Starship Troopers (15)

Directed by Paul Verhoeven
Starring Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, Denise Richards, Neil Patrick Harris, Michael Ironside, Clancy Brown.

After the debacle that was Showgirls, director Verhoeven really had to produce the goods with his next film to rescue his career, and with this big budget all out action flick, he has probably done enough. Quite reminiscent of Verhoeven's best film Robocop, this film is also a less than serious look at a twisted future. Our guide once again is a news show and this device again works well for the director.
Starship Troopers is a pretty simple film; Bugs from a distant planet are seen as a threat to Earth so we attack and its war. The film follows four high school kids who decide to join the fight, just like the tv recruitment ads ask them to. Before you can say bugs, macho hunk Van Dien and spunky lass Meyer are marines, annoyingly vacuous Richards is a pilot, and nerdish Harris is in intelligence. We follow them through training with your standard movie hard-ass training sergeant Clancy Brown, before all out war follows and the carnage begins.
Verhoeven has never been in the least squeamish about showing all manner of horrid things -Robocop's brutal slayings, Michael Douglas in a v-neck jumper in Basic Instinct, Arnie pulling a golf ball out of his nose in Total Recall, Elizabeth Berkley in Showgirls- and the make up people must have had fun with the decapitations, stabbings and multiple gunshot wounds. Very gory and realistic looking they are as we watch the bugs make mincemeat out of the grunts. Also very impressive are the spaceships and various flying things- ships and bugs. The budget clearly went on the SFX rather than a big name cast as Ironside and Brown are as big as it gets! However, the effects are so good, and the tone and pace of the film such fun that the blandness of the cast doesn't matter really. Van Dien- looking disturbingly like a pumped up Glen Hoddle- plays it straight in the square jawed hero role while Dina Meyer is probably the most memorable of the young cast, although why a terrific girl like her would go to such lengths to persue Van Dien is beyond me.
One of the problems with Showgirls was that you got the impression that Verhoeven and the talentless Elizabeth Berkley took it very seriously. Only the fab Gina Gershon played it for the piss take it should have been seen as, and it is kind of funny that it is gathering a cult following for its awfulness. With Starship Troopers, Verhoeven seems to have rediscovered his wits as laughs from the corny dialogue are- presumably- intentional this time. The brain sucking brain bug and the gestapo like intelligence section is just ridiculous- but in a funny way.
Yet another example of the rapid advances in film effects, this is a great fun film that is just so outlandish. Perfect popcorn stuff, campy and spectacular, brainless action but with nice touches of sly wit. Pretty cast but they are very much supporting cast to the real stars of the film- the CGI bugs and the effects. Probably one of the highest body counts of any film in recent years. Enjoyable. 7/10

January 1998

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