Sunday, June 10, 2012

Starship Troopers. B+

Starship Troopers is a fascinating movie, not because it has the intellectual brain of its source material (a novel by Robert Heinlein), but because it has the courage to play with tone like few films do. Sometimes it's extremely dark, sometimes characters spout bits of shocking dialogue, sometimes it relishes in old fashion narrative convention, and then quite often it is very, very bloody (I think Cowboys and Aliens could have lived up to its potential had it borrowed some of this film's DNA) Another strange aspect of the film is its look. The costumes, sets, and lighting (plus the largely unknown cast) give the film a low budget appearance, and yet when it gets down to business, this is an expensive picture with fantastic special effects. Starship Troopers envisions a future when the military is everything. After high school, boys and girls alike follow the trend that has replaced going to college: signing up to serve their country. In fact, one only gains citizenship if they recruit. You can taste some of the themes here that are probably much more pronounced in Heinlein's novel, yet the movie doesn't delve too far into them. It does spend a good deal of time developing its characters (though drawn extensively, they nevertheless remain essentially archetypes) and indulging in gruesome battle scenes. The conflict is with a dangerous species of massive bugs that threaten the humans. I can imagine John Carpenter, Guillermo del Toro, or even David Cronenberg eating up this material. But actually, the director, Paul Verhoeven, is a perfect choice. Verhoeven, at the time already a sic-fi veteran with Robocop and Total Recall, is a wild filmmaker who takes the kind of risks necessary for a film like this to work. Without a real vision behind the project, it would become too ordinary. Starship Troopers is not, and it lives on because of it. 

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