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Volume 91, Issue 41
Tuesday, November 11, 1997
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
"THERE'S A WHAT BEHIND ME?" The latest in action superstars, Casper Van Dien, is about to realize that he's gonna be eaten by a big bug in Starship Troopers.
By Brett Walther
An expletive uttered by many of the mobile infantry of the Starship Troopers moments before they are graphically gored and dismembered. Despite its basic "bugs versus humans" plot and heavy reliance on special effects, Starship Troopers is a highly entertaining, visually astounding film adapted from Robert Heilein's Hugo Award winning novel of the same name.
The aforementioned "Bugs" are a race of arachnids from the planet Klandathu, presumably angered by the expansion of humankind throughout the galaxy. In retaliation, they take the natural course of action in hurling their spores across the universe and diverting asteroids towards the Earth. Naturally, Earth authorities do not take kindly to these acts of aggression, and organize a military force to drive back the insect menace. Thus, the Starship Troopers are born.
The film concerns the decision of four recently graduated schoolmates to join the proud ranks of the Starship Troopers. However, the four become separated when they are recruited to different sections of the military operation and their resulting experiences in war forces each to "come of age."
Intercut between action sequences involving the four leads are amusing clips of war propaganda and news updates describing news from the front. These interludes are stylishly done and provide both narrative and comic relief amidst the relentlessly gruesome battle scenes.
The triumph of Starship Troopers is in its remarkable design work. Special effects have truly reached a new level in mastering computerized animation. The manifestation of the Bugs is achieved through this constantly improving technology in a very convincing manner. It is also refreshing to have designers that have put some original ideas into the creation of the various forms of alien life in Troopers. For once, we have creatures that don't resemble the titular, extra-terrestrial of Alien; a design that has been, er... borrowed... by many film makers since. The Brain Bug, which makes an appearance in the film's conclusion, is extremely well realized and is the most bizarre alien creation introduced to science fiction films in recent years.
The casting of Casper Van Dien in the lead role of Johnny Rico was an inspired move. Although a relative newcomer to mainstream Hollywood productions, Van Dien fits the bill of Rico, the archetypal war hero, perfectly. Not only does he deliver a commendable performance, he also has the look the role demanded his impossible white teeth and square jaw are reminiscent of a comic book superhero. He also approaches his role with more enthusiasm than the rest of the cast put together. As for the romantic interests of Rico Dina Myer and Denise Richards as Dizzy and Carmen, respectively deliver mediocre performances in roles that admittedly limited their acting ability.
Starship Troopers is, in many ways, a thoughtful script lying under the "shlock-filled action pic" veneer applied by Hollywood. Beneath the basic "invaders from space" storyline is a commentary on the horrors of war. Some aspects of the film are undoubtedly rather ridiculous, but for the most part, Starship Troopers presents aspects of war that many action films produced in Hollywood avoid.
Starship Troopers acknowledges that sometimes you don't feel like the quipping and mocking one-liners that so often occur after a murder. Sometimes it takes more than two or three battles to win a war. And sometimes, even the good guys die.
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