Starship Troopers – Review (Spoiler Free)

Starship Troopers PosterComplex satire or brainless shootem up? Whatever it is, it isn’t subtle…


The amount of blood, guts and bad acting is pretty overwhelming here, to the degree that Starship Troopers can be seen as nothing but a mindless movie best enjoyed whilst drinking. However, the film also satirises both America’s political  system, fascism and the generic Hollywood action movie with their typical overwhelming amount of blood, guts and bad acting, making it a somewhat complex film to really get to grips with.

The film’s main plot of pretty humans battling against the savage, primitive aliens is a simplistic as it comes. Lots of perfect faces with shiny white teeth, ugly things blowing up, nudity… you get the gist. This plot is consistently sent-up by the film’s often heavy-handed attack on fascism and the action movie genre, and whilst the film is rather fresh for that attack, it isn’t too interesting beyond that. Except for the fact that this satire is somehow missed by a large amount of reviewers. It seems that in choosing the actors he did, including Denise Richards (need I say more), and by going all out with the action sequences Verhoeven may have accidentally made too believable a bad movie for the satirical voice to actually worm through.

Starship

There’s an argument out there on the internet which states that if Starship Troopers had been given Dr Strangelove calibre actors then it would now be considered a classic, however I don’t think that is the case. Regardless of whether you think the film is intelligent or dumb, spectacular or sleep inducing, it works best by being ambiguous. The discussion that can be had about whether the poor acting or bad writing is intentional would be lost by hiring fantastic actors. If the film went down that route and had its cast play it straight we would have one reading, if it had them deliberately acting badly then it would have had another clear reading, what would be lost however is the conversation which Starship Troopers provokes.

We are promoted to ask why, if we recognise the fascist, violent world in which this film is set then why do we continue to side with its heroes, cheering them on until the end even, though we acknowledge the troubling issues which are occurring on screen? It seems to me that this experience comes about because of the blurred lines between clear political satire and seemingly brainless popcorn movie gunfights. Regardless of whether the movie intends for this ambiguity or not, and I happen to think that it broadly if not all that intellectually does, what matters is that it is present, and it makes the discussions after watching the film much more important than the film itself. The film’s challenges to Hollywood and Fascism may be pretty simplistic, but the conversation surrounding  it has proved to be far more complex and engaging. 

Summary:

What is the film’s greatest strength? It’s satire and the complex ambiguity surrounding it.

Its greatest weakness? How bluntly it delivers its satire, its dialogue, its characters…

Would I see it again? Yes, despite everything it’s fairly enjoyable and my reading of it changes with every viewing.

Blast out your thoughts in the comment box below!

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13 comments

  1. Abbi · · Reply

    I wanted to hate this film because it’s the opposite of everything I enjoy about cinema… but I couldn’t… because it was kind of awesome.

    1. I know exactly what you mean! It’s strangely rather enjoyable, despite everything about it which isn’t!

    1. Why thank you!

  2. mrheslop · · Reply

    The film was based on a 1950s young adult novel by Robert A. Heinlein, which wasn’t satirical in the slightest. The Bugs were a metaphor for communists, and the book was filled with straight-faced right-wing sermonising. It even has a line about how liberty must be constantly renewed with the blood of patriots.
    Faced with that material, Verhoeven found it depressing and decided to approach it satirically, to some degree. I really like this review, because it articulates my own feelings about the film better than I could. On the one hand its satire is interesting, but on the other it’s still a fairly cardboard action romp. I liked it, though it’s too long and shouldn’t have played the middle ground so much; if it wanted to be satire, then it should have gone all the way with that. Thanks for the fun and interesting read, Mr Rumsey!

    1. Yeah I read up a bit on the book when writing this review and it sounds very right-wing! I kind of want to read it in order to compare it to the film. See what, if any was kept, and how different they are.

      Thank you very much for those kind words! It really could be cut down and in order to be successful it should have avoided the middle ground as you say, however it is very interesting to look at now because of that ambiguity!

      1. mrheslop · · Reply

        The book has robo-plated armour suits, kind of like in that movie Pacific Rim, so that’s one thing it has going for it!

        1. Haha that certainly is! Robot plated armour suits make anything better!

  3. Love this film 😀

    1. Good to hear buddy! It’s a good film, even though it shouldn’t be!

  4. Nice analysis here. I really do love this film. One of the best DVD commentaries I’ve heard is Paul Verhoeven and Edward Neumeier’s track for this film. They comment often about how the film was made not only made as a satire, but as an openhanded condemnation of fascist politics. If you’re interested in the film, I highly recommend giving the track a listen. But either way, glad to hear you like this film!

    1. Thank you and thanks do the recommendation too. I am quite a fan of commentaries but haven’t heard this one, it would definitely be of interest to me!

  5. **They comment often about how the film was not only made as a satire, but as…

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