“Come on you apes! You wanna live forever?”
Starship Troopers is one of my absolute favorite movies. It’s up there with Twister and the Back to the Future Trilogy. Seeing it for the first time when I was only 10 or 11 (sorry Mom and Dad!), I naturally loved it because it was filled with guns, tons of gore, and, of course, the infamous co-ed military shower scene. But re-watching it years later in High School I gained more appreciation for it, and after dozens of viewings in film school, it placed itself as one of my go to favorite movies.
If you judged a book by it’s cover, you’d be half right in the case of Starship Troopers. The film stars a B-list cast (although Neil Patrick Harris has moved into A-list territory now) and revolves around an intergalactic war between humanity and giant bugs that travel via asteroids. It’s got everything you need in the perfect action film – aliens, gore, sex, and an overt military tone filled with gruff sayings and brutish actions. But once you take a step back and think about the over-the-top nature of the film do you see how purposeful everything in it is.
Starship Troopers is an examination and satire on war with the shell of an B-level action movie. The very opening seconds of the film kickstart this. Beginning with what seems like a goofy advertisement for supporting the war is completely a recreation of the type of propaganda used by all sides during World War II. The phrase “I’m doing my part!” is spoken by men, women, and children and sounds like it’s been ripped directly from a poster you might have seen slapped on the walls of city buildings and train stations during war time. The propaganda then phases into more heavy satire, as it cuts to a battle sequence in which the reporters are pinned down, leaving for some graphic on-screen deaths to be seen, reminiscent of Vietnam, when uncensored moments of war were shown on television for the first time.
All of that is pulled from the opening moments of what would seemingly be an innocuous action flick. As the film progresses more pieces of this look at war fall into place. Discussions on what it means to be a “citizen”. Pride coming from being able to do your part, whether different branches of military, or helping the cause back home. The upper class using wealth and influence to escape the realities of war. Even battle tactics like interrogation and intel gathering are highlighted, something almost out of place considering the war rages between two very different species.
Now while the film does have that depth to it that you might not have expected, it’s only coupled together with the rest of the film that makes it spectacular. Dialogue is cheesy and unnecessarily macho, and the main cast really just want to kill things. It all ties together to create an awesome flick. Impressively the special effects still hold up almost 20 years later, even when our hero, Johnny Rico, is atop a giant beetle, shooting a hole in it and tossing in a grenade.
Incredible moments like that made me dig Starship Troopers. An appreciation and understanding of war in comparison to Starship Troopers made me love it. If you haven’t seen it in a while, go ahead and re-watch it and then let me know how much you also love it in the comment’s below.