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ROBOCOP will always be my favorite Paul Verhoeven film but STARSHIP TROOPERS is a close second. An extremely divisive film upon its release and even to this day, the film is a masterpiece of fascist propaganda and one of the most subversive mainstream movies of all time.
Based on the popular 1959 novel by Robert A. Heinlein, STARSHIP TROOPERS tells the story of the bright-faced young men and women who want to enlist in the Federation to ultimately become fully recognized citizens. “Service guarantees citizenship!”
Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien) is not to smart but he makes up for it with macho bravado and Arian good looks. He’s smitten for Carmen Ibanez (Denise Richards) and joins up more to impress her than for his civic duty. But she is a highly motivated and an intelligent pilot with an eye toward a military career and one that wouldn’t make room for Johnny.
Their other friends; Dizzy Flores (Dina Myer) is a rough and tumble, but equally beautiful grunt, has unrequited feelings for Johnny and Carl Jenkins (Neil Patrick Harris) has psychic abilities that skyrocket him to the top and into a key position for the impending war.
The enemy is bugs. Big bugs in many shapes and sizes. They have launched an offensive against the Earth and it’s time for them to get stomped on… Or have they?
This is the genius that is Ed Neumeier’s deliciously seditious script; an allegory for WORLD WAR II as told by the Nazis. We are lead to believe that we are watching the good guys fight against an evil, vicious alien race bent on the annihilation of our way of life, but if you watch carefully you start to put the pieces together and realize that you are in fact routing for the real enemy. The Earth has become a totalitarian government with an extremely fascist point of view. They’ve been manipulating the media and its citizens to believe that the human race is just defending itself when we are in fact the true aggressors. BRILLIANT!
The sad truth is that this was lost on many casual viewers who looked at the film and just saw beautiful and vapid characters in a cliché-riddled scenario, when in fact that was the point. STARSHIP TROOPERS is meant to play out like a WORLD WAR II era propaganda film and it more than succeeds at it.
If you are one of those people who were dismissive of the film the first time, I urge you to give it another try and consider what I have said. If you are not convinced watch it with Verhoeven’srevealing commentary track and that should make it clear once and for all.