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"STARSHIP TROOPERS"
(1997) (Casper Van Dien, Denise Richards) (R)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Minor Extreme Mild Extreme Extreme
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Mild None Moderate None Moderate
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Moderate None Mild Mild Extreme


QUICK TAKE:
Sci-Fi: A group of young soldiers travels to a distant planet to battle a society of huge bugs determined to wipe out human life.
PLOT:
In a futuristic society, recent school graduates are figuring out what to do with their lives. Johnny Rico (CASPER VAN DIEN), has decided to join the military, much to his parents dismay. He claims he's doing this to become a "citizen" (a protector of the regular "civilians"), but his parents know he's really doing it to follow Carmen Ibanez (DENISE RICHARDS), his girlfriend who's joined the Fleet Academy to become a starship pilot. Unlike Carmen or another classmate, Carl Jenkins (NEIL PATRICK HARRIS), Johnny doesn't have the grades to be an officer. Thus he joins the Mobile Infantry, along with another classmate, Dizzy Flores (DINA MEYER), who's always been romantically attracted to him. They go through rigorous basic training where they meet other cadets such as Ace Levy (JAKE BUSEY), but during this time Johnny and Carmen's relationship begins to weaken, particularly after she's partnered with a fellow officer, Zander Barcalow (PATRICK MULDOON).

Discovering this, Johnny's about to drop out when war is declared. It seems that a society of oversized insects has attacked and is seemingly intent on destroying all traces of human life. Thus, our young soldiers head off to the planet Klendathu, where they battle the huge insects along with their former teacher and seasoned soldier, Jean Rasczak (MICHAEL IRONSIDE). Soon, however, the soldiers discover that they're in over their heads and the insects massacre their landing team. From that point on, and as heavy casualties continue to mount, the young men and women must do what they can to conquer the dangerous insects.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
Due to the sci-fi element, the young cast, and the heavy advertising promotion, many kids will probably want to see this film.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: R
For graphic sci-fi violence and gore, and for some language and nudity.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
Most of the cast members play standard teenage characters (albeit they're soldiers in a war), with the only major possible complaint being that Johnny and Dizzy apparently have sex in one scene.
CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


OUR TAKE: 7.5 out of 10
If you work for, or know anyone who works for the ABA -- no, not the American Bar Association or the American Bankers Association, but the American BUG Association -- get this word out to them immediately. Director Paul Verhoeven's latest film doesn't focus on lawyers or bankers, but instead sets its sights on insects and this is going to be a public relations fiasco for our little "friends." Instead of peaceful fuzzy caterpillars, majestic praying mantises, or even cute little furry spiders, we get huge, mean-spirited critters who want nothing more than to rid the universe of human beings. Perhaps this is payback for all of the swatting, spraying and stomping we've done to the little fellas over the eons, but one thing's for sure. The manufacturers of bug spray and roach motel products are going to love this movie because it's going to make people hate bugs even more than they do now. Of course these elephant-sized bugs (and bigger) wouldn't think twice about using a can of Raid as breath freshener, and that's what makes the movie so much fun.

If you haven't already figured it out, this feature is simple, stupid over-the-top entertainment, for which it makes no apologizes. From the opening newsreel footage (a clever parody of the 1950's propaganda films) to the all out battle scenes, this film has no intention other than to deliver a good time. Similar to those paranoia-induced "B" movies of the 1950's that featured giant insects created from nuclear material, this film features a young cast whose own parents were probably only young kids themselves during that time. The leads are relatively unknown young actors and actresses, but all provide decent performances for this type of film. Of note is Jake Busey, actor Gary Busey's son. Not only has Jake inherited his father's looks, but he's also decided to play his character here much like his father would have -- wild, uninhibited, and perhaps a bit on the crazy side. We also get to see Neil Patrick Harris whom you might last remember as Doogie Howser, MD, from the same named TV show. Now grown up and looking like he was sired by Quentin Tarantino, he delivers something of a young Tarantino inspired supporting performance.

