Starship Troopers (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Paul Verhoeven|
|Produced by||Jon Davison
|Screenplay by||Edward Neumeier|
|Based on||Starship Troopers
by Robert A. Heinlein
|Starring||Casper Van Dien
Neil Patrick Harris
|Music by||Basil Poledouris|
|Editing by||Mark Goldblatt
|Distributed by||Columbia TriStar
Buena Vista International
|Running time||129 minutes|
Starship Troopers is a 1997 American military science fiction thriller film directed by Paul Verhoeven and written by Edward Neumeier, loosely adapted from Starship Troopers, a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein. It is the only theatrically released film in the Starship Troopers franchise. The film had a budget estimated around $105 million and grossed over $121 million worldwide.
The story follows a young soldier named Johnny Rico and his exploits in the Mobile Infantry, a futuristic military unit. Rico's military career progresses from recruit to non-commissioned officer and finally to officer against the backdrop of an interstellar war between mankind and an insectoid species known as "Arachnids".
Starship Troopers was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects at the 70th Academy Awards in 1998. Director Verhoeven says his satirical use of irony and hyperbole is "playing with fascism or fascist imagery to point out certain aspects of American society... of course, the movie is about 'Let's all go to war and let's all die.'"
In the future, Earth has become a space-faring Federation. While colonizing new planets, humans have crossed paths with a insectoid race known as the Arachnids or "Bugs". Their home planet is the distant world Klendathu. The bugs appear to be little more than killing machines, though there are suggestions that they were provoked by the intrusion of humans into their natural habitats.
In the Federation, citizenship is a privilege earned by serving through such activities as military service; citizens are granted many more opportunities prohibited to everyone else. John "Johnny" Rico, his girlfriend Carmen Ibanez, and best friend Carl Jenkins attend high school in Buenos Aires. Fellow student Dizzy Flores is in love with Rico, but he does not reciprocate. They all decide to enlist in Federation service after graduation. Carmen becomes a spaceship pilot while psychically gifted Carl joins Military Intelligence. Rico enlists in the Mobile Infantry expecting to be with Carmen, but is surprised to find Dizzy, who wanted to be near him.
At Mobile Infantry training brutal Career Sergeant Zim leads the recruits. Rico is promoted to squad leader and befriends Ace Levy. He later receives a Dear John letter from Carmen, who wants a career with the fleet. After a live-fire training incident that kills one of Rico's squad, he is demoted and flogged. He resigns and calls his parents, but the call is cut off when an asteroid, launched by the Arachnids, obliterates Buenos Aires, killing Rico's family and millions more. Rico rescinds his resignation and remains with the Infantry as an invasion force is deployed to Klendathu.
The first strike on Klendathu is a disaster, with heavy casualties. Rico himself is wounded and mistakenly labeled KIA, causing Carmen to believe he is dead. Rico, Ace, and Dizzy are reassigned to the Roughnecks, commanded by Lieutenant Jean Rasczak. The Roughnecks respond to a distress call from Planet "P", where they discover a deserted outpost that was decimated by Bugs. The distress call ends up being a trap and the Arachnids swarm the outpost. Rico euthanizes a mortally wounded Rasczak and Dizzy dies in Rico's arms as they are picked up by a rescue ship. Rico and Carmen reconnect at Dizzy's funeral, where they encounter Carl, now a high-ranking Intelligence officer. Carl reveals that there is reason to believe that an intelligent "brain bug", is directing the other Bugs and can learn about their human enemy. He field-promotes Rico to lieutenant and gives him command of the Roughnecks, ordering the infantry to capture the brain bug.
