Starship Troopers was directed by Paul Verhoeven, and written by Edward Neumeier. It starred Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer and Denise Richards. The movie is based on the novel Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein.
Starship Troopers tells the story of an interplanetary war between Earth and colonies of large insect-like aliens in the twenty-third century. It focuses on the experiences of Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien), one of three friends who sign up to the military one year before Earth declares war on the Arachnids.
The film opens to a futuristic television viewing sequence. The news is dominated by an ongoing war with the aliens, called Arachnids or Bugs due to their appearance. A one year flashback takes the scene to the posh Buenos Aires high school of a young man named John "Johnny" Rico (Casper Van Dien). One-armed history teacher Mr. Rasczak (Michael Ironside) forcefully quizzes his students about the efficacy of "naked force" in dispute resolution, and the need for civic responsibility. A blind, strutting biology teacher (Rue McClanahan) loudly corrects her students by pointing out the numerous daunting ways the Arachnids are superior to humans regarding competitive survival. Rico is shown to have high athletic ability, a very competitive nature, low math aptitude, great, but mostly unreturned, love for his girlfriend Carmen Ibanez (Denise Richards), and much indecision about his future. In a short scene where Johnny and Carmen have to dissect a bug as part of a Biology lesson, Johnny is also shown to have a strong stomach. Required to dissect a bug for Biology class, Johnny nonchalantly carves open and pulls out the creature's innards while Carmen vomits at the sight of the entrails and runs out. When Carmen decides to join the Federal Service Johnny decides to follow her into the Service out of love for her. His parents show immediate revulsion at his choice, which involves two years of sacrifice and uncertain survival. His father demands he attend Harvard University and dangles an expensive Outer Rings vacation on Zegema Beach to tempt him. Rico persists and is disowned.
Largely based on their academic test scores, Rico is assigned to Mobile Infantry, while Carmen is assigned to Flight School, and his best friend Carl (Neil Patrick Harris) to the elite Games and Theory (military intelligence). A girl from Rico's high school football team, "Dizzy" Flores (Dina Meyer) (long enamored of him), secretly joins the Mobile Infantry and successfully requests a transfer to Rico's training unit. Rico soon finds the grueling boot camp more difficult than anticipated, with terrible injuries being inflicted by the officers and NCOs — particularly his drill instructor|drill sergeant, Zim (Clancy Brown) — in an effort to teach the new soldiers quickly and efficiently. Rico excels at the training and eventually is promoted to squad leader. Carmen decides to "go career" because of her love of piloting massive starships, which precludes getting back together with Rico after two years of service, so she breaks up with him. A high school football rival of Rico, Zander (Patrick Muldoon) has intentionally placed himself as Carmen's instructor, and makes his romantic intentions known. She neither accepts nor rejects, seeming amused and remaining intent on her piloting. After Rico makes an error as squad leader during a live fire training exercise which results in the death of a fellow squadmate, he is punished by flogging and quits. However, just as he is leaving the camp, an asteroid, destroys Buenos Aires, killing millions, including his parents. Now homeless, his doubt dissolves; he rescinds his resignation, rejoins his unit and is involved in the newly-declared war against the supposed perpetrators: the Arachnids of the distant planet Klendathu.
The initial invasion of Klendathu is a complete disaster, with 100,000 dead in one hour including several of Rico's fellow boot-mates, including Shujumi (Anthony Ruivivar) and Kitten Smith (Matt Levin). Rico is one of the few wounded to survive. The Federation supreme commander, Sky Marshal Dienes, resigns and is replaced by Sky Marshal Tehat Meru. She declares that "to fight the Bug, we must understand the Bug", leading to altered and more intelligent battle plans. Rico, Dizzy and his friend from training, Ace Levy, are reassigned to the super-tough MI unit, the "Roughnecks". Its soldiers are extremely loyal, most of whose lives have been saved by their commander, as has Rico's. He turns out to be Rico's old high school history teacher (fitted with an artificial, robot arm), now Lieutenant Rasczak, executing the lessons he formerly taught. After a spectacular and heroic battle on one of the Bug worlds, Tango Urilla, Rico is field-promoted to corporal and assigns Dizzy as squad leader. After a celebration later that night, Rico and Dizzy partially undress before sharing an amorus and intimate moment in Rico's tent at the M.I.'s makeshift camp.
