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Starship Troopers is an American science fiction action movie from 1997. It was written by Ed Neumeier and directed by Paul Verhoeven. The movie is based on Robert A. Heinlein’s 1959 novel of the same name. Set in the 23rd century, the movie shows what Johnny Rico and his friends get into while serving in the military for the United Citizen Federation, the world government of Earth. Exploration and settlement of space by humans bring them into conflict with an alien species called Arachnids, which leads to a war between the stars. Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, Denise Richards, Jake Busey, Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Muldoon, and Michael Ironside are among the actors who play roles in it.
In 1991, Neumeier started making Starship Troopers as a separate project called Bug Hunt at Outpost 7. Neumeier’s work and Heinlein’s book have a lot in common, so producer Jon Davison had Neumeier rewrite the script to make it more like the book and get studio executives more interested. Even so, development was slow, and studios didn’t agree to pay for the expensive project until the day before filming. With a budget of $100–110 million, filming began in April 1996 and ended in October of that year. Nearly half of the budget went to the many computer-generated (CGI) and practical effects needed to bring the Arachnid creatures to life.
Starship Troopers came out on November 7, 1997. It did well at the box office at first, but critics didn’t like it because they thought it promoted fascism. Verhoeven and Neumeier were even accused of being Nazis. Because of the reviews and bad word of mouth, the movie’s box office earnings dropped every week until it was only the 34th highest-grossing movie of the year when it left theatres. Verhoeven thought that people had the wrong ideas about the movie because the marketing made Starship Troopers seem like an action movie instead of a satire.
Starship Troopers is a science fiction classic and a parody of fascism and totalitarianism. The movie helped start a franchise that now includes four sequels, Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation (2004), Starship Troopers 3: Marauder (2008), Starship Troopers: Invasion (2012), and Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars (2017), as well as an animated TV series, Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles (1999), video games, comics, and other products.
Critical Response/Review On Starship Troopers
Starship Troopers was largely overlooked by critics and audiences. Most moviegoers scored it a “C+” on CinemaScore’s A+ to F scale.
Starship Troopers’ fascist beliefs were true, therefore many critics didn’t regard it as comedy. In an editorial, the Washington Post called Starship Troopers a Nazi-made, Nazi-directed, Nazi-written pro-fascist film. Stephen Hunter called the film “spiritually” and “psychologically” Nazi. Hunter called Starship Troopers a “perversion” of All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque’s 1929 book that glorifies war’s atrocities to highlight its physical and mental toll. RoboCop and Total Recall’s “continuous fetishizing of armament” and “[Aryan] cast” and “militaristic iconography” made Empire think Verhoeven enjoyed Heinlein’s world more than he acknowledged.
Verhoeven’s RoboCop-style “news breaks” made Starship Troopers “overblown melodrama” and mockery. However, these ideals were often hard to distinguish from the “fascist paradise” it was mocking. Salon called it “self-defeating foolish” to utilize good satire in a novel that wanted readers to care about the characters. Starship Troopers’ replacement of Heinlein’s themes was also criticized. The Los Angeles Times felt Verhoeven “lost his touch” with satire because he didn’t respect his audience’s intelligence and didn’t make Starship Troopers’ world compelling.
Starship Troopers was one of the most “jaw-dropping” movies of the year despite its brutality, terrible acting, and spectacular effects. Berardinelli stated Starship Troopers was finest like Aliens (1986) and worst like Beverly Hills, 90210. Roger Ebert thought Heinlein’s book was for kids and the movie would only appeal to them. Janet Maslin and Kenneth Turan appreciated Starship Troopers as a live-action comic book, but Neumeier’s writing didn’t transition well from young love to battle. Starship Troopers, according to Turan, was better than Independence Day and Twister because it didn’t strive to be something else. He considered “pseudo-sensitivity” more essential than effects. Starship Troopers, Ebert thought, lacked empathy and fundamental amusement.
Most critics called the primary characters “no names” and “mannequins” who match an all-American, shallow Aryan beauty stereotype. They also said their lack of acting talents made their colleagues look like “classical thespians” and made it impossible to care about the story. James Berardinelli said Starship Troopers wouldn’t work with good “or even competent” actors. Berardinelli called the cast “appealing and passionate.” He lauded Van Dien and Meyer for preserving some humanity in spectacular effects scenes.
Jonathan Rosenbaum and others found the violence had a “kinky-camp ghoulishness” like Verhoeven’s past films. However, they felt the confrontations with waves of Arachnids were “joyless,” emotionally unsatisfying, and monotonous because the creatures had no personality and audiences would quickly become used to the excessive gore. Ebert felt the “boring” rock-like planets where only humans and arachnids inhabited made the wars worse. The film’s visual effects divided audiences. Some called them “wonderful,” while others believed they failed and looked artificial.
Starship Troopers was nominated for Best Motion Picture at the 2nd Golden Satellite Awards in 1998. (Animated or Mixed Media). Best Visual Effects was up for grabs at the 70th Academy Awards, and Tippett, Scott E. Anderson, Alec Gillis, and John Richardson were all up for it. MTV Movie Awards and Hugo Awards nominated Starship Troopers for Best Action Sequence and Best Dramatic Presentation, respectively.
Starship Troopers was nominated for Worst Picture at the Stinkers Bad Movie Awards, but it lost to Batman & Robin.
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