As Rico's Roughnecks join the mission, the Fleet encounters fire from the Bugs, and Carmen's ship is destroyed. The dying captain orders them to abandon ship. Carmen and Zander escape pod crashes into the Bug tunnel system near Rico. Unknowingly guided by a psychic suggestion from Carl, Rico takes a small team into the tunnels to rescue Carmen. They find the pair wounded, disarmed and surrounded by several types of Arachnids, including a brain bug, which sucks Zander's brains right out of his skull with a proboscis. Before it can take Carmen's brain, she cuts off the proboscic with a knife. Rico threatens the Bugs with a small nuclear bomb, so the brain bug reluctantly allows them to escape. When the Arachnids pursue them, Watkins is wounded and sacrifices himself by staying behind and detonating the nuke. After returning to the surface, they find that the brain bug has been captured. After quietly studying it, Carl announces that the bug is afraid. He congratulates Rico and tells them that humans will soon be victorious, now that Intelligence can study the brain bug.
The film ends with a propaganda clip (these have occurred throughout the movie), but now starring Carmen, Ace and Rico as model servicemen, encouraging the viewer to enlist.
The "bug planet" scenes were filmed in the badlands of Hell's Half Acre in Natrona County, Wyoming. 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 Ed 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?"). Mark Wahlberg and James Marsden turned down the role of Johnny Rico, where it ultimately went to Casper Van Dien.
Two nude scenes were kept in the original version (intersex shower and bedroom romp between Rico and Dizzy), although broadcast version had them modified. The cast agreed to do the co-ed shower scene only if Verhoeven agreed to direct the scene naked, which he did.
Director Verhoeven, producer Davison, writer Neumeier, creature effects designers Phil Tippett and Craig Hayes, and composer Basil Poledouris were all involved with the original RoboCop film. Actor Michael Ironside was also considered for the role of Murphy/RoboCop. Ironside did appear in Verhoeven's Total Recall.
In the commentary track on the DVD release, Verhoeven remarks that he had hoped to cast actors whose age more closely matched that of the characters—and indeed of real-world soldiers—but that the producers felt such actors would look too young. The teacher and leader of the "Roughnecks" in the novel are combined into one role played by Ironside.
Test audience reactions led to several minor changes before the film was released. Originally, it was clear that Carmen was torn between Rico and Zander. Test audiences, regardless of gender, strongly felt that a woman could not love two men at once so scenes which portrayed this were cut. These audiences also felt it was immoral for Carmen to choose a career ahead of being loyal to Rico to the extent that many commented that, in so doing, Carmen should have been the one to die, instead of Dizzy. While admitting it may have been a bad commercial decision not to change the film to accommodate this, the directors did cut a scene from after Zander's death where Carmen and Rico kiss, which the audience believed made the previous betrayal even more immoral.
Comparison with the novel 
There are many differences between the original book and film. While the original novel has been accused of promoting militarism, fascism and military rule; the film satirizes these concepts by featuring news reports that are intensely fascist, xenophobic and propagandistic. Verhoeven stated in 1997 that the first scene of the film (an advertisement for the mobile infantry) was adapted shot-for-shot from a scene from Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will, specifically an outdoor rally for the Reichsarbeitsdienst. Other references to Nazism in the movie include the Gestapo-like uniforms of commanding officers, Albert Speer-style architecture and the propagandistic dialogue. (Violence is the supreme authority!)
A report in an American Cinematographer article states that 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 included visual allusions to propaganda films such as Why We Fight, Triumph of the Will, and wartime newsreels. The symbols, and certain clothing styles, of the Federation are modeled on those of the Nazis (e.g., windbreaker, suits, cap, etc.; moreover, the military intelligence officers' uniforms bear a striking similarity to those of the Allgemeine-SS). The satire was embedded in action sequences with special effects.
In the DVD commentary, Verhoeven states the film's message: "War makes fascists of us all." He evokes Nazi Germany—particularly through its use of fashion, iconography and propaganda—which he sees as a natural evolution of the post-World War II United States. "I've heard this film nicknamed All Quiet on the Final Frontier," he says, "which is actually not far from the truth." Edward Neumeier (who had previously worked with Verhoeven on RoboCop) broadly concurs, although he sees a satire on human history, rather than solely the United States. 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 action film.
Critical reception 
Starship Troopers polarized audiences and critics alike. This is reflected in a mixed critical response with a 63% on Rotten Tomatoes, and 51% on Metacritic, indicating mixed or average reviews based on 20 critics. Starship Troopers was nominated for a number of awards in 1998, including the Academy Award for Visual Effects; the film won Saturn Awards for Best Costumes and Best Special Effects at the 1998 Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films, USA Awards.