Their next mission plunges them into a trap, as they are assigned to investigate the silence of an outpost on one of the Bug worlds, Planet P. From the only survivor (and now a post-traumatic wreck) General Owen (Marshall Bell), they discover that the bugs possess somewhere a high intelligence, and are "sucking" the brains out of humans to learn directly from the brains. As the troopers realize their situation a huge force of Arachnids attacks. Jean Rasczak, Dizzy Flores (whose last words to Rico are "Johnny don't let me go."), and almost all of the Roughnecks die. The survivors barely evacuate, having requested a "crazy" pilot to do the unlikely rescue, who coincidentally turns out to be Carmen. After a funeral service for Dizzy, Rico's old friend Carl, now a Colonel in intelligence, gives Rico and Carmen his unapologetic ("we're in it for the species, boys and girls — it's simple numbers. They have more.") reason for the deaths of many of Rico's squad mates: Military intelligence had ascertained that there might be a "Brain Bug" on Planet P, and the Roughnecks were used as bait. He tells Rico that the Mobile Infantry will return to Planet P and attempt to capture the Brain Bug for research. Rico accepts the mission and Carl gives him command of the Roughnecks, who are then reinforced by fresh soldiers (barely in their teens) sent directly from boot camp. Carmen's ship, the Rodger Young, is the one from which the Roughnecks operate.
In the offensive, the Rodger Young explodes when hit by Bug plasma, shot from giant Bug abdomens. Carmen and Zander barely survive, and their escape pod lands deep underground in a Bug tunnel. They are captured, and Zander's brain is sucked out and ingested by the brain bug. Rico organizes a rescue attempt and manages to save Carmen in the nick of time by threatening the brain bug with a miniature "Nuke". They escape to the surface safely, where the brain bug has been captured by Rico's former training sergeant Zim, voluntarily demoted to private in order to be allowed to transfer from training to fighting. Rico, Carmen, and Carl renew their friendship, and the now fearful brain bug is sent to Earth for study in an attempt to find a way to defeat the Bug menace. The film ends with an enlistment message, using Rico, Carmen, and Ace as examples of heroes of the military.
|Casper Van Dien||Johnny Rico|
|Dina Meyer||Dizzy Flores|
|Denise Richards||Carmen Ibanez|
|Jake Busey||Private Ace Levy|
|Neil Patrick Harris||Colonel Carl Jenkins|
|Clancy Brown||Career Sergeant Charles Zim|
|Seth Gilliam||Private Sugar Watkins|
|Patrick Muldoon||Zander Barcalow|
|Michael Ironside||Lieutenant Jean Rasczak|
|Rue McClanahan||Biology Teacher|
|Marshall Bell||General Owen|
|Matt Levin||Kitten Smith|
|Blake Lindsley||Katrina McIntire|
|Brenda Strong||Captain Deladier|
|Dean Norris||Commanding Officer|
|Christopher Curry||Bill Rico|
|Lenore Kasdorf||Mrs. Rico|
|Steven Ford||Lieutenant Willy|
|Ungela Brockman||Corporal Birdie|
|Curnal Achilles Aulisio||Gillespie|
|Greg Travis||Net Correspondent|
|Bruce Gray||Sky Marshal Dienes|
|Denise Dowse||Sky Marshal Tehat Meru|
|John Cunningham||Fed Net Announcer|
|Robert David Hall||Recruiting Sergeant|
|Amy Smart||Stack Lumbrezer|
|Patrick Bishop||Engineering Officer|
|Hunter Bodine||Young Cap Trooper|
|Travis Lowen||Little Boy Trooper|
|Patrick Wolff||Late Cadet|
|Mara Duronslet||Communications Officer|
|Dale A. Dye||General|
|Mike Stokey||Officer with Morita|
|Ronald L. Botchan||Jumpball Referee|
|Stephanie Erb||Young Mother|
|Alexi Lakatos||Stomping Kid|
|Nathaniel Marshall||Stomping Kid|
|Austin Sanderford||Stomping Kid|
|Rhiannon Vigil||Stomping Kid|
|Mylin Brooks||Female Trooper|
|Armand Darrius||Male Trooper|
|Kai Lennox||Male Trooper|
Notes and Trivia
- The Trooper's combat uniforms (shown in the movie poster above) were later reused on the Power Rangers: Lost Galaxy (wikia site) series for military personnel aboard the colony ship Terra Venture. The uniforms were also repainted and reused in episodes of the TV series Firefly as Alliance soldiers' uniforms. The helmets were repainted again and used by the SWAT team at the end of the 2001 remake of Planet of the Apes. The uniforms, along with footage from numerous sci-fi films including Starship Troopers itself, were used in the sci-fi movie Impostor, starring Gary Sinise, and the live action Gundam film G-Saviour.
