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The Dartmouth
February 25, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

'Starship Troopers' revels in its intergalactic cheesiness

'Starship Troopers' is the most gleefully stupid movie of the year, and certainly one of the most entertaining. It is a high-tech, sci-fi romp across the galaxy which is so blatantly cheesy you feel embarrassed for liking it so much.

It is a film so ridiculous that it necessitates the use of exclamation points: Giant bugs attack Earth! Millions die! An Earthling army must travel across the galaxy to battle them! Millions die! Handsome youngsters fall in and out of love and have sex! Millions die!

Finally director Paul Verhoeven tears himself away from making such high-concept porn as "Basic Instinct" and the infamous "Showgirls," returning to the sci-fi genre he mastered years ago with "Robocop" and "Total Recall." Not that he has given up on nudity completely in this film-- apparently, in the future gender roles are so nonexistent that men and women shower together in army barracks.

Verhoeven stages "Starship Troopers" as a satire of war propaganda films. Filled to the brim with pretty faces and buff bodies, the film is a call to arms for all those youngsters out there to join the Federation Army and help save the world. It's great to kick butt!

The Federation is, as far as I can gather, the unifying country of Earth in which you need a license to have a child, you must be in the army to vote and there are public executions. This version of the future is far less grim than those of Verhoeven's other films, but the society bares a strange resemblance to Nazi Germany.

"Starship Troopers," like "Robocop," is both a social satire and a savagely violent action movie. The enemies this time are giant arachnids which gauge, tear, split and devour the hundreds of Earthlings sent to battle them. The only way to stop them is to hit their nerve center or blow off enough legs so they cannot move.

Then there are the giant flies, which swoop down and decapitate anyone in their path. Not to mention the giant beetles which shoot nuclear blasts from their behinds at other planets.

The special effects are amazing, surpassing any computer generated beings, including dinosaurs, which may have previously dominated the box office.

The story follows four attractive, one-dimensional high school friends who have just graduated and are joining the Federation Army. There is Johnny (Casper Van Dien), the dim-witted athlete who is joining simply to be with his girlfriend Carmen (Denise Richards), who has always dreamed of being a pilot.

To add a little spice to the film, there is Dizzy (Diana Meyer), who lusts for Johnny and follows him into the army. To top it all off, Neil Patrick Harris, a.k.a. Doogie Howser, plays Carl, who's psychic abilities help him rise quickly in the army.

They all get shipped off in opposite directions except for Johnny and Dizzy, who both end up in the same psychotic boot camp where drill instructors freely maim their cadets.

Just when they are ready to quit, giant insects from the planet Klendutha begin attacking Earth. The four all load up in their space ships and get ready for battle. It is "Saved by the Bell Goes to War!"

They land on the planet and encounter a swarm of giant arachnids, which they are not prepared to handle. In their first attempt, they are slaughtered easily by the vicious insects. But before anyone dies, it seems like there is a general rule that they must lose a limb first. Body parts are torn off, burned off and even chewed off by the arachnids.

Yet the film has such a happy feel to it, the deaths never seem to have much of an effect. The characters are nearly slaughtered, then in the next scene are rolling around in adolescent playfulness. The people in the film do not seem to care about the carnage, so why should we?

Besides, with a film filled with such lines as "They've sucked out all his brains!" and "You're some kind of big, fat, smart bug, aren't you?" how can anyone have time to consider the implications of violence?

There are so many big budget movies which are so stupid ("Daylight," "Volcano"), they could have easily taken a small step and become satire. "Starship Troopers" takes that step.

True, the acting is terrible and the dialogue laughable, but it gives the feeling it was supposed to be that way. "Starship Troopers" is solid entertainment, just make sure you leave your intelligence at the door.