Originally published in the Fullerton College Hornet, Vol. 77, Issue 7; 18 Nov 1997
If you have a weak stomach or a phobia of insects, then “Starship Troopers” may not be the movie for you to watch this weekend.
Based on the novel by Science-Fiction legend Robert Heinlein and directed by Dutch Director Paul Verhoeven, known for such films as “Total Recall” and “Basic Instinct,” “Starship Troopers” follows a handful of soldiers battling a species of extraterrestrial insects bent on eliminating the human race.
While being a straight action film, “Starship Troopers” also examines the role of the military in the structure of the film’s fascist utopian society. People in this civilization are split into two groups: civilians and citizens. Civilians have no rights, but they have the opportunity to become citizens by serving a term in the military. Even as a citizen, rights are not as they would be in our society. For example, women must get a license to reproduce, but cannot get one until they become citizens.
Likewise, those who wish to run for elected office must also serve in the military. All aspects of their society revolve around a central theme and that is the importance of the military over all other aspects of life. In fact, the leader of their governing body is also the leader and coordinating officer of their military forces.
To illustrate the difference between the dominant fascist state the characters lived in from the terrifying reality of warfare, the early part of the film was reminiscent of an episode of “Beverly Hills 90210.”
Upon joining the Federal Service to make the transition from civilian to citizen, the characters find themselves thrust into a harsh world of pain and death.
Verhoeven’s reputation for honest, frank and often brutal depictions of sexuality and violence shines through like a beacon in his latest film. From revealing shower scenes to decapitations, Verhoeven refuses to be held back while telling his story.
The magnitude of the special effects work involved meant that several visual effects companies needed to be used. George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic was brought in to handle four sequences, including an early sequence where an asteroid is destroyed as it hurtles straight towards the Earth and the fleet trainer’s ride through space. Boss Films was given the sequence with a giant asteroid heading straight towards the starship Roger Young.
The Computer Graphics Images (CGIs) were handled by Banned From The Ranch, while Shockwave and Mass Illusion were subcontracted by Imageworks to complete some sequences for them. The result of their labors is a film with more, and more incredible, effects shots than has ever been seen before.
The insects themselves were meticulously crafted through CGI. Created by the same team that worked on the “Jurassic Park” series, the aliens are incredibly lifelike and believable. The scenes involving the bugs are often staggering, mind-boggling and awe-inspiring at the same time, such as when a unit of Mobile Infantry are ambushed by thousands of them, all pouring over the hills and quickly eliminating the ground from view.
Special effects alone do not make a good movie, however. Where the combined talent of the cast was sufficient to pull off the story, Michael Ironside was the only one to shine through in his role of Jean Rasczak.
Verhoeven spent a great deal of time early in the film developing the characters before sending them off to war.
As a result, the audience feels more strongly about them and is more concerned by what happens to them during the course of the film.
“Starship Troopers” is a fun ride for those who like their movies fast, loud and explosive. If this sounds like a good time, then get in line and buy those tickets.