- Much of the non-combat military dress seen in the film appears to be adapted from the designs of World War II German Army uniforms and East German uniforms, most prominently amongst the fleet personnel (like Ibanez) and the intelligence officers (like Carl). The use of the same grey colour scheme, seen in almost all the uniforms, is also prominent.
- The Futurama episode "War Is the H-Word" has many references to the film.
- Several cameos in the film include producer Jon Davison as the angry Buenos Aires resident who says to the FedNet camera, "The only good Bug is a dead Bug!", and screenwriter Edward Neumeier as the quickly captured, convicted, and condemned murderer in another FedNet clip. Former U.S. Marine Dale Dye, whose company Warriors, Inc. provided technical military advice on the film, appeared as a high-ranking officer following the capture of the Brain Bug ("What's it thinking, Colonel?").
- Director Paul Verhoeven, producer Jon Davison, writer Edward Neumeier, creature effects designers Phil Tippett and Craig Hayes, and composer Basil Poledouris were all involved with the original RoboCop movie. Actor Michael Ironside was also considered for the role of Murphy/RoboCop. Ironside did appear in Verhoeven's Total Recall.
- On the TV series Stargate SG-1, in the 9th season episode "The Scourge", the team decides to watch Starship Troopers for movie night after barely escaping a massive carnivorous alien bug infestation on another planet.
- The cast agreed to do the naked shower scene only if the director agreed to direct the scene naked. Verhoeven directed the scene with no clothes on.
- The short-lived Australian political party, One Nation, mimicked the use of the 'Do you want to know more?' advertisements from the film in a 1998 campaign at recruiting youth to the party, presumably unaware of the satirical nature of those ads - especially given the party had a nationalistic far right ideology.
- During the newsbreak which focused on the destruction of Port Joe Smith, it showed a spire with the statue of the Angel Moroni on its top. According to religious custom with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the statue of Moroni is only used on the top of dedicated temples and is not found on any other structure regardless of its purpose.
- The Seattle indie rock band Minus The Bear used quotes from the film as song titles in their album Highly Refined Pirates, including "You kill bugs good, man", "Damn bugs whacked him, Johnny" and "You're some sort of big, fat, smart-bug, aren't you?"
- Composer Basil Poledouris' daughter, Zoe, makes a cameo in the prom dance scene. She is on stage, and sings one original song ("Into it") and a cover of David Bowie's "I Have not been to Oxford Town" from the 1997 album "Outside." Minor lyrical changes have been made, and the song was renamed "I Have not been to Paradise."
- In the 2011 first-person shooter video game Duke Nukem Forever, when Duke is fighting against the Aliens, he says: "I'm from Las Vegas, and I say kill 'em all!"
This movie polarized both popular audiences and critics, as did the original book. On one level, the movie tells a straightforward action-adventure science fiction story, with attractive stars, innovative computer-generated imagery, and an entertaining but clichéd and often ludicrous plot. A prominent theme of the film is the human practice of senseless violence without reflection or empathy, which parallels the senseless aggression of the "Bugs". As such, the movie attracted widely divergent responses. This is reflected by a mixed critical response; for example the film receives a 60% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The film included visual allusions to propaganda films, such as Triumph of the Will and wartime news broadcasts. However, this satire was embedded in slickly produced action sequences with clever special effects. Some wonder whether the satire went unnoticed by an audience who may have treated the movie as a simple gung-ho action movie. Accordingly, fans of the novel regard it as a shallow insult to a great work.
