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Jan 11, 2011

Fletch's Favored Five: Great Things About...Starship Troopers

The Intro: The concept is pretty straightforward. Aside from going to the theater way too much, I also watch way too many movies on TV (or DVD). Since they're not new releases, I don't typically write a review for them, but there are often some things I'd like to say about them. Since I have a tendency to always find the negatives in things (I'm a champion pessimist), I've decided to pick five things from a movie that I've recently viewed that catch my eye or crack me up or inspire me or whatever. They could be anything from a whole performance, a single line (or even a single word), a sight gag, plot line, anything. So...

5 Great Things About...Starship Troopers

5. The communal shower
Of course, this is Hollywood, so the unisex shower of the future isn't littered with table shakers and cottage cheese. Just nice to know that in a few centuries, we'll have chilled out a bit with all the gender issues. Johhny and Diz got down without too many games - hell, Diz threw herself at him. The future is so laid-back, man...

4. Jake Busey
What a year 1997 was for the son of Gary. First, he killed Tom Skeritt and a bunch of other NASA nerds in Contact as the religious nutjob with a bomb. Then, mere months later, he's playing a neon violin and wisecracking with Casper, all under the tutelage of one Michael Ironside. That's two Top Gun greats he got to work with in one summer!! Nepotism has its privileges. (Just kidding, Jake - you're awesome!)

3. "Would you like to know more?"
The keys to the secret of the brilliance of Starship Troopers are all contained within the PSAs/wartime reels interspersed throughout the film. Try to imagine, for one second, the movie without them. I'll give you a hint - it's a Bay-level piece of shit. Overacted by many, badly acted by others, and taking itself way too seriously 98% of the time. Enjoyable, perhaps, but nowhere near the genius that those commercials make it, bringing the satire fully to life. Here's a great, detailed piece all about the subtext of the film, courtesy of The Onion A.V. Club.

2. Clancy Brown
Because Clancy makes everything better.

1. John D. Rico, lead character
Vacant. A blank slate. Dumb. Airheaded. Any or all of these words could be used to describe Johnny Rico, who's either the dumbest or greatest lead character in the history of film. Any time Rico is forced to make a decision or speak a line (in other words, almost the entirety of the movie), he looks back upon what others have done and/or told him. He's a complete and total follower, unable to ask questions and analyze situations on his own, which is what makes him such a unique character. We've been trained to know that the stars of our action movies or heist movies or business ethics dramas (or just about any other genