Starship Troopers


2h 9m 1997

Brief Synopsis

Humans of a fascisticly militaristic future do battle with giant alien bugs in a fight for survival.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Action
Thriller
War
Adaptation
Sci-Fi
Release Date
1997
Distribution Company
TriStar Pictures
Location
Wendover, Utah, USA; Hell's Half Acre, Natrona County, Wyoming, USA; South Dakota, USA; New York City, New York, USA; Los Angeles, California, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 9m

Synopsis

Upon graduating school, Johnny Rico volunteers for the Mobile Infantry to do his Federal Service. Far from having patriotic motives, Johnny has joined the infantry to win the heart of his girlfriend, Carmen Ibanez, who has signed up for the Fleet Academy to become a starship pilot. Johnny undergoes rigorous military training at boot camp along with other young recruits including Dizzy Flores, who has harbored a crush on Johnny from their school days, and Ace Levy who earns Johnny's respect and friendship. Johnny accepts the challenge of boot camp and displays remarkable abilities that eventually earn him the position of squad leader. When a tragic training accident occurs on his watch, Johnny realizes he joined up for the wrong reasons. He is about to resign when Earth is attacked by the Bugs. Horrified by the death of his family and friends, Johnny is on board when the Mobile Infantry travels to distant planets to take the war to the Bugs.

