Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Starship Troopers (1997) #review

Humans in a fascistic, militaristic future do battle with giant alien bugs in a fight for survival.

I admit freely that the first occasion I saw this film, I spent most of my time hiding behind the couch. I was squeamish, and I didn't (at that stage) handle gore all too well. (Also, I'd yet to see the Alien films, so I can be excused, I think.) I shrieked like a little boy with his willy slammed in a car door.

Pretty much all I recalled from the first viewing was a lot of gore, explosions and missing limbs. I didn't recall the satire too much. Granted, fast forward a good decade or so later, I find I was more fascinated with the social commentary than the action. So far as old SF films go, the actual production of Starship Troopers holds up well (and in fact better than the rejigged CGI for Star Wars episodes IV to VI). Perhaps it's because to a degree Starship Troopers still feels a bit old school that helps. Movement is also so fast in some of the action sequences that if there is dodgy graphics, it's over too quickly for it to be out and out annoying.

The characters are, for the most, forgettable and pretty much cardboard cut-out. There's the yawn-worthy prerequisite love triangle, the dick-measuring rivalry between two males, and it's all very much a much of a muchness. Nothing groundbreaking. Johnny Rico wants to go kill himself some bugs 'cos they blew up his home town. He'll break a few hearts along the way and inspire some others. Pretty much stock-standard hero's journey. I could probably check all the boxes if I wasn't so god-damned utterly lazy and ill-inclined to make the effort.

Two words, however: Clancy Brown. I love me some Clancy Brown. Pause a moment to bask in the gorgeous baritone of that man's voice.

Okay. Enough fangrrrling.

What the director Paul Verhoeven says about society is far more interesting than the film's actual narrative. And the way he draws parallels between contemporary American society and Nazi Germany, though a bit heavy handed, are chillingly close to the bone. But that's about it. His motives are so dog-damned obvious it's kinda like getting slapped upside the head with a floppy bratwurst.

And I'm pretty sure your average movie goer won't have the socio-historic context to draw those parallels because they'll be too busy cheering on all the ultra violence. And gore. And missing limbs. And explosions and shit.

Sorry, I'm jaded. Social media has taught me much about the human race (which is probably why I live like a hermit at the bottom of Africa).

This is a solid piece of SF cinema, that's quite self-aware about its message. But it's not a film that's having me flail about in transports of joy. Most importantly, it didn't irritate me, like most films do nowadays. In hindsight I'm glad this film was made during a time when cinema wasn't overly reliant on CGI to make up for the deficits in most scripts nowadays. It means there's slightly more meat to the bone here. And Verhoeven had to pay attention to his work.

Will I watch this film again? Meh. Maybe. Will I tell you to? Meh. Was this eye-achingly awful? Nope. But it wasn't The Event Horizon, and nor was it Alien or Fire Fly, if you catch my drift – all of which I'll most likely revisit when the time comes.

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