Starship Troopers, a film by Paul Verhoeven (director of such classics as Showgirls and Hollow Man -- as well as such actual classics as RoboCop and Total Recall), was loosely based on the novel by Robert Heinlein. It was so loosely based, in fact, that it was about the exact opposite ideas. Heinlein's novel praised the military, promoted violence and capital punishment, and depicted a strict form of government in which the world is controlled by the military. The movie, meanwhile, was directed by a man who witnessed the effect of Nazi occupation, and who hated the book so much he never got past the second chapter.
But while both Heinlein and Verhoeven had lofty ideas about the story they were telling, most people generally remember the movie for being a two-hour camp-fest full of gory, bug-related military violence, Casper Van Dien shouting at the screen, copious use of the phrase "brain bug," and Jake Busey's teeth.
How I remember it is as a two-hour movie where Casper Van Dien somehow chooses Denise Richards over Dina Meyer, and Neil Patrick Harris attempts to get the world to take him seriously when, in the years immediately following Doogie Howser, he pretended to be a soldier with psychic powers who could talk to ferrets.
Naturally, with the 20th anniversary arriving this year, I had to have a rewatch to see if this movie was as insane as I remember.
So, let's strap in, shall we?
1. Nothing like military propaganda advocating for the complete annihilation of an entire planet to start your movie off right.
2. For 1997, the bugs are actually pretty decent CGI. Well, until they bite people in half. Then it's all "people don't really explode like that."
3. Rico is stabbed through the leg and he literally wastes energy to flop over in front of the camera and scream into it. You think "if you're gonna die, at least make it look good" is part of their training?
4. Why HELLO Dina Meyer. Remind me again why this movie isn't all about you and your fabulous hair?
5. Michael Ironside's severed arm is disturbingly fake. It might haunt my dreams.
6. Having my grades posted on a giant digital wall in the middle of the school is my actual nightmare.
7. None of these students are wearing gloves while dissecting these bugs. They're just reaching in and feeling around in there. No concern for weird space diseases.
8. Society of the future and they're still using LED scoreboards for their space rugby.
9. Rico wants to join the army to travel? Is space backpacking not a thing?
10. If they ever remake this movie, Diz and Carmen should realize halfway through that Rico isn't worth all this attention and date each other.
11. They show up to sign up for federal service and just automatically get in. No physical testing, no nothing. Just hi, here's your oath and your gun.
12. Carmen has more bags packed for her service than I think I've ever owned. Isn't the point of military service to live a relatively minimalist lifestyle?
13. Yes, Rico, guilt the woman into telling you she loves you. That's exactly a sign of a healthy relationship.
14. The news feeds are the best part of the movie. Children playing tug-o-war with a deadly weapon, soldiers handing out bullets like Halloween candy, random Mormon bashing, a complete disregard for all censorship of human carnage on a public television channel.
15. Clancy Brown just folds this dude's arm in half like it's paper. That's gotta be against military regulations.
16. This guy's face is like 40% forehead, 20% teeth, 100% douchebag.
17. Diz is like military Hermione. She's better than every other character at literally everything and yet Rico is the hero.
18. Why exactly do these shuttles have wings? Space has no atmosphere. Lift is irrelevant. (Don't tell me not to question the science of this movie. Science is VERY IMPORTANT.)
19. Carmen's been in flight school for like 5 minutes and she's already flying a giant ship. And that idiot from before is somehow an instructor? I do not trust this military.
20. Diz is the only reason they won this space military game of capture the flag, and yet HE gets to be squad commander? I call BS and strongly advocate for her punching Rico in the face.
21. Carmen sends him a Dear John letter that looks like a travel video AND he has to watch it in front of his entire squad. That's harsh.
22. Dear Diary, on my first day in command I told a guy to take off his helmet while we were firing bullets all around and I was surprised when he got his head blown off. Also, my girlfriend broke up with me. Today sucked.
23. Rico gets fired as Squad Commander and they give it to Douche Face?
24. Carmen is also a better pilot than literally everyone. This entire movie is "Women are better than men at everything. Men get rewarded."
25. It's been almost an hour and Rico still doesn't have a discernible personality.
26. Nice to know that even in the distant future we still respond to violence with an unclear but all-out war.
27. Also nice to know that in the distant future people are still listening to Mazzy Star's "Fade Into Me," even in situations with the literal opposite tone. You know, like a fistfight.
28. The military attack strategy seems to be something along the lines of "run screaming in a general that way direction." Not very stealth.
29. For the record, if you're doing a live stand up in the middle of a firefight, you kind of deserve to be eaten. Too bad about the camera guy though.
30. Why aren't any of these soldiers carrying grenades??
31. Carmen literally has the console blow up in her face and all she gets is a tiny scratch above her eye instead of, you know, her whole face melted off.
32. Seriously, who thought, "You know what our first attack should be? A direct assault on their home world. That will go REALLY well."
33. We met this chick 15 seconds ago and she's already punched Douche Face in his douche face. She is my favorite.
34. Apparently, when you put a woman in charge of the military she makes you do things like "plan" and "strategize" and "not take unnecessary risks."
35. You know, it's halfway through the movie and I'm just noticing that all these characters have Spanish-sounding names (Rico, Flores, Ibanez) and yet they're all REALLY white.
36. It apparently requires 374 bullets to kill a single bug. This seems inefficient.
37. We're working with video game rules of automatic weapons, it seems. Reloading is unnecessary. Ammo never runs out. Aiming is irrelevant and doesn't make you look nearly as cool as spraying bullets in kind of a spiral motion.
38. Oh sure, NOW they have grenades.
39. Violins are apparently the only instrument left in the galaxy.
40. I never knew you could play the violin threateningly until juuuuuust now.
41. So you're telling me the only thing standing between me and a promotion is the grisly death of my immediate superior? Noted.
42. If my brains ever get sucked out of my head by a massive alien bug bent on the destruction of mankind … do me a favor and keep your fingers OUT of my skull.
43. That said, "decapitated by giant space insect" IS on my list of acceptable ways to die. It's right after "shot by teammate to stop zombie conversion" but before "willfully eaten to explode enemy from within."
44. Diz finally got promoted AND Rico noticed she's alive so yes, now seems like the perfect time to kill her off.
45. Oh, and while we're sharing morbid preferences, "shot into space" is my #1 preferred method of burial.
46. Rico has been promoted three times -- and made an officer with no additional training -- after being on the squad for approximately a day and a half.
47. They're expending basically all military resources on an attempt to capture a bug they aren't even sure is a real thing. This military does not make sound decisions.
48. The fact that the brain bug literally looks like a brain (with eyes and a face sphincter) seems a little on the nose.
49. Mmmmm … brain smoothie.
50. I really hope all these bombs they keep setting off aren't literally nukes. That doesn't seem like something you want to keep in your pocket.
51. They make a huge deal in the beginning of the movie about NPH being psychic and he only ever uses it to be a glorified mood ring.
This movie was actually a lot better than I remember it being. It's still mostly ridiculous and forces you to spend two hours pretending Casper Van Dien can act, but it is in no way a bad way to spend two hours. What's probably most surprising, though, is that as a satirical look at militarism, violence, and fascist propaganda, it's more relevant now than it ever was in 1997.