A coproduction with Tri Star Pictures brings us this week’s film from the vault of Touchstone Pictures. Starship Troopers has a deep literary history and a talented cast of actors that bring to the screen a version of the literary work of Robert A. Heinlein.

The Plot

In the distant future, Earth has become a fascist society where students are taught the joy of becoming a citizen and are encouraged to believe what their government tells them. Kids are indoctrinated from their school that they should strive to become full citizens, and to do that they must enlist in the military. Three friends named Johnny (Casper Van Dien) his girlfriend Carmen (Denise Richards) and Carl (Neil Patrick Harris) enlist.

The three go their separate ways in the military services. Johnny ends up the mobile infantry, Carmen in the fleet as a pilot, and Carl joins military intelligence. Johnny and Carmen’s relationship ends, and while training in the mobile infantry another former classmate joins Johnny. Dizzy (Dina Meyer) was considered an outsider from the group, but she and Johnny grow close during basic training.

Peace is shattered when a distant planet inhabited by super smart bugs launch an attack on Earth that destroys multiple cities. Millions are killed, including Johnny’s parents, and the military is mobilized for active duty. Johnny and his unit are deployed but the mission is a disaster killing most of his fellow troopers and nearly killing Johnny. Presumed dead by Carmen, Johnny is rescued by a former teacher now Lt., Rasczak (Michael Ironside). Revered by troopers Rasczak brings Johnny, Dizzy, and their friend Ace (Jake Busey) into his unit called the Roughnecks, one of the toughest outfits in the mobile infantry.

Earth is losing the war. As the casualties climb, military intelligence has determined that the best chance for victory is if they can capture a brain bug. After the heroic death of Lt. Rasczak and Dizzy, Johnny takes command of the Roughnecks and leads his unit on a mission to capture a brain bug on a distant planet. Carmen being captured by the bugs forces Johnny to alter his plan which leads him to rescuing her instead.

A brain bug was eventually captured and while the mission was a success, the bug war is far from over.

Cinematic Compliments

At first you might think this is a film that favors authoritarian rule by the government. It’s not. Starship Troopers is without a doubt one of the best satires about fascist leaderships made in the last part of the 20th Century. The film shows you how the governments are misleading the people through carefully orchestrated propaganda clips and showing how questioning the rule of the government is not tolerated.

The actors play their parts well. They all fulfill that role of hopeful youths only looking to make the world a better place. Their willingness to buy into the lies and propaganda that is rampant throughout the film only makes the performances by Casper Van Dien, Denise Richards, and Neil Patrick Harris all the better. The film is layered with manipulation that allows viewers to have a window into the world of society ruled by the government and not the people and while most viewers will be repulsed by the brutal rule of the government, you can’t help but root for the humans.

Michael Ironside doesn’t get enough screen time, but he makes his Lt. Rasczak memorable.

Cinematic Complaints

If you aren’t a sci fi fan, then Starship Troopers isn’t for you.

Fun Film Facts

  • Apparently to film the coed shower scene at the mobile infantry camp, director Paul Verhoeven and cinematographer Jost Vacano got naked to help alleviate the nerves of the cast. Verhoeven and Vacano were egged on by star Dina Meyer.
  • The year the story takes place in the film is 2197.
  • The mobile infantry recruiter in the scene when Johnny joins the service is played by Robert David Hall, who would go on to play Doc Robbins on C.S.I.
  • About twenty-five people were being treated for heatstroke a day on set.
  • Patrick Muldoon who plays Zander, says Casper Van Dien really punched him in the face during a fight scene.
  • Mark Wahlberg turned down the role of Johnny Rico.
  • The film originally started as a script titled as Bug Hunt at Outpost Nine. Once production geared up, the film's rights for Heinlein’s were optioned and the script was adjusted to include references to the story from the book. The film is at best a very loose adaptation of the book.
  • Clancy Brown has a small role as Sgt. Zim.
  • Rue McClanahan plays the biology teacher.
  • The film was nominated for Best Visual Effects for the 1997 Oscars.
  • The film spawned several direct to video sequels.
  • Set pieces from Total Recall were used in multiple scenes for Starship Troopers.
  • Marine Captain Dale Dye, who was the military advisor for the film and various other movies, has a small role at the end of the film.

The Golden Popcorn Bucket Award

Starship Troopers gets a 4 Golden Popcorn Bucket rating. Not only is the cast incredible to watch, you root for the bad guys in this satirical look at totalitarian rule. There was a certain magic that was captured with this film. I loved the film when I first saw it, and with age the movie only gets better.

Coming Attractions

Next week we look at Tom Cruise in Cocktail.

Production Credits

Directed by Paul Verhoeven

Produced by Touchstone Pictures / Tri Star Pictures

Starring:

  • Casper Van Dien as Johnny
  • Denise Richards as Carmen
  • Neil Patrick Harris as Carl
  • Dina Meyer as Dizzy
  • Jake Busey as Ace
  • Patrick Muldoon as Zander
  • Michael Ironside as Lt. Rasczak

Release Date: November 7, 1997

Budget: $105 million

Box Office Gross

Domestic: $54,814,377

Total Worldwide: $121,214,377