Further, the movie was criticized in that the many of the characters are described as just graduating high school, despite the fact that the actors who played them were in their late 20s/early 30s at the time the movie was filmed.
Comparison with the original novel
There is a vast divergence between the original book and film. A report in an American Cinematographer article contemporaneous with the film's release states the Heinlein novel was optioned well into the pre-production period of the film, which had a working title of Bug Hunt at Outpost Nine; most of the writing team reportedly were unaware of the novel at the time. According to the DVD commentary, Paul Verhoeven never finished reading the novel, claiming he read through the first few chapters and became both bored and depressed.
The film was also characterized by a conspicuous absence of anything resembling Heinlein's mechanized Mobile Infantry; troopers wore an unpowered ensemble which seemed to differ only slightly from modern-day army gear instead of wearing the Powered armor as seen in the novel due to the budget limitation and limited CGI animation technology. Troopers' main weapon, Morita Assault Rifles, were near-identical to modern day firearms, although humans were depicted as having fleets of starships, while the nuclear rockets would produce fallout that could seriously put the lives of the unprotected soldiers in danger. Nevertheless, the Mobile Infantry trooper fought as unsupported light infantry for most of the movie being unable to call on armor, artillery, air, or space support, all while moving mainly under their own motive power and using projectile ammunition fired using an explosive charge, with advances as trivial as caseless ammunition ignored or forgotten. A substantial portion of the soldiers' anatomy was left unprotected, and what little armor was present seemed to be of little use. Critics and fans of the film often comment on how tanks and armored vehicles are never used, in such a (supposedly) high-tech force.
Starship Troopers references
- Starship Troopers novel
- The following characters are based on the novel characters with significantly alterations:
- Johnny Rico - Johnnie Rico
However in the novel, Johnnie speaks Tagalog at home and does not comes from Buenos Aires.
- Carmen Ibanez - Carmencita Ibanez
- Carl Jenkins - based on Carl with a last name came from Al Jenkins.
- Dizzy Flores originates from a minor male character with the same name.
- Jean Rasczak - a combination of Jean Dubois (Johnnie's teacher) and Lieutenant Rasczak (leader of Roughnecks).
- Sergeant Zim - Sergeant Zim (novel)
- Ace Levy - loosely based on Ace with a last name came from Pat Levy; Ace's questions about the knife throwing is based on Ted Hendrick in the novel.
- Captain Deladier - Yvette Deladrier
- Sky Marshal Dienes - General Diennes.
- Corporal Birdie - Birdie, a male character.
- Breckinridge - Breckenridge
- Recruiting Sergeant - Fleet Sergeant Ho
- Johnny Rico - Johnnie Rico
- The concept of Citizen, Civilian, and Federal Service are as same as seen in the novel.
- Camp Arthur Currie is renamed "Camp Currie".
- Dizzy's challenge to Zim is based on Shujumi's challenge to Zim in the original novel.
- The Luna Base is shown.
- The Destruction of Buenos Aires is changed into a meteor incident.
- Rodger Young is based on a ship with the same name. However, its novel counterpart isn't destroyed.
- During the invasion of Klendathu, there is a collision between two ships, which is a reference to the destruction of the Valley Forge and the Ypres in the novel.
- Klendathu, the Warrior Bug and the Brain Bug are from the original novel.
- The Battle of Klendathu are known as "Operation Bughouse" in the novel.
- The Invasion of Planet P are known as "Operation Royalty" in the novel.
- Roughnecks 2-0 is based on Roughnecks.
- The lost of Lieutenant Rasczak's legs is a references to Sergeant Jelal, acting commander of Roughnecks.
- Willie's Wildcats is renamed as "Willy's Wildcats".
- Unlike other film characters originating from the novel, Lieutenant Willy's novel counterpart, Willie, is never directly mentioned throughout the book.
- Some dialogue is straight out of the book, or some variation of it, such as "Come on, you apes! You want to live forever?!".
- Like the novel, the film begins with a battle that Johnny Rico joined and ends with the Second Battle of Klendathu.
- Starship Troopers board wargame
- The term "Arachnids" was originally an alternative name for the Pseudo-Arachnids in the Starship Troopers board wargame.
- Starship Troopers OVA
- Johnny Rico is a highschool football player.
