This time, we review the fascistic satire war film Starship Troopers and along the way we wonder if it’s right to poach 18-year-olds for your military, is it really a Paul Verhoeven movie if there’s no nudity, and how did this movie spawn an entire direct-to-video franchise? Let’s dive in…
Starship Troopers (1997) Cast and Crew
Directed by Paul Verhoeven: As Chris remarks during the episode, this may have been the point of Verhoeven’s career where he was fully actualized having directed Robocop (which we’ve previously covered with special guest Brian McLeod), Basic Instinct, Total Recall and Show Girls. While his career hasn’t enjoyed the same popularity in recent years, he became known for hyper stylized violence, subversive yet relevant content and of course, nudity.
Written by Edward Neumeier: He had previously collaborated with Verhoeven on Robocop
Casper Van Dien as Johnny Rico: Van Dien had developed quite a reputation working on television prior to being cast in this film having appeared on shows like Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman, Beverly Hills 90210, and Married with Children
Denise Richards as Carmen Ibanez: This is considered by many to be Richards’ breakthrough role as she starred in Drop Dead Gorgeous, The World is Not Enough and Wild Things after starring in Starship Troopers
Dina Meyer as Dizzy Flores: Meyer was also cast following a run on Beverly Hills 90210 as well as a memorable run on FRIENDS as a romantic partner of Joey
Neil Patrick Harris as Carl: Harris was slowly working on rebranding himself as a serious actor after he was primarily known as a child star on the show Doogie Howser, M.D.
Jake Busey as Ace: The son of legendarily crazy person Gary Busey, Jake has become more a bit actor, but is willing to accept roles with little prestige especially in recent years as he appeared in the third season of Stranger Things and several episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Michael Ironside as Rasczak
Patrick Muldoon as Zander
Clancy Brown as Zim
Dean Norris as Commanding Officer
Seth Gilliam as Sugar
Earth in the Future
While it’s not explicitly mentioned when this film takes place, it’s set sometime in the 23rd century when interstellar travel is now possible and militaries are more advanced than ever before. The government is also controlled by a group of veterans or military officers having overthrown a prior regime that was run by intellectuals and bureaucrats. This is the briefest of world building we receive in the course of the film which seems odd given Verhoeven’s attention to detail in films like Robocop and Total Recall.
In this world, citizenship is not guaranteed and can only be obtained through a term of military service, but while citizenship is guaranteed, safety is not. Throughout the first act of the film, we see veterans who have given part of themselves in service of their society.
Rico’s teacher, Rasczak, is missing his arm but is given a prosthetic when he joins up again. Even the recruiting officer is missing an arm and both legs. While Rico is initially shocked to see this, it doesn’t deter him from joining and he’s naïve to think that something like that won’t happen to him until he arrives at the initial invasion.
Naivety is common among the recruits in Rico’s class as they all have their reasons for joining including getting money for school, career military aspirations, reproductive rights, political careers, and in Rico’s case, a woman. Although prior to Rico enlisting, he’s easily led by Rasczak into joining and by letting him think it’s his own decision to join and risk his life.
These opportunities are not available to individuals who do not enlist and even the simple act of creating a life is prohibited to them unless they join and serve.
Subversion Through Satire
In interviews after Starship Troopers was released, director Paul Verhoeven has stated numerous times that this film is mean to be viewed as a satir...