Starship Troopers

Starship Troopers is one of the most anticipated winter releases this year. It is a movie that has a whole lot of special effects and hole worth of a story. The current thought running through the heads of studio executives in Hollywood seems to be: Spend a large portion of the movie budget on special effects, whatever is left, use it to hire some B-list actors.

Unfortunately, that is what happened with Starship Troopers, it seems that a large portion of the movie’s budget went into creating the incredible special effects and not enough went into hiring some good actors and maybe a good screenwriter. I’ll admit, the special effects in Starship Troopers are spectacular. From the swarms of bugs running across the desert to the huge transport ships, these are top-notch special effects, eye candy to say the least. Very impressive. What isn’t impressive though is the script and the actors hired for the film.

In the late future, bugs from across the galaxy attack us by slinging asteroids at Earth. On Earth, in Buenos Aires, a group of teens are just graduating from high school. All of them want to join up with the Federation and go off to fight the bugs. This tight group of teens include Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien), Dizzy Flores (Dina Meyer), Carmen Ibanez (Denise Richards), and Carl Jenkins (Neil Patrick Harris, Doogie Howser). Rico and Flores are sent off to become Mobile Infantry, the people that go ground zero against the bugs. Ibanez is sent off to become a pilot and Jenkins goes off to read bug minds.

The movie is split into two halves. The first hour is a cheezy melodramatic rehash of most every episode of 90210 shown. Complete with bad dialogue, bad acting, and slow pace. The second half is a visceral and violent hour-long action sequence.

The first half is plain awful. We get to see teens fighting with their parents, teens fighting amongst themselves, and a love triangle. When the teens finally get sent off to boot camp we get a gratuitous nude scene when co-ed privates shower together. Nothing in the first half really amounts to anything.

The second half is a guilty pleasure for me. It is very well done, though it does get old quickly. The bugs attacking are just amazing and the interaction between the bugs and humans are seamless. The problem that makes it get old quickly? Repetition. The hour is a cycle: Humans attack, bugs counter attack, humans retreat, start over again. At first it is great fun, then it goes down hill.

Paul Verhoven of Robocop, Total Recall, Basic Instinct, and Showgirls fame seems to want to mix the genres of those four movies in Starship Troopers. We get violence in such a dose that we become numb to it. We get sarcastic news broadcasts taken completely from Robocop, but do less, which try to be wry and funny, but come off making the movie look cheap. We get a dose of nudity and some sex in the battlefield. Verhoven seems to be having a streak of bad luck with his last few films and Starship Troopers doesn’t help to bring him out of this streak either.

The script doesn’t do well either. When the second half came rolling in and I saw how the bugs fought, the questions started to roll in my head. Why don’t the future space Marines have heavy artillery? What happened to tanks or helicopters? Why not nuke the bugs? Why send in lightly armored soldiers when you could have so many other options that would have saved the lives of the many troops sent in? Easy, a sloppy script that doesn’t take into account logic. There wouldn’t be a movie if any of my suggestions were taken into account and this could only mean one thing for the script writer, Edward Neumeier, he’d have to use his head and write a smart script.

The actors are all pretty bland. Of the four main characters only one had a performance that I enjoyed and that was Dina Meyer (Dragon Heart). I hope to see Meyer in more films soon. She gives a good performance in Starship Troopers and is the only character for which I did care for on the screen. Of the minor characters Michael Ironside, Jake Busey, and Clancy Brown give good performances. All of the other actors give mediocre to bad performances.

One more thing, the bugs in Starship Troopers are not as scary as the Alien. I had talked to a friend about this earlier on, I feel that the bugs in Starship Troopers are not as scary because they are not as smart as they should be. They swarm and attack with not a single thought on tactic. But, this seems right since the majority of the attacks are by the “worker” bugs. But then you look at the Alien and it is the same “worker” alien that is hunting out the humans, stalking them and killing them intelligently. Yes, the bugs in Starship Troopers are scary, but in the long run, they are just stupid bugs. The Alien is a more thought out creature and is, for me, a smarter and scary foe.

Turn off your brain and sit back. The first half is pretty bad and the second half comes close to redeeming the film. Starship Troopers is fun at times, but just sickening at others. This is definitely not a film for the kids, there are heavy doses of violence and death, then there are the sex and the nudity scenes. Starship Troopers is not a strong movie. The only thing that it has going for it are the special effects and even then that is only the second half of the film. I find it hard to recommend Starship Troopers, but I will because of the action in the second half of the film. Though, see it during a matinee showing or on video.