- During the boot camp, the recruits are separated into Blue team (where Johnny is) and Red team to participate a simulation war.
- The Mobile Infantry lands on surface via a dropship.
- The quote "Come on, you apes, you want to live forever?", repeated by multiple characters in the film, is seen at the beginning of the first chapter in the novel, and is quite similar to decorated Marine Daniel Daly's "Come on, you sons of bitches, you want to live forever?"
- AT&T can be seen in the film.
Politics of Starship Troopers
In his commentary on the DVD edition of the film, director Paul Verhoeven states unambiguously that the movie's message is "War makes fascists of us all", and that he sees the movie as a satire of American militarism. On the same commentary, screenwriter Ed Neumeier (who had previously worked with Verhoeven on RoboCop) broadly concurs, although he sees the satire as applying to the whole of human history, rather than solely to the U.S.
Since the filmmakers did not make these statements at the time of the film's release, viewers have interpreted it variously: as a satire, as a celebration of fascism, or as a simple tongue-in-cheek action film.
Satire on militarism
The film depicts a future state that is extremely militaristic and uncompromisingly warlike in its attitude toward a race of arachnids that inhabits a distant planetary system. The military training is cruel: officers purposely wound recruits, and flogging is a mode of punishment, which (however) is mitigated by the fact that existing technology can heal such wounds immediately. The movie highlights this further by using weaponry (and tactics) that, considering it is the 23rd century, can only be seen as totally inadequate — the assault rifles of the Mobile Infantry force them into man-to-man fights with the bugs, the latter using their animalistic weapons like tooth and claw, as well as simple head-en-masse infantry charges, which are reminiscent of World War I, stressing the point. Combined arms tactics seem to be a lost art. Camouflage has been abandoned in favor of generic grey uniforms despite the fact that conflicts seem to take place exclusively on desert planets. And, as both forces are slaughtered in high numbers, they are being photographed by embedded television crews for the benefit of viewers at home. Also, as Verhoeven mentions in the DVD commentary, the humans are the aggressors and the bugs the victims: when the bugs bomb Buenos Aires, they are not attacking the human race but reacting to human colonists encroaching on bug planets.
It is even questionable whether the Arachnids were even responsible for the attack, given that the 'bug asteroid' is asserted to have been launched from Klendathu, on the other side of the galaxy, and therefore tens of thousands of light years away (especially considering that the asteroids were shown moving slower than light and were allegedly able to cross the stated 80,000 light-years without hitting anything or being pulled off course, yet still hit Earth with pinpoint accuracy). This, combined with the 'infotainment' nature of the film narrative as a recruitment advert, can be interpreted as a commentary on the propagandistic nature of contemporary media, and its role often as a willing accomplice to militarism. However, given that in one scene a space vessel is shown to be on a collision course with one of these asteroids, and that they are able to take evasive action after the pilot sights the asteroid visually, would seem to suggest that the simpler explanation is that Verhoeven just ignored the physics of the situation for cinematic effect or simply because that is what the plot required.
The symbols of the Federation and some of the clothing styles are greatly modeled on the Nazis' clothing styles (e.g., windbreaker, suits, cap, the military intelligence officer's uniforms bear a striking similarity to SS uniforms). Verhoeven's use of fascist emblems to imply criticism of the Federation may be related to his background. He and some of his crew come from the Netherlands, which endured occupation in World War II. Verhoeven himself witnessed dead bodies of fellow countrymen killed by bombs, as his home was close to the German rocket base and was frequently bombed by Allied air forces, hence the pervasive feel of moral equivalence between a victim and a culprit in all his movies, not only in this one.
The film was followed by the CGI animated television series Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles, which is not related to the movie, in 1999, along with a direct-to-video sequel Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation in 2004. The sequel was not as popular as the first, mostly due to its low budget and the fact it was more in the horror genre than the gung-ho (and arguably silly) action of the original. The satire was also dropped. In 2008 a second sequel Starship Troopers 3: Marauder was released. The sequel performed much better than than the first sequel. Marauder returned to the gun-ho action and humor similar to the first film, however its satire was much more pointed than the first's.
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- Interviews within Starship Troopers: Invasion BD extra feature.
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