfortunate lift incursion while battling against Arnie in Total Recall.
2. It features Clancy Brown, he who brilliantly holds his neck together with safety pins after a near miss with a sword in Highlander.
3. The greatest line in the history of film is delivered by Ironside - “They sucked his brains out.” Utter genius! (Seriously, at a recent double screening of Starship Troopers and Aliens at Somerset House, this line received a bigger cheer than Hudson’s famous “game over man, game over.”)
4. Casper Van Dien constantly gives the impression that he thinks he’s actually doing a great job as the leading man throughout the flick… despite being out acted by a ferret in one sequence!
5. Starship Troopers is the only film that has ever featured a multi-sex shower scene!
6. It’s the only film ever to have successfully ripped off James Cameron’s Aliens where you don’t feel embarrassed to mention it in the same breath as James Cameron’s Aliens.
7. Where else are you going to see Doogie Howser MD (Neil Patrick Harris) dressed in full nazi regalia?
8. The film actually benefits as the whole cast are dressed up in Nazi regalia!
9. It has the greatest homo-erotic whipping scene ever filmed. Eat your heart out Spartacus!
10. It’s the only film you're likely to see someone stabbed to death up the arse by a very large space bug and, for that alone, Starship Troopers needs to be watched by everyone with eyes!
Overall – Starship Troopers has just about enough for everyone. Blood and guts by the bucketload with a little cerebral thought placed behind the mayhem that's a slap in the face for the whole of humanity. It's utter bonkers genius, but my word does it work. God bless Paul Verhoeven!