Obviously aimed squarely at the teen audience that's made the recent film "I Know What You Did Last Summer" such a big hit, this feature will appeal to them and to sci-fi fans, and thus should have a robust outing at the box office. The production values are first-rate with the outer space scenes being as good as those in any other sci-fi film, and the computer generated insects (from visual effects supervisor Phil Tippett of "Jurassic Park" fame) are outstanding. Of course no one has ever seen insects quite like this nor on such a massive scale, but their movements are realistic enough to produce shivers for the those who aren't crazy about bugs. To top it off, when the bugs are dying, their legs twitch and flail about just like their little cousins -- though of course on a much larger scale.

That's only part of their deaths, however, for this film is ruthless in graphically depicting their demise as well as that of their human counterparts, and many audience members may find the film too relentlessly graphic and gruesome for their liking. Many of director Paul Verhoeven's films, however, have been this way, and he's previously attributed some of that to growing up in a war- torn era and witnessing horrific real-life incidents. Perhaps his films are violently cathartic for him, but this one easily outdoes his other, often brutal features such as "Robocop" and "Total Recall." All of the gross out material, however graphic it may be, is played in somewhat of a fun, comic book fashion and is designed more for the "gross, did you see that?" quotient than to be stomach turning (although it may still come across that way to some viewers).

Also played in a fun fashion are the many propaganda clips that are clever satire on the old newsreel films seen in the 40's and 50's. Much like the "Know Your Enemy" shorts and using the same type font on screen and similar music, these brief pieces are hilarious. In one scene, a group of young kids "are doing their part for the war effort" by collectively stepping on a collection of small, everyday insects. Such scenes, especially early on, help liven up the first half that is a bit too slow moving (as the characters are introduced and marginally fleshed out), especially since we're aware of, and waiting for, the inevitable bug mayhem. Once those battle scenes begin, however, the momentum rarely lets up and the film flies along in a speedy autopilot mode.

Those wanting a serious sci-fi film should look elsewhere. While it does lightly focus on a far off totalitarian state (where we see Doogie Howser wearing what's essentially a WWII Nazi officer's outfit) and a futuristic society where sexual differences are no longer valid, most of the movie is dumb as a rock. A main character who's got a hole the size of a grapefruit through her shoulder (courtesy of a bug attack) miraculously is okay by the end of the story and walks around without any apparent ill-effects. Likewise, the teens similarly don't react much after their hometown city has just been wiped out -- other than to get mad and get the adrenaline flowing. There's also some goofy E.S.P. stuff that never really goes anywhere (until a weak denouement). And for some reason a character plays "Dixie" on a fiddle during a time-out from the war (yes, it's Busey's character -- like father, like son).

Obviously none of this is meant to be taken seriously and few of the characters' reactions are remotely realistic -- they're nearly sub par that of comic book characters -- but they are what keep the film continuously moving forward. This movie doesn't intend to be cerebral, and instead simply focuses on a purely visceral experience -- lots of mayhem, blood, and guts. The film is essentially a dummied down, supped up version of "Aliens." Much like that film, the people of the future have developed interstellar spaceships, but still haven't managed to create a decent laser gun (commonly found in other sci-fi films) to fight these insect-like creatures. Thus, they have to rely on old gun technology (beyond a few grenades and small nuclear devices that are mysteriously absent when most needed) and only have machine guns with which to kill the critters. As both films show, however, that makes the plot that much more suspenseful as we clearly see that the odds are stacked against the humans. Much like those old WWII films, the enemy is also clearly defined, and in today's world bugs are perfect politically correct villains.

All of which makes this film that much more like a video game where the creatures just keep coming and coming and the heroes have to keep shooting them down one by one. And with the occasional gargantuan fire-breathing beetle showing up, that only adds that much more "fun" to the game. If you can tolerate the occasionally stomach turning gore and don't mind the thought of giant insects, then you'll find yourself on the equivalent of an amusement park-like ride. It's big, loud, full of unpleasant surprises, and you certainly won't burn a single brain calorie while experiencing it. Yet, you'll have a lot of fun riding it. We did, and thus give "Starship Troopers" a 7.5 out of 10.

OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
This is one of the more graphically gruesome movies to come down the pike in some time, and parents should be warned that it's the stuff that will easily induce nightmares in younger children. People are decapitated, dismembered, torn apart, their brains are sucked from their heads and, well, you get the idea. Teenagers will probably groove on that material and the film is obviously aimed squarely at them with its young, attractive, and gung ho cast (despite the violence, gore and subsequent R rating).

Beyond the relentless violence and bloodletting, there is one sexual encounter where we see a woman's bare breasts. We also see more bare breasts and butts in a coed military shower scene, but none of it's sexual in nature. Profanity is surprisingly light for an R rated war film, but does include at least one use of the "f" word. If your children are older and mature enough to handle gruesome and extremely graphic footage that comes from the many violent war scenes, then this film may be okay for them. Nonetheless, you should read through the material listed below before making that determination for them or for yourself.


ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • Johnny and his dad have some sort of futuristic drink that may be alcoholic.
  • Some infantry soldiers (including Ace and others) drink while getting tatoos.
  • Rasczak delivers several kegs of beer to his soldiers after a battle victory.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • The movie is filled with countless scenes of people being attacked by the giant bugs. Thus, there are many instances of people being decapitated, dismembered, torn in half, impaled and other various horrendous ways of dying that are, of course, tremendously bloody and gruesome.
  • Beyond seeing the actual deaths, we also see the results of previous attacks and the resulting bloody bodies and body parts that are strewn everywhere.
  • There's also the deaths of the bugs that are extremely bloody and we also see many instances of green goo being spewed out from their bodies and onto soldiers.
  • Johnny and others dissect large bugs and we see them pulling out gooey entrails. A student throws up after seeing all of this.
  • Ace's hand is very bloody after it's been impaled by a thrown knife.
  • A cadet is shot in the head during a training exercise and blood squirts out.
  • Johnny is whipped for allowing one of his men to be killed in a training exercise and we see many bloody lash marks on his back.
  • We see Johnny's leg being repaired underwater and his fleshy, water saturated wound is pretty gross looking.
  • We see a woman's arm burned off by a fire breathing bug and it's quite gross looking as well.
  • We see a very bloody and large hole in a guy's head where his brains were sucked out and Rasczak puts his hand into the hole. We later see this actually happen where a bug impales a guy's head and we see his brain matter being sucked up through some sort of insect tubing.
  • A woman is very bloody (massive wounds, and blood in her mouth) after being impaled by a bug and another woman is bloody after being crushed by a vertically closing door.
  • Zander and Carmen are very bloody after being wounded by the bugs.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Some viewers may not like that fact that Rasczak, as a teacher, tells his students that violence is the correct answer to most problems and has been so throughout history.
  • Johnny and his parents don't agree over his wishes to join the military and there are a few arguments over this. His father finally tells him that if he walks out the door he'll be cut off.
  • Zander, being an officer, looks down on the "enlisted" men and particularly picks on Johnny since both are interested in Carmen.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • The movie is filled with countless scenes (too many to list separately -- but they are very similar in nature) of people being attacked by the giant bugs. Thus, there are many scenes of people being decapitated, dismembered, torn in half, impaled and other various horrendous ways of dying that are, of course, tremendously bloody and gruesome.
  • We also see many victims screaming in agony and writhing in pain from their injuries or impending deaths. While teenagers will probably love this stuff, it's probably way too intense for younger preteens whose nightmares would be fueled by this material.
  • The sheer number of the bugs that are attacking the people will also be unsettling to some viewers (ie. The soldiers don't have enough ammo to repel the relentless attack).
  • Carmen and Zander must pilot their large ship out of the way of an asteroid hurtling toward them.
  • There's a prolonged sequence in a walled compound where the soldiers must fight off a massive amount of attacking bugs and try to escape without being killed.
