It's been 20 years since Paul Verhoeven's misunderstood satirical classic Starship Troopers hit theatres. The film was met with critical disdain, with many of the reviewers unable to see past the movies cast of good looking unknowns and shiny special effects. The thing is that everything about Starship Troopers is meant to make a statement. It's an overblown shiny action movie, parodying overblown shiny action movies and everything they represent. Over the decades Starship Troopers has slowly started gain the recognition it deserves, so to celebrate we've put together a list of ways that the movie was way ahead of its time, so you can revisit the radical joys of the super troopers.
The Special Effects
Helmed by Jurassic Park's Phil Tippett and his revolutionary mix of practical effects, miniatures, and state of the art CGI leave this 1997 cult classic looking ridiculously good 20 years later. At the time the effects were maligned for being too slick, but now, two decades after the fact, this hard sci-fi movie looks better than a lot of the modern CG heavy flicks you'll find on your streaming services.
It was meta before meta was cool
Starship Troopers is an adaptation of Robert Heinlein the book of the same name. But where the source material was a celebration of warmongering, Verhoeven used the book to create a metatext about the dangerous agenda of militarized governments and so called "perfect societies." Verhoeven's satire was so ahead of its time--think Tropic Thunder but actually about war instead of Hollywood--that many critics assumed Verhoeven had just done a one note, straight adaptation of the book, rather than seeing that it was a take down of the simplistic and jingoistic action movies of the time.
In an era when figurehead Hollywood stars were at their peak, Verhoeven chose to cast an entire group of unknowns to give the audience more of an "it could be you or your kids" experience. This is obviously now a recognized technique in Hollywood, but at the time the pretty cast of kids was a radical choice that leaned in to Verhoeven's satirical message about the real casualties of war being faces you'll never know and likely not remember.
Hardcore Anti-War Stance
You could arguably state that there still isn't anyone who has caught up with Verhoeven in this case. It's hard to find a mainstream Hollywood action movie since that is so focused on the exploitation and horror of war without glamorizing or lauding it. Though at the time many thought Starship Troopers' slick look was meant to sell the idea of war, it's actually highlighting the way the military is dressed up and sold to young disenfranchised people, with Verhoeven stating in the director's commentary that the film's message was "War makes fascists of us all."
It critiqued Reality TV Before it really existed
Years before reality TV and social media became the favored target of satirists, Verhoeven gave us Starship Troopers. There are too many moments to count, but some choice shots that wouldn't be out of place in Black Mirror, with adverts for pay-per-view executions and televised war presented like your favorite prime time show. When it came to seeing the exploitative potential of reality TV, Verhoeven was way ahead of the game.
It's a takedown of the Military Industrial Complex
Long before the public were having conversations about the idea of a private, corporate military Verhoeven saw the potential dangers and created the world of Starship Troopers to illustrate them. The academy where the new recruits study is a pipeline straight into the army, with no other option offered. Every choice in the film is driven by profit and political agenda, no matter the cost or the consequence. For a movie about giant alien bugs, Starship Troopers deals with some pretty deep political ideas.
It Calls out Colonialism and Reactionary Foreign Policy
The entire movie is based around bad decisions made by high-up government types that impact everyone other than themselves. Whether that's the bugs and their planet, or the young people who are sent to die there. At its core Starship Troopers is a very pointed satire about a society that constantly reacts with violence, aggression and invasion rather than logic or thoughtfulness.
Have we blown your mind with our Troopers takes? Will you be revisiting this oft forgotten classic on it's landmark? Do you just love Casper Van Dien? Let us know in the comments!
Images: Touchstone Pictures
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