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.
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.
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!