  • Several soldiers find themselves in a cave full of bugs that wound them, but then keep them alive so as to later suck out their brains.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Machine Guns/Grenades/Other bombs: Relentlessly and continually used to attack and kill many of the giant bugs. Additionally some people are shot accidentally, and others purposefully to put them out of their misery after they've been attacked by the bugs.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "Bastard," "Screwed up," "Nut buster," "Shut up," and "Haul ass."
  • A drill instructor, showing why knife throwing proficiency is important, throws a knife that impales Ace's hand to a wall.
  • We see some cadets' bare butts as they "moon" a transmission that Johnny's sending to Carmen.
  • This film may inspire kids to go out and squash as many bugs as they can find.
  • Johnny, Dizzy, Ace and another soldier get tatoos on their arms.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • None.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • A moderate amount of tense music fills many of the war scenes and is mixed with a great deal of action-oriented music.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • At least 1 "f' word (with 2 more possible uses), 5 "s" words, 3 asses, 2 damns, 1 hell, and 4 uses of "Oh God," 3 uses of "G-damn," 2 uses of "Oh my God," and 1 use each of "God" and "My God" as exclamations.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • Carmen and Johnny dance and passionately kiss, and she tells him that her father's not home that night.
  • The cadets shower together in a coed facility and we see many women's bare breasts (including Flores) as well as men's bare butts, but none of it is sexually oriented.
  • We see some cadets' bare butts as they "moon" a transmission that Johnny's sending to Carmen.
  • Dizzy climbs on top of Johnny, removes his shirt and kisses his chest. She then takes off her top and we see her bare breasts as they passionately kiss. Rasczak interrupts them, but after seeing what they're doing, amends his earlier command and now gives them twenty minutes to get ready instead of the ten when he only saw Johnny in the room. Thus, it's implied they have sex.
  • SMOKING
  • None.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • Johnny and his parents don't agree over his wishes to join the military and there are a few arguments over this. His father finally tells him that if he walks out the door he'll be cut off.
  • Johnny and others hear that their hometown city was destroyed, but we don't see too much of any grieving from them over the loss of their families.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • Rasczak, as a teacher, tells his students that violence is the correct answer to most problems and has been so throughout history. He is a former soldier in a time of war, but this may be a topic of concern that should be discussed.
  • For younger kids, the fact that no such giant bugs exist.
  • VIOLENCE
  • The movie is filled with countless scenes (too many to list separately -- but they are very similar in nature) of people being attacked by the giant bugs. Thus, there are many scenes of people being decapitated, dismembered, torn in half, impaled and other various horrendous ways of dying that are, of course, tremendously bloody and gruesome.
  • Conversely, many of the bugs are riddled with machine guns, blown up with grenades, or wiped out by small nuclear devices.
  • Also, many cities and large spaceships are destroyed where millions of people are killed.
  • Beyond that, there's the following:
  • We see some violence in an indoor football game where people are violently hit.
  • A drill instructor strikes one cadet in the gut and another on the leg with a baton. He then spars with a cadet and grabs his wrist and graphically breaks it.
  • A drill instructor, showing why knife throwing proficiency is important, throws a knife that impales Ace's hand to a wall.
  • Cadets shoot each other with some sort of laser guns that stun their opponents. During one of these exercises using real ammo, a cadet is shot in the head and killed.
  • Johnny is whipped for allowing one of his men to be killed in a training exercise.
  • Johnny and Zander get into a fight where they throw punches and blows to each others' face and body.
  • Many spaceships are destroyed by bug plasma shot at them from the planet's surface.
  • A soldier punches Ace, and Rasczak later punches a general.
  • We see several instances of even bigger bugs showing up that breath fire and incinerate body parts or complete bodies.
  • Several people are shot dead to be put out of their misery after they've been attacked by the bugs.
  • A woman is crushed by a hatch door that closes down on her, pinning her to the floor.



  • Reviewed October 27, 1997

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