A gloriously over-the-top treat, Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers
takes the militaristic moralising of Robert Heinlein's pulp classic
and sets about undermining it mercilessly. Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien) desperately wants to join the Mobile Infantry and kill some Earth-threatening alien bugs. He also desperately wants Carmen (Denise Richards), but only gets to fulfil one ambition in the second of Verhoeven's futuristic satires (also cowritten with his RoboCop
scriptwriter Ed Neumeier).
Set in a fascistic future where kids must do military service to qualify as citizens, own property or even have babies, the film's dark Vietnam and Nazi-era parallels are all the more disturbing given its deceptively sunny Beverly Hills 90210 teenage cast (though scenery-chewing veteran Michael Ironside steals the movie as tough-talking Lt Rasczak). The CGI arachnids are among the most convincing and dangerous-looking creatures ever seen on screen, and with the movie clocking up the highest number of blanks ever fired on a film set, it's also pretty loud! Verhoeven went on to be Executive Producer of the Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers Chronicles animated TV series a couple of years later.
On the DVD: Starship Troopers in this DVD incarnation can now be played continuously on one side of the disc (the original Region 2 release version was that crime against the DVD format, a "flipper"). You'll also feel really spoiled by the extras here: five deleted scenes (approximately six minutes) pad out Carmen's love triangle problems. There are impressive screen tests for Denise Richards and Casper Van Dien (three-and-a-half minutes). An eight-minute featurette zips by with key interviews and fact flinging. And a real treat is three scene developments with layers of FX work explained by Verhoeven. But what makes this DVD essential is the director's enthusiastic commentary alongside screenwriter Ed Neumeier: dissing astrology, making a stand for feminist issues, saying how he went nude to placate the actors for their shower scene, and drooling with praise for his FX team, Verhoeven makes a fascinating statement that "war makes fascists of us all". After a studio disclaimer, and beginning with his reaction to the film's critique in Time Magazine, this is no-holds-barred fun. --Paul Tonks
DVD Columbia TriStar, 5017188883177, 1997 Region 2 PAL