You know what was missing from the 90’s; giant bug movies. I mean, they were a staple of the sci-fi genre during the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s but then kind of disappeared in the 80’s and early 90’s. Luckily, Director Paul Verhoeven, of Robocop and Showgirls fame/infamy, had decided to do a giant bug movie and was pointed in the direction of doing Robert A. Heinlein’s novel when similarities were pointed out between the novel and the script Verhoeven was working on. I didn’t read the book before going to see the movie but I enjoyed the movie, which of course prompted me to read the book later. A while back, I had caught part of the movie on TV one day but. not wanting to deal with the censorship or commercials, I just decided to go to Best Buy and pick up a copy on DVD. So let’s have some good CGI fun with today’s movie, Starship Troopers.
The plot: On the alien planet of Klendathu, a reporter is filming a live broadcast of the Federation’s battle with the Arachnids when he is attacked and killed by a bug. Several soldiers kill the bug and Johnny Rico yells at the cameraman to run when a second bug attacks and kills another soldier and the cameraman before piercing Rico’s leg, leaving him crying out in pain as the camera cuts out. One year earlier, Rico is finishing his last day of high school in Buenos Aires with his girlfriend Carmen Ibanez and his friends Carl Jenkins and Dizzy Flores, where there teacher, Mr. Rasczak, tries to teach them the difference between a citizen and a civilian in the Federation. After class Rico goes to help Carl practice his psychic abilities before taking part in a football game against a rival school, where he strikes up a rivalry with Zander Barcalow when he starts flirting with Carmen. As Rico gets ready to go to the graduation dance, his family argues with him about his wanting to enlist in the military, as they disapprove of military service, and attempt to bribe him with a trip to the Outer Rings before he enrolls in Harvard. At the dance, Dizzy, who is in love with Rico, manages to snag Rico for a dance when Carmen wanders off and as they are dancing, she asks Rico why they never hooked up but Rico says that he just wants to stay friends with her. He then speaks with Rasczak for a few minutes before meeting back with Carmen, who is talking with Zander as he is going to the Fleet Academy just like she is. The next day, Rico, Carmen, and Carl head over to enlist, with Carl being signed up for Military Intelligence, Carmen going to Fleet, and Rico going to Mobile Infantry but when Rico’s parents find out, his father disowns him. At the training camp, Rico is surprised to see that Dizzy has transferred to the same camp that he is in and asks if she followed him there. At the same time, Rico starts a friendly rivalry with Ace Levy, as they both want to be squad leader. Meanwhile, Carmen is beginning her training on the Roger Young and finds that Zander has arranged to be her flight instructor on the voyage and the two start flirting with each other. After excelling in a training exercise, Rico is made squad leader and he apologizes to Dizzy and repairs their friendship but later that night, Rico receives a “Dear John” letter from Carmen, where she tells him she wants to pursue a military career. During a live-fire training exercise, Rico’s bad judgement results in the death of one cadet and a second cadet quits over her guilt in killing the cadet while Rico is given ten lashes for his actions. Meanwhile, Carmen and Zander are getting closer as they train together, while their performance prompts Captain Deladier to place them permanently on her crew. While they flying close to Jupiter, they detect an asteroid coming towards them on a course from Earth. Carmen and Zander are able to save the Roger Young from being destroyed but the ship suffers some damage and they are unable to contact Earth to warn them of the asteroid. Back on Earth, Rico decides to quit the infantry, despite Dizzy trying to talk him out of it, and calls his parents to tell him of his decision but their call gets cut off partway through. As Rico starts to leave, he sees the soldiers all running towards a view screen and he follows them to learn that the asteroid had struck Buenos Aires and wiped the city off the map. Enraged, Rico goes to the head office to rescind his resignation and his drill instructor, Career Sergeant Zim, tears up his 1240-A form and tells Rico to gear up. As Rico, Dizzy, Ace, and the other infantry head to the space platforms to make the journey to Klendathu, Rico is surprised to see Carmen calling out to him. After speaking with her for a few minutes, she is joined by Zander and Rico implies that she felt what was best for them was that she be with Zander and goes to leave. When Zander taunts Rico about the Mobile Infantry, the two end up getting into a fight before they are separated. As the mission on Klendathu begins, the fleet come under fire from bug plasma fire from the surface and discover that it is not the harmless bursts of light they were led to believe as several ships are destroyed and the Roger Young comes under fire. On the surface, Rico and the others make land and take out two of the giant bugs that are firing the plasma. When the soldier bugs appear, Ace freezes up so Rico orders the platoon to start firing but as they find themselves being overrun, he orders them to fall back (bringing us to the events at the beginning of the movie). When the Roger Young returns to port, Carmen checks the list of those killed in action and finds Rico’s name on the list, causing her to break down in tears and shrug off Zander as he tries to console her. Rico had managed to survive and is in a healing tank getting his leg repaired when Ace and Dizzy stop by to show him the news that he is dead and joke with him. The three friends