Starship Troopers (1997)
When you battle 6 trillion enemies that will eat you alive, there are only two rules... EVERYONE FIGHTS. NO ONE QUITS.
A cult classic this one is. To boot, it's also based on a book - so what good cult classic wouldn't have itself some stressing points to add to the flavor? Watch a world of humans fighting a horrendous threat of giant space-bugs to survive. Would you like to know more?
With school terms coming to a close, a group of friends is looking to enlist into federal service - the only true way to become a full citizen. The main's friends are all much smarter than him, landing themselves in jobs as pilots or even intelligence, but RIco has only one destination with his qualities: The mobile infantry. His parents are very not keen on his joining up, with his father being particularly upset about it - but it doesn't stop RIco from doing what he feels he needs to do to be worthy of being a citizen.
Boot camp is a quick affair - at least as presented in the movie - but still full of hardships. Constant drills and one of Rico's old friends following him into the service add to the tensions, and after his girl breaks up with him, he's in for a real unpleasant happening. During a live fire exercise, Rico stops to investigate a helmet malfunction on one of his troopers and an unfortunate twists ends with the man being shot in the head. Administrative punishment occurs, which in this day and age is to be tied and receive 10 lashes. Rico's plans to drop out of the M.I. is hampered however, as on his way out he catches a news cast about his hometown being nuked by a giant meteor thrown at them by the "bugs." It doesn't take any deliberation for him to turn around and get his relief orders revoked and get back into the fight.
The first operation against the bugs starts with energy and pride, until boots hit the ground. Intelligence has made a misstep on their intel, and ships start getting blown out of space by bug plasma that was previously thought harmless. On the ground, M.I. forces are taking the fight to the bugs, finding themselves vastly outnumbered and getting overwhelmed. The general retreat sounds, and Rico finds himself getting a good chunk of his leg punctured and for all intents looks to be added the count of the killed in action forces. Turns out he's in a tube getting healed later however, although marked as K.I.A. in official reports anyways. His two pals from the M.I. and him find themselves reassigned to a new outfit - the Roughnecks - in the fight against the bugs. Will humanity survive?
I'm surprised the effects hold up as well as they do. Even after all these years, the bugs still look pretty good on-screen. The gear used by the infantry also looks pretty decent, although relatively ill-fitted to most of the soldiers as though it was mass produced (which can either add to the effect or take away from it, depending on how you look at it). Violence is certainly in bounds here - both in green and orange splashing bugs and in the dismembered slabs of human sprawled about. There ships also look quite well made, even in scenes where they are on fire (even if fire burning on the outside of a ship in outer space might be a bit unrealistic). We also get five or so different variety of baddiebugs on screen - although one is the primary and a second only gets very small amount of screen time - so things are mixed up a slight bit here and there.
Actors do a varying job. Sometimes things get really hammed up, sometimes things get brought on nice and serious, and usually all by the same characters. This can lead overall to the movie taking on that B-roll feel, which suits my taste just fine, and having all manner of little quotable lines pop up from here and there. Such wonderful classics as "Come on you apes, you want to live forever?" and the ever popular "Would you like to know more?" If anything, character deaths are probably the most over-the-top, although considering how unpleasant getting sliced apart or melted by a giant alien bug would be, maybe they aren't that overacted after all.
Audio comes off fine in balancing department. It's rare if you can't understand a person even in a heated firefight, and the music picks up intensity as it suits the on-screen actions. A good amount of time at the fore of the movie is all character-sort, dealing less with combat and more with either training or school-type interactions between the main cast. The second half of the movie gets pretty action heavy, with many little skirmished against the bugs picking things up in the stakes-department. Some of the "flight interludes" can draw things out some, but it helps add to the lady-of-the-navy more than just making her feel like a mcguffin later on.
I enjoyed Starship Troopers when I saw it, still do. It's a fun movie, particularly if you approach it as you would any B-movie. It's got violence, quotes, effects work, nudity, and fun enough characters - regardless of how stereotyped they may be. Overall, it can feel a bit satire-sided as far as things go - blasting you with the propaganda ads from the federal net periodically throughout - which might upset people who came into it expecting the book it draws from (amongst other things). Really though, if you like science fiction war-type flicks, especially those more akin to B-movies as far characters go, you'll probably either have already checked this out or want to to give it a look.
Having just come off of reading said book, I can say that there was some changes I get and some I don't. See, the book is much more serious about itself - it's not really trying to be a satire, as much as it is an account from one Infantryman (Rico) about his time from boot to where he is at the end. Some of these things line up with the movie version - Rico has a friend named Carl (although Carl himself actually changes from book to movie), as well as many other names (although the teacher instead gets combined into the leader of the Roughnecks in the film). Some of the events - Rico getting flogged (although that event in the movie was two parts combined in the book), his mother dying in a bug-related incident, the botched up first invasion of the bug planet, as well as the drive after the brain bug - are also in the book, although many other bits are changed or left out such as Rico's father not being dead in the book making for a nice little reunion later on. There's also distinctly less women in the book - specifically in the form of the M.I. which is a rather male-exclusive thing when you have lines describing how the Navy's fleet women are all segregated forward of "bulkhead 30," and it's nice for the grunts to be reminded that such beautiful things as women actually exist.
Of course, to a fan of giant robots such as me, the most noticeable change is the lack of the powered armor suits that give the "apes" their names - big bulky mechanized high-tech suits with all sorts of internal gears and jump jets, loaded with self-launching rockets and hand-held flamethrowers and at times even nuclear missiles (although they did have the little mini-nukes in the movie as well). Sure, another race of aliens existed in it, and even the bugs were different (no giant beetle-bugs, but instead a "worker" that does nothing and a "warrior" that apparently had laser guns), but that's a minor note for me compared to the last. Of that, I enjoy more the bugs from the movie - as I don't really like spiders to begin with, let alone a spider with laser weaponry capable of slicing right through powered armor. Still, if you did enjoy the movie's concept of bugs v humans, you should certainly check out the book - it's not too long and pretty enjoyable.