Film Review: Starship Troopers

I have decided that rather than continue to throw what limited resources I have into new movies, for the time being at least, I own enough films that are simply sitting on a shelf gathering dust that it makes just as much sense to relive and revisit the films already in my collection rather than continue purchasing anew.

And so, for reasons I cannot explain I delved into the collection and for was just grabbed by Starship Troopers. It was just one of those days where a bit of nostalgic, pre relentless CGI old fashioned special effects, overly violent nonsense seemed appropriate and Starship Troopers fits that bill perfectly.

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There is something about Starship Troopers that has left this film which, when you actually start looking at it isn’t very good, has subliminal messages and imagery portrayed mainly through post release commentary and a plot which on the surface works but suffers the moment you scratch away with the even the weakest of force.

However, Starship Troopers was created by Paul Verhoeven, the man who brought us Robocop and was released in 1997, just after I had turned 15. Now I am fully aware that the film is an 18, but as we all know, while I may not have been trying my luck with the grumpy ticket lady at my local ABC Cinema, I certainly remember being round my mate Matt’s house watching it and Event Horizon one late night.

And of course, when you are 15 years old, and watching a gory, action film with your mates, you don’t look too deeply at the plot. Instead, you judge a film by the top layer, the story it sets out and the action on the screen. And for all it’s flaws, Starship Troopers is an entertaining film. It’s got that perfect balance of humour, blood, and bugs that mean it’s as entertaining in 2014 as it was in 1997. Even my one worry with it, that the special effects would look dated and immature compared to modern technology was unfounded. There is something nostalgically enjoyable and fittingly accurate to the film that most of the film is modelled and scaled and not just vector points in a piece of software. The simplicity of the Mobile Infantry, the basic but mass ranks, the cannon fodder approach to warfare fits with the world Verhoeven created.

However, the one thing I didn’t remember about this film, and which sadly lets it down is the length, it’s just over two hours long, which by modern standards is nothing, but it’s slow and it feels long. It’s a strange situation to be in, because nothing in the story feels protracted. There is a real sense that the film is tight and together and progressing, but it just feels long. And while, through one set of eyes you could say that this is a reflection of the length of war, the fact that when fighting for your future things almost never end when you plan or travel at the speed you wish. But from a cinematic point of view, it just causes you to feel drained and tired as the story progresses.

Starship Troopers Clothing

Where Starship Troopers really starts to divide (and potentially conquer) is when you start to look move up the ranks, past the base infantry and into the deeper messages it contains. There is a true sense of Nazism, and skewing of man’s vision to their own survival. An “us or them” approach. This is reflected throughout and is reinforced by the little details: the colours, the clothing, the fighting styles and the military propaganda.

But, while these messages are strikingly obvious and set and costume design will have been pre-planned for instance, it cannot be overlooked that these messages, these ideas, were created and used as a vehicle to explain the levels of the film after it’s release. It was more a case of the film was made and when the critics started to find these comparisions and make these connections that the film’s producers went “Yep, that’s it, that’s what it’s really about” and to me, that sounds a little like simply jumping on the bandwagon.

It’s a difficult one to really sum up. If you take the film on a superficial level, then as long as you aren’t expecting much, it’s entertaining and as with a lot of Verhoeven’s work stands the test of time. You won’t be left disappointed but if you start to dig deeper you can pick holes, create ideas, questions and essentially take any view point or argument to the film and find supporting evidence to back up your case. However, since I first came to it as a 15 it seems only right to continue to judge it through those pre-classification eyes and simply leave you knowing that “service guarantees citizenship”.

6 out of 10 stars (6 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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