report to their new unit, the Roughnecks, and Rico and Dizzy are surprised to learn that the unit commander is their former teacher, Lt. Rasczak, who was the person that saved Rico on Klendathu. With a new Sky Marshall in charge of the military, the new plan of attack is to take out the outer planets before attacking Klendathu again. The Roughnecks head out to one of the planets and during the course of the battle, Rasczak promotes Rico to Corporal when Cpl. Birdie is severely wounded in the attack. That night, Rasczak allows the Roughnecks to have some R&R and during the course of the night, Rico and Dizzy end up having sex. The next day, the Roughnecks answer a distress call coming from an outpost and find that it has been overrun by bugs. As they secure the compound, they find General Owens hiding in a cabinet and learn that the bugs had sucked out the brains of the radio operator and controlled him in order to send the distress signal to lure them into trap. As the bugs start to swarm and attack the compound, Rico and Dizzy get on the radio to contact a retrieval boat then join the others in holding back the bugs long enough for the boat to get to them. The rescue boat arrives, piloted by Carmen while Zander covers the troops as they get on board. Rasczak is mortally wounded and orders Rico to put him out of his misery while Dizzy is also mortally wounded by a bug and Rico and Ace manage to get her onto the boat, where she dies in Rico’s arms. Returning to the co-pilot’s chair, Zander tells Carmen that Rico is still alive and when Rico tells them to bomb the planet, Carmen shows her shock at seeing him alive. Rico’s request is denied and he gets upset until Carmen points out that the fleet has mobilized for an attack. On board the Roger Young, Rico and the Roughnecks arrange a funeral for Dizzy and as it ends, Carl joins them. Rico and Carmen approach Carl, who apologizes that Rico’s group was the one sent to “P”, as the mission had a low survival rate, but they had to determine if a Brain Bug was on the planet. Carl then tells them that they are sending people down to “P” to find the Brain Bug and capture it and promotes Rico to Lt., giving him command of the Roughnecks. As Rico and the others land on “P” and receive fresh reinforcements from Boot Camp, the Roger Young comes under heavy fire and is destroyed, with Carmen and Zander being some of the only survivors. As they crash land on “P”, Carmen manages to make contact with Rico and tell him her position but they are attacked by some bugs and the transmission is cut off. Sugar Watkins prepares a rescue mission but Rico cancels it and says they need to continue with the mission. As they head into the tunnels, Rico suddenly suggests that they head down a side tunnel, saying that Carmen is there, and orders the rest of the Roughnecks to continue with the mission while he, Ace, and Watkins head down the side tunnel. Meanwhile, Carmen and Zander have been captured and are being held down as the Brain Bug appears and approaches them. Zander slips Carmen a knife just before the Brain Bug impales him in the head with it’s stinger and sucks out his brains. When the Brain Bug approaches her, Carmen cuts off the stinger just as Rico and the others show up, holding up a pocket nuke to keep the Brain Bug and the other bugs at bay. As the Brain Bug moves away, the bugs start attacking Rico and the others and Watkins is seriously injured so he grabs the nuke from Rico and tells the others to run while he holds off the bugs until the nuke goes off. Rico, Carmen, and Ace survive the blast and as the emerge from the tunnel, they learn the Brain Bug was captured. Carl approaches the Brain Bug and is able to sense that it is scared, drawing a cheer from the crowd. As Carmen and Rico approach Carl, he tells them this was the turning point in the war and Rico is surprised to learn that Zim, who had gotten busted down to a Private in order to join the war, was the one to capture the Brain Bug. As the war continues, Carmen is shown to have been made a Captain, while Rico and Ace continue leading the Roughnecks into battle.
Starship Troopers met with negative results from the critics when it was released in theaters but since then, has garnered more favorable results; holding a 63% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “A fun movie…if you can accept the excessive gore and wooden acting.” During the filming in the desert, Jake Busey and several other cast members ended up suffering from heat stroke, as many as 25 people per day at one point, and so modifications to some of the actors’ costumes were made to help prevent this in the future. The movie was barely a box office hit, earning $121.2 million off of a $100 million budget, and ended up spawning 2 live action sequels, 2 animated sequels, and an animated TV series.
This is one of those movies that is a total guilty pleasure for me to watch. The acting was ok, with Casper Van Dien (Rico), Jake Busey (Ace), and Dina Meyer (Dizzy) doing good jobs in their roles. I also liked Michael Ironside (Rasczak) in this and as surprising as it may sound, thought Denise Richards did a good job as Carmen. There were some changes in the story from the book to the movie but the plot on a whole was fairly simplistic, which led to some of the wooden acting the critics accused the movie of having. The special effects were really good, with the CGI bugs mixing in with the scenery really well while some of the live robotic models used for closeups were incredibly detailed. One thought I had while watching this movie again is how some of the basic assault rifles used by the Federation soldiers looked a lot like the basic assault rifle used in the Halo games. Anyways, I still find this a lot of fun to watch and a great way to kill time for 2 hours.
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5