It is not everyday that you get part political satire and part science-fiction film scrunched together as a mindless adventure of two hours. At least not in the days Paul Verhoeven directorial Starship Troopers came out (1997). Yes, it is the same Verhoeven who helmed other science-fiction ‘adventures’ like Robocop and Total Recall. So you already have an inkling of what to expect — sheer bloodied violence and engaging entertainment.
The premise is seemingly basic — It’s the future and a few rich kids get together and decide to enroll in the defence forces to serve their nation. In this case, they have to save America from alien bugs. There is sex, battleship sequences and an ode to friendship. But there is also a strong hint of political satire bordering on jingoism. Yes, it can be either, considering your perspective of the movie. The director, if past filmography is any indication, is definitely not scared to show that kind of senseless passion that war mongering evokes in humans. And so here, in Starship Troopers, he does the same. He picks a strikingly good-looking cast and has them showcase the ugly side of such battles, where you literally treat the other side like mere insects, but the kinds who have the potential to harm.
The dialogues are excruciatingly bad. But maybe that was the point, how generic and ridiculously OTT those lines seem when you are trying to represent yourself as the ‘stronger side.’ What makes Starship Troopers stand out in the crowd of increasingly mind-numbing sci-fi war films is its ability to mock the genre. The film, whether knowingly or unknowingly, comes across as a self-introspective piece of work that refuses to take itself seriously. After all, as they say, it is life, and no one is going to come out of it alive. So all that pretence of bravado by its main characters seems laughable when you consider ‘this’ point of view. And because you can laugh at the film, you know you can enjoy it.
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According to the Empire magazine, studios were not too willing to allow a big budget to director Verhoeven after his film Showgirls tanked. But eventually, the filmmaker’s conviction in the script convinced them to lend the dough. Another thing which is striking about Starship Troopers is its magnificent VFX. Even today, the visual effects of the film seem credible, and that is saying a lot. It had bagged a nomination at the Academy Awards in this category too.
What is also interesting is that upon its release, the movie was declared a flop. But today, it has acquired a cult status among modern American sci-fi movies.
You can watch Starship Troopers on Disney Plus Hotstar.