Crew

Katherine Aaron

Other

Tony Acosta

Film Lab

Benjamin Adams

Accounting Assistant

Jay Adan

Other

Mcihele Addey

Visual Effects

Julie Adrianson Neary

Visual Effects

Amit Agrawal

Other

Laura Albert

Stunts

Peter H Albiez

Other

Susan Alegria

Visual Effects

Janel Alexander

Visual Effects

Janice Alexander

Hair Stylist

Ted Alexandre

Other

Fran Allgood

Costumes

Damon Allison

Props

Tom Altobello

Props Assistant

Tim Amyx

Assistant Editor

Adrienne Anderson

Production Assistant

Gregory Anderson

Visual Effects

Scott E Anderson

Visual Effects Supervisor

Anthony Angelotti

Stunts

Tony Araki

Other

Fred Arbegast

Art Department

Brent Armstrong

Art Department

John Armstrong

Other

Vic Armstrong

Unit Director

Vic Armstrong

Stunt Coordinator

Al Arthur

Animator

Linda C Azevedo

Accounting Assistant

Jean Luc Azzis

Art Department

Bill Ball

Other

Chris Barker

Other

Le Baron

Song

David Barton

Animatronics

Carol Bauman

Visual Effects

Greg Beaumonte

Camera Equipment

Terri Becker

Song

Dickey Beer

Stunt Coordinator

Leo Behar

Grip

Michael J. Benavente

Dialogue Editor

Sheryl Benko

Assistant

Robin Lynne Berk

Assistant

Beverly Bernacki

Visual Effects

Jim Berney

Visual Effects Designer

George Bernota

Mechanical Special Effects

John Berri

Effects Assistant

John Bevelheimer

Art Department

Dean Beville

Sound Effects Editor

Matt Beville

Foley Editor

John Bickford

Dailies

Michael Bienstock

Assistant Camera Operator

Don Bies

Visual Effects

Joel Biggins

Camera Assistant

Renee Binkowski

Rotoscope Animator

Stewart Birnam

Other

Bryan Blair

Film Lab

John Blake

Makeup Artist

Patricia Blau Price

Other

Kathryn Blondell

Hair Stylist

Nancy Blumstein

Production Accountant

Scott Bonnenfant

Visual Effects

Michael Borja

Visual Effects

Mary Borlik

Production Manager

Lydia Bottegoni

Production Manager

Alan Boucek

Visual Effects

David Bowie

Song

Bill Bowling

Location Manager

Joey Box

Stunts

Tim Boyle

Music

Evan Brainard

Animatronics

Jeff Branion

Cgi Artist

Steve Bransom

Other

Brian Brecht

Other

Patrick Brennan

Visual Effects

Jeff Brewer

Visual Effects

Dan Brodzik

Art Department

Jill Brooks

Visual Effects

Kandece Brown

Effects Assistant

Leah Brown

Costumes

Randy Brown

Visual Effects

Robin Brown

Camera Operator

Raul A Bruce

Boom Operator

Eric Bruneau

Visual Effects

Mark Bruning

Production Assistant

Mark Buck

Visual Effects

Lisa Buckignani

Costumes

Mary Buelna

Other

Laura Buff

Visual Effects

James Burt

Music

Gayle Busby

Visual Effects

Steve Buscaino

Art Department

Greg Butler

Lighting Technician

Brian Callahan

Costumes

Ed Callahan

Sound Effects Editor

Yancy Calzada

Puppeteer

Allan Cameron

Production Designer

Colin Campbell

Visual Effects

Scott Campbell

Director Of Photography

Scott Campbell

Dp/Cinematographer

Janet Campolito

Assistant Production Coordinator

Casey Cannon

Visual Effects

Jeremy Cantor

Animator

Dea Cantu

Script Supervisor

Nik E Carey

Film Lab

Joel Carnes

Key Grip

Tim Carter

Visual Effects

Mario Castillo

Assistant

Oscar G Castillo

Animator

Jake Cavaliere

Song

John Cazin

Pyrotechnics

David Chamberlain

Visual Effects

Audrey Chang

Editor

Andy Chen

Other

Merrick Cheney

Visual Effects

Jim Chesney

Other

Lance Chikasawa

Visual Effects

Tamara Choi

Visual Effects

Melanie Chretin

Art Assistant

Dave Christensen

Lighting

Chris Ciampa

Visual Effects

Blair Clark

Animator

Robert Clark

Art Department

David Cohen

Models

Harry Cohen

Sound Designer

Richard L Cohen

Matte Painter

Clarke Coleman

Stunts

Eugene Collier

Stunts

Joan Collins

Visual Effects

Peter Collins

Visual Effects

Clint Colver

Visual Effects

Eric Colvin

Song

Eric Colvin

Animator

Jacquiline Compton

Assistant Camera Operator

William Conner

Photography

Thomas M Conroy

Graphics

Eric P Cook

Special Effects Coordinator

Bryan Cooke

Visual Effects

Gene Cooper

Art Department

Jay Cooper

Visual Effects

Randall Cooper

Visual Effects

David Cornelius

Other

Brian Cox

Electrician

Frankie Cox

Other

Gary Crosby

Visual Effects

Chuck Cross

Other

Anita Cukurs

Visual Effects

Donna Cullen

Visual Effects

Gail Currey

Other

Mike Curtis

Gaffer

Joshua Cushner

Motion Control

Andrea D'amico

Visual Effects

Thomas Dadras

Digital Effects Supervisor

Gary L Dagg

Key Grip

Brigitte Daloin

Editor

Henry Darnell

Visual Effects

Alan Davidson

Visual Effects Designer

Craig Davies

Visual Effects Supervisor

Christopher Davis

Other

Fon Davis

Visual Effects

Sidsie Davis

Effects Coordinator

Jon Davison

Producer

Jennifer Dawson

Assistant Property Master

William Dawson

Special Effects

Sandy De Crescent

Music Contractor

Gerardo De La Cruz

Effects Assistant

Mark Deallessandro

Stunts

Chris Decedue

Visual Effects

John Deckner

Visual Effects

Leon Delaney

Stunts

Lisa Dempsey

Stunts

Mykel Denis

Visual Effects

Michael Dennison

Costumes

Greg Derochie

Visual Effects

Carolyn Dessert

Costumes

David Deuber

Visual Effects

Michael K Devaney

Set Production Assistant

Wade Devens

Assistant

Johnny Devilla

Song

Robert Diepenbrock

Visual Effects

Portia Digiovanni

Motion Control

Axel Dirksen

Visual Effects Designer

Stephen F Dobbs

Other

Daniel Dobson

Video Assist/Playback

Frances Doel

Coproducer

Eric Donaldson

Key Grip

Frank Dorowsky

Rigging Gaffer

Jason Dowdeswell

Visual Effects

Brennan Doyle

Visual Effects

Susan Dudek

Adr Editor

John Dunlap

Rotoscope Animator

Mathew Dunne

Assistant Director

Lauryl Duplechan

Editor

Dale Dye

Technical Advisor

Kelly Eastes

Special Thanks To

Daniel Eaton

Visual Effects

Kirrie Edis

Animator

Chris Edwards

Post-Production Supervisor

Glen Eisner

Art Department

Kevin Elam

Visual Effects

Paul Eliopoulos

Stunts

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Action
Thriller
War
Adaptation
Sci-Fi
Release Date
1997
Distribution Company
TriStar Pictures
Location
Wendover, Utah, USA; Hell's Half Acre, Natrona County, Wyoming, USA; South Dakota, USA; New York City, New York, USA; Los Angeles, California, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 9m

Award Nominations

Best Visual Effects

1998

Articles

Starship Troopers


Whatever else it is, which is plenty, Paul Verhoeven's eye-popping 1997 epic Starship Troopers has to be the most misunderstood and underappreciated sci-fi blockbuster of all time. Based on a pulpy, dogmatic Robert A. Heinlein novel first published in 1959, and featuring enough gadzooks digital imagery to fill a mainframe, Troopers had all the earmarks of a typically boorish, straight-faced trip to action-movie hell, all boom, boom, splat and aargghh. That's definitely how it was marketed by a rather clueless studio (Sony/Columbia/Tri-Star), and that's how critics understood it – both Roger Ebert and the New York Times' Janet Maslin dismissed it as gory, stolid trash. Audiences went gingerly during its opening weekend, expecting to have their baser instincts blandly excited, and were dumbfounded. (In retrospective interviews, Verhoeven agrees that audiences "didn't get it.") Word got out, ticket-buyers steered clear, and the film quickly vanished.

What didn't dawn on everyone at the time of Starship Troopers's abbreviated theatrical run was that it was a comedy – a vicious, all-barrels-firing piece of social satire and by far the funniest Hollywood film of 1997. All satire runs the risk of evading an inattentive audience and being mistaken for the very thing it mocks, but few American movies have been as extreme in their methods and at the same time as miscomprehended as Verhoeven's. In this film's pointed but absurd idea of the future, the world has one fascist government, society is divided between the rabble "civilians" and the elite, vote-bearing "citizens," and the former can become the latter only by performing a term of service with the Mobile Infantry, an interstellar army devoted to battling "bugs," an alien race of house-sized arachnids who hurl their spore into space and thereby direct meteors toward Earth. If all that isn't ludicrous enough, our protagonists are idealistic high schoolers hot to do their part: the jock, his bodacious girlfriend, the nerd, the opportunistic schemer, the dumb goofball, the girl who loves the football star but who stands silently aside. They train, travel the galaxy, combat monster-bugs, mature, experience casualties, triumph.

There were loads of cheesy pulp novels intended for 12-year-olds like this written in the '50s, but Heinlein's book wasn't one of them. Rather, the novel is an outrageous tract that rather unambiguously expounds the virtues of militaristic might, fascist order, violence and "earned" (not our Constitution's "self-evident" and "unalienable") social rights. An ultra-conservative ex-Naval officer and vocal arms-race proponent, Heinlein had caught a lot of static for it over the years, but Verhoeven's movie, made over a decade after Heinlein's death, amounts to a flat-out rebuttal. The subversive wit on display is startling. (The screenplay is credited to Edward Neumeier; Verhoeven, for his part, says he tried to read the novel but got bored and tossed it aside.) In the film, a war-mutilated high school history teacher walks about the classroom dead-seriously extolling the virtues of naked violence, officers wear Nazi headgear, troopers freely paraphrase Hitler, drill sergeants regularly mutilate their troops to make a training point, and whole scenes and hunks of dialogue are robbed from the paradigmatic colonialist melodrama Zulu (1964).

It's packed with mock-earnest details, clichéd scenes so hoary that they should've sent flags flying for 1997 viewers: the homecoming football game, the sweethearts' graduation farewell, the lip-biting argument between the army-bound young hotshot and his parents, who don't want him to ruin his future. It's an ultra-violent, space-age version of the American comic strip Archie, complete with a Jughead (Jake Busey), a Reggie (Patrick Muldoon), and a competing Betty (Dina Meyer) and Veronica (Denise Richards). A large part of the movie's comical mileage is inherent in the casting: Verhoeven cast only young actors who are so obscenely, ridiculously good-looking they literally seem drawn with felt-tip pen. Casper Van Dien, as the Archie-like hero Rico, is so absurdly handsome his every close-up dares us to laugh, but Richards's voluptuous face is beyond believing – is she a special effect, too?

Verhoeven gave the film a purposefully flat, overlit look, which accentuates both the actors' almost creepy architectural perfection and their believable proximity with the computer-created bugs. (Which are simultaneously silly and fearsome, and the violence they wreak is so fast, hairy and gory that it, too, becomes a running gag.) But the most flagrantly satiric aspect of Troopers, the relentless presence of which makes it difficult to fathom how people didn't "get it," is its TV-online advertisements for itself, popping up in the film as recruitment commercials, Web info sites (you must love, after seeing an announcer get shredded in two by a bug, the ubiquitous prompt bar calmly reading "Do You Want to Know More?") and government-controlled live news, which is outrageously bald-faced propaganda. "DO YOUR PART" the ads scream at us, while school kids display solidarity by stomping on real roaches, and fight over laser rifles to the amusement of nearby soldiers. The schtick almost pokes you in the eye, especially today during a dishonest war fought by a glorified-but-reluctant-&-dwindling volunteer army.

Starship Troopers certainly faced the problem of any satire of political war-mongering – that the vivid depiction of militaristic chaos can be so exciting that the scolding intention of it is obscured by the mayhem. And make no mistake, the film is vivid and appalling in ways that few films have been before or since. America needed a little distance, it seems, and since Verhoeven's film went to video, it has been universally reappraised and hailed as a culty landmark. It certainly can lead you to reconsider the director's other films – the entirety of Starship Troopers is the satirical TV commercials from Robocop (1987) writ large, and by the way, didn't Basic Instinct (1992) and Showgirls (1995) also cakewalk the edge of absurdity in ways we couldn't bring ourselves to believe were intentional? Doesn't the whole does-he-mean-it-or-is-he-a-muttonhead? aesthetic hearken back to Verhoeven's career-making font of nervous laughter, The Fourth Man (1983)? Verhoeven may be the bravest and most assured satirist in Hollywood, insofar as he succeeds in making big genre movies no one knows whether to take seriously or not. Maybe the interface with the humorless screenwriter Joe Eszterhas is what make Basic Instinct and particularly Showgirls seem crude and dumb, even as they quite obviously mock themselves with every laughable line of dialogue and leering innuendo. However you slice it, Verhoeven has gotten a bum rap as a directorial miscreant, because there's nothing misjudged or self-indulgent about Starship Troopers. It's pure laughing gas.

