Movies & Videos
Navigation Bar
Navigation Bar

    Related Item
'Starship Troopers': A Slew of Beauties Bash Big Bugs

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 7, 1997

  Movie Critic

Paul Verhoeven
Casper Van Dien;
Dina Meyer;
Denise Richards;
Jake Busey;
Neil Patrick Harris;
Clancy Brown;
Seth Gilliam;
Patrick Muldoon;
Michael Ironside
Running Time:
2 hours, 10 minutes
For sex scenes, nudity, violence and profanity.
"Starship Troopers" follows the escalating hostilities between the galaxy's two dumbest species -- bugs and fashion models. Unfortunately, the battle of the bugs doesn't even begin until half way through this squishy, senseless, putrescent romp.

The Brobdingnagian bugs are the only reason to see this monster mash: Spore-spouting blaster beetles, barnstorming dragonflies, "brain" slugs on steroids and copious swarms of bloodthirsty 14-foot arachnids like armored tanks.

For heaven only knows what reason, the outsize insects are bent on destroying humankind and only Doogie Howser and the cast of "Beverly Hills, 90210" can stop them. It's exactly like "Star Wars" -- if you subtract a good story, sympathetic characters, intelligence, wit and moral purpose.

Based on Robert Heinlein's 1959 novel and directed by lap dance maven Paul Verhoeven (of "Showgirls" infamy), the futuristic adventure takes place in a fascist utopia run by a military elite. The streets are clean, lawns are mowed and even black folks look Aryan here in Mister Nietzsche's Neighborhood. No one need do without food, clothing or personal trainers, but citizenship and suffrage must be earned by serving in the military.

Upon graduating from Buenos Aires High School, Johnny Rico ("90210's" Casper Van Dien), a hunky football hero, enlists to be with his girlfriend, Carmen Ibanez (Denise Richards of "Melrose Place" and "90210"), an aspiring starship pilot. Rico, however, has a rival in Carmen's dashing trainer, Zander Barcalow ("Melrose Place's" Patrick Muldoon), as well as an overzealous admirer in dashing Dizzy Flores ("90210's" Dina Meyer), who quarterbacked the BAHS football team.

We're up to our earlobes in soap suds and the recruits have yet to reach boot camp, where they will subsequently be hammered into shape by a brutal drill instructor, complain about bad chow and earn one another's respect. Rico, judged a natural leader, is quickly promoted, but decides to resign after losing a buddy in a training accident. He's stopped in his tracks, however, when he learns that the craven insects have leveled Buenos Aires by nudging an asteroid into Earth's path.

Rallying to the cry of "Kill anything that has more than two legs," the few, the proud, the pretty launch a devastating counterattack against the bug stronghold of Planet Klendathu. While it would have made more sense to bomb Klendathu with DDT, the grunts attack the resilent arthropods on foot with glorified M-16s.

Though noisy, these are far from effective, yet the barren landscape is soon littered with bug guts, body parts, and gobbets of flesh and splattered with purple blood and pus-colored goo. The survivors are slimy with ichor and most are missing an appendage or two. And yet the mayhem is so cartoonishly conceived and overblown that it's not so much gross as it is numbing.

Verhoeven draws parallels with vintage World War II movies, right down to a reenactment of D-Day landings at Normandy, but he seems more drawn to Nazi chic than Yankee gumption. The high-ranking officers -- including Neil Patrick Harris of TV's "Doogie Howser, M.D." -- are got up as storm troopers.

The Federation's news bulletins may be computer-friendly, but the videocasts themselves are modeled on the propaganda films of Nazi-smitten Leni Riefenstahl. And the schools teach that nothing solves problems as effectively as "naked force."

Alas, Verhoeven's tone, which varies from camp to cynical, is so inconsistent that it's impossible to decide whether he's sending up the Third Reich or in love with it. On the other hand, maybe this is just his misguided idea of a big old scary bug movie. In any case, he'd be right at home in a roach motel.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

Back to the top
Navigation Bar
Navigation Bar