Ladies and Gents… I introduce to you one of my favorite films… Starship Troopers! This is just one of those classic films that I love to settle in and enjoy from time to time. We all have those. What’s so special about this film is that not only does it present a lot of popcorn fun to enjoy but it also presents some interesting satire. This isn’t like Independence Day or other sci-fi films where it’s purely fluff entertainment, I mean don’t get me wrong there’s plenty of that, but there’s also a satirical lens that pokes fun at nationalism, fascism, and war culture.
Casper Van Dien is our star here and I have mixed feelings about him if I’m being honest. Dien certainly isn’t a great actor and there are a few moments where I felt he couldn’t reach what he needed to in the scene, BUT… for the most part I couldn’t help but love him. He is an effortlessly handsome and smooth actor and plays his role with an undeniable lovability which made me really enjoy him. They really did need a guy who was dashing and had a smooth energy to him and say what you want about Dien, but he fits that bill. Dina Meyer co stars as one of the three main characters and I loved her in this role! Meyer gives the best performance by far and I feel like she brings the audience in more than any of the others. Her and Dien have really electric chemistry too which helps in a huge way. They are together throughout the vast majority of the film and them having believable chemistry is a must have. I know a lot say that Denise Richards “can’t act her way out of a paper bag” but I for one enjoyed her in Wild Things and thought she was decent here.
Richards performance isn’t great and she doesn’t compare to Meyer but I wouldn’t say she hurts the film. I actually think she could have continued her acting career and improved with some training if she hadn’t turned into a reality TV star… oh how the mighty have fallen. She can rest easy and know that she was better than Neil Patrick Harris though. He is one of the only things I would say is truly bad about Starship Troopers. He is talented and has given good performances in other projects but he is just so wooden and fake here, I couldn’t help but sigh when he came onscreen.
The writing is satirical in some parts and then we have other scenes that play as a normal science fiction/action film. The satirical moments are obvious and I don’t think anyone could mistake them for being serious. I liked the scenes with the “Federation Network” where nationalist pro war propaganda is played. They were able to come up with some truly funny material that exposes some of the very pro war attitudes that exist in largely right wing circles. What this script gets right is that it’s not preachy or too over the top in it’s critique of war culture or right wing nationalism. It does things with a wink to the camera and by making the audience laugh.
One of the reasons I really like this film is because of the fact that it’s able to walk and chew gum at the same time. It’s able to be satirical and critical of a fascist type government and also be a fun popcorn blockbuster type flick. Usually summer popcorn flicks are something like Independence Day where it really is just a big action film, but to have one that has some social commentary and satire is something not seen too often. So how is the actual action and popcorn style fun? The action is overall fun and entertaining and keeps things moving at a good pace.
The action sequences come up with some interesting things to have fun with, even though they probably overuses the machine gun stuff a bit. The visual effects still look good for 90% of the time. This was nominated for the Best Visual Effects Academy Award and I think deservedly so, they look pretty good, especially for 1997. Another detail I really loved was the alien creature that serves as a sort of “leader”. The Arachnids themselves get a little boring after a while but this creature that’s introduced towards the end is creative and different. Lastly, this film earned it’s R rating due to the excessive amount of graphic gore and carnage, which admittedly is a bit jarring on several occasions. I’m not used to seeing this graphic of violence and gore in sci-fi films and to be honest I’m not sure I needed to see some of the things they show, I’m not a queasy movie goer but some of it came off as unnecessary and gory just for the sake of it.
Starship Troopers is a well made film that packs on the popcorn style fun, amusing satire, and has lovable characters to carry us through it all. Definitely a classic and one everyone should check out at one point or another.