Hero of the Federation was released direct-to-video in 2004, directed by Phil Tippett. In May 2006, MovieHole.net reported that Ed Neumeier would be writing and directing a second sequel, Marauder, and also stated that original cast members would be returning. This movie was released directly to DVD in August 2008. Starship Troopers 3: Marauder was considered an improvement over the second film and the return of Casper Van Dien as Johnny Rico was well received by fans. However, the third installment was criticized for its poor storyline, special effects and wooden acting. Starshiptroopersfans.net has reported that a fourth Starship Troopers film has been given the green light and will be a full-length CG feature. A trailer video was released in March 2012. Starship Troopers: Invasion was released in Japan on July 21, 2012 and it was released in North America on August 28, 2012 as a direct-to-dvd title.
In 1997, Avalon Hill released Starship Troopers: Prepare For Battle!, a board game based on the film version rather than Heinlein's book. Its gameplay focused on limited skirmishes rather than larger battles. The "Skinnies" do not appear, nor is there a political element. Avalon Hill had previously released a game called Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers in 1976. A real-time tactics video game titled Starship Troopers: Terran Ascendancy was released in 2000. This game also incorporated the powered suits in Heinlein's novel into the Verhoeven version of the Mobile Infantry. It was developed by Australian software company Blue Tongue Entertainment. A first-person shooter game also titled Starship Troopers was released November 15, 2005. This version was developed by Strangelite Studios and published by Empire Interactive. Set five years after the events of the film, the game also featured van Dien voicing the in-game version of Johnny Rico. Sega Pinball released a pinball machine based on this movie.
The film was released simultaneously with a graphic novelization, which retold events from the film. There were also additional series that were released based in the Verhoeven universe, though not directly related to the film. Further series were published by Dark Horse Comics and Markosia. The film was followed by the CGI animated television series Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles, which is loosely set inside the events of the film just after Rico and Diz join the Roughnecks but before Rico gets promoted (though the events and tone of the show differ from those of the film).
- ""Interview: Paul Verhoeven", by Scott Tobias". The A.V. Club. April 3, 2007. Retrieved 2011-03-24.
- Verhoeven, Paul and Neumeier, Ed (1997). Audio Commentary for "Starship Troopers" (DVD). Buena Vista International.
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- Gifford, James. “The Nature of Federal Service in Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers”
- Svetkey, Benjamin (1997-11-21). "The Reich Stuff". Entertainment Weekly.
- Robley, Les Paul (November 1997). "Interstellar Exterminators. Ornery insects threaten the galaxy in Starship Troopers". American Cinematographer (California, United States of America: American Society of Cinematographers) 78 (11): 56–66.
- Tobias, Scott (2005-10-19). "Who Will Love The Brown Bunny? A Decade Of Underrated Movies (1997 Starship Trooper)". A.V. Club. Retrieved 2008-07-09.
- "Commentary Tracks Of The Blessed (1997 Starship Trooper)". A.V. Club. 2005-03-25. Retrieved 2008-07-09.
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- "Starship Troopers (1997)". Metacritic.com. Retrieved 2013-03-22.
- "Awards for Starship Troopers". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2008-07-09.
- Morris, Clint. "Sony Debugs Starship Troopers". MovieHole.net. Archived from the original on 2007-02-18. Retrieved 2007-02-19.
- "NEW STARSHIP TROOPERS IS A GO!". Retrieved 2011-02-19.
- "Starship Troopers Remake Planned". Retrieved January 27, 2012.
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- "Starship Troopers (1976)". Board Game Geek. Retrieved 2008-07-09.
- "Starship Troopers". Internet Pinball Machine Database. Retrieved 2007-08-03.
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- Starship Troopers at the Internet Movie Database
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- Starship Troopers at AllRovi
- Starship Troopers at Box Office Mojo
- Starship Troopers at Rotten Tomatoes
- Starship Troopers at Metacritic