Producer: Jon Davison, Frances Doel, Stacy Lumbrezer, Alan Marshall, Edward Neumeier, Phil Tippett
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Screenplay: Edward Neumeier, Robert A. Heinlein (book)
Cinematography: Jost Vacano
Film Editing: Mark Goldblatt, Caroline Ross
Art Direction: Bruce Robert Hill, Steven Wolff
Music: Basil Poledouris
Cast: Casper Van Dien (Johnny Rico), Dina Meyer (Dizzy Flores), Denise Richards (Carmen Ibanez), Jake Busey (Private Ace Levy), Neil Patrick Harris (Colonel Carl Jenkins), Clancy Brown (Career Sergeant Zim).
C-129m. Letterboxed.

by Michael Atkinson
Starship Troopers

Starship Troopers

Whatever else it is, which is plenty, Paul Verhoeven's eye-popping 1997 epic Starship Troopers has to be the most misunderstood and underappreciated sci-fi blockbuster of all time. Based on a pulpy, dogmatic Robert A. Heinlein novel first published in 1959, and featuring enough gadzooks digital imagery to fill a mainframe, Troopers had all the earmarks of a typically boorish, straight-faced trip to action-movie hell, all boom, boom, splat and aargghh. That's definitely how it was marketed by a rather clueless studio (Sony/Columbia/Tri-Star), and that's how critics understood it – both Roger Ebert and the New York Times' Janet Maslin dismissed it as gory, stolid trash. Audiences went gingerly during its opening weekend, expecting to have their baser instincts blandly excited, and were dumbfounded. (In retrospective interviews, Verhoeven agrees that audiences "didn't get it.") Word got out, ticket-buyers steered clear, and the film quickly vanished. What didn't dawn on everyone at the time of Starship Troopers's abbreviated theatrical run was that it was a comedy – a vicious, all-barrels-firing piece of social satire and by far the funniest Hollywood film of 1997. All satire runs the risk of evading an inattentive audience and being mistaken for the very thing it mocks, but few American movies have been as extreme in their methods and at the same time as miscomprehended as Verhoeven's. In this film's pointed but absurd idea of the future, the world has one fascist government, society is divided between the rabble "civilians" and the elite, vote-bearing "citizens," and the former can become the latter only by performing a term of service with the Mobile Infantry, an interstellar army devoted to battling "bugs," an alien race of house-sized arachnids who hurl their spore into space and thereby direct meteors toward Earth. If all that isn't ludicrous enough, our protagonists are idealistic high schoolers hot to do their part: the jock, his bodacious girlfriend, the nerd, the opportunistic schemer, the dumb goofball, the girl who loves the football star but who stands silently aside. They train, travel the galaxy, combat monster-bugs, mature, experience casualties, triumph. There were loads of cheesy pulp novels intended for 12-year-olds like this written in the '50s, but Heinlein's book wasn't one of them. Rather, the novel is an outrageous tract that rather unambiguously expounds the virtues of militaristic might, fascist order, violence and "earned" (not our Constitution's "self-evident" and "unalienable") social rights. An ultra-conservative ex-Naval officer and vocal arms-race proponent, Heinlein had caught a lot of static for it over the years, but Verhoeven's movie, made over a decade after Heinlein's death, amounts to a flat-out rebuttal. The subversive wit on display is startling. (The screenplay is credited to Edward Neumeier; Verhoeven, for his part, says he tried to read the novel but got bored and tossed it aside.) In the film, a war-mutilated high school history teacher walks about the classroom dead-seriously extolling the virtues of naked violence, officers wear Nazi headgear, troopers freely paraphrase Hitler, drill sergeants regularly mutilate their troops to make a training point, and whole scenes and hunks of dialogue are robbed from the paradigmatic colonialist melodrama Zulu (1964). It's packed with mock-earnest details, clichéd scenes so hoary that they should've sent flags flying for 1997 viewers: the homecoming football game, the sweethearts' graduation farewell, the lip-biting argument between the army-bound young hotshot and his parents, who don't want him to ruin his future. It's an ultra-violent, space-age version of the American comic strip Archie, complete with a Jughead (Jake Busey), a Reggie (Patrick Muldoon), and a competing Betty (Dina Meyer) and Veronica (Denise Richards). A large part of the movie's comical mileage is inherent in the casting: Verhoeven cast only young actors who are so obscenely, ridiculously good-looking they literally seem drawn with felt-tip pen. Casper Van Dien, as the Archie-like hero Rico, is so absurdly handsome his every close-up dares us to laugh, but Richards's voluptuous face is beyond believing – is she a special effect, too? Verhoeven gave the film a purposefully flat, overlit look, which accentuates both the actors' almost creepy architectural perfection and their believable proximity with the computer-created bugs. (Which are simultaneously silly and fearsome, and the violence they wreak is so fast, hairy and gory that it, too, becomes a running gag.) But the most flagrantly satiric aspect of Troopers, the relentless presence of which makes it difficult to fathom how people didn't "get it," is its TV-online advertisements for itself, popping up in the film as recruitment commercials, Web info sites (you must love, after seeing an announcer get shredded in two by a bug, the ubiquitous prompt bar calmly reading "Do You Want to Know More?") and government-controlled live news, which is outrageously bald-faced propaganda. "DO YOUR PART" the ads scream at us, while school kids display solidarity by stomping on real roaches, and fight over laser rifles to the amusement of nearby soldiers. The schtick almost pokes you in the eye, especially today during a dishonest war fought by a glorified-but-reluctant-&-dwindling volunteer army. Starship Troopers certainly faced the problem of any satire of political war-mongering – that the vivid depiction of militaristic chaos can be so exciting that the scolding intention of it is obscured by the mayhem. And make no mistake, the film is vivid and appalling in ways that few films have been before or since. America needed a little distance, it seems, and since Verhoeven's film went to video, it has been universally reappraised and hailed as a culty landmark. It certainly can lead you to reconsider the director's other films – the entirety of Starship Troopers is the satirical TV commercials from Robocop (1987) writ large, and by the way, didn't Basic Instinct (1992) and Showgirls (1995) also cakewalk the edge of absurdity in ways we couldn't bring ourselves to believe were intentional? Doesn't the whole does-he-mean-it-or-is-he-a-muttonhead? aesthetic hearken back to Verhoeven's career-making font of nervous laughter, The Fourth Man (1983)? Verhoeven may be the bravest and most assured satirist in Hollywood, insofar as he succeeds in making big genre movies no one knows whether to take seriously or not. Maybe the interface with the humorless screenwriter Joe Eszterhas is what make Basic Instinct and particularly Showgirls seem crude and dumb, even as they quite obviously mock themselves with every laughable line of dialogue and leering innuendo. However you slice it, Verhoeven has gotten a bum rap as a directorial miscreant, because there's nothing misjudged or self-indulgent about Starship Troopers. It's pure laughing gas. Producer: Jon Davison, Frances Doel, Stacy Lumbrezer, Alan Marshall, Edward Neumeier, Phil Tippett Director: Paul Verhoeven Screenplay: Edward Neumeier, Robert A. Heinlein (book) Cinematography: Jost Vacano Film Editing: Mark Goldblatt, Caroline Ross Art Direction: Bruce Robert Hill, Steven Wolff Music: Basil Poledouris Cast: Casper Van Dien (Johnny Rico), Dina Meyer (Dizzy Flores), Denise Richards (Carmen Ibanez), Jake Busey (Private Ace Levy), Neil Patrick Harris (Colonel Carl Jenkins), Clancy Brown (Career Sergeant Zim). C-129m. Letterboxed. by Michael Atkinson

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States on Video May 19, 1998

Released in United States June 2001

Second-unit shooting was completed on October 23, 1996.

Completed shooting October 16, 1996.

Began shooting April 29, 1996.

Released in United States Fall November 7, 1997

Released in United States on Video May 19, 1998

Released in United States June 2001 (Shown in New York City (Anthology Film Archives) as part of program "You Asked For It: The Films of Paul Verhoeven" June 21-30, 2001.)

Released in United States Fall November 7, 1997