Starship Troopers is an Excellent Film

A lot of movie reviewers did not like Starship Troopers when it was first released. The movie is satire, but it takes the military fetishism very seriously. It is not a parody, it is exactly the kind of docudrama that the kind of civilization portrayed in the movie would create in order to glorify itself. The satire elements are in the framing, but much of the movie can be experienced at face value. That may explain why many critics were initially turned off.

But time has sorted this out and currently Starship Troopers is often cited as one of the best films of the period. The acting is note-perfect. Casper Van Diem plays the square-jawed aryan good boy, Johnny Rico who goes from casual civilian to new recruit to seasoned leader. He is surrounded by a cast that perfectly capture the classic notes of the military adventure story. There are battle-hardened drill instructors, misfits who learn to work together, and weak higher ups who are destroyed in the face of combat and replaced by the up and coming heroes.

The visuals and the action hold up very well. The battles have a great feel for how troops change from raw first-timers into seasoned veterans. The overall visual style is perfect. The military is very clean and spare, except when marred by violence and death. The world around them is similar, and the only disgusting thing are the enemy, the bugs.

The plot moves forward with a great sense of conflict and resolution. Even though the movie is actually quite long, it never lags and always feels like you are going somewhere quickly. Verhoeven gives the characters enough depth to let us feel for them, while still giving us that distance that reflects the fetishism around this military learning process.

The satire is applied with just the right touch. Verhoeven has said that he intended to make a perfect, shiny fascist movie instead of just preaching to people that fascism is bad. The movie includes several scenes that come straight from Nazi propaganda films, and you can see the echo of that power here. It is frightening to see how compelling that imagery can be, still.

As a film, Starship Troopers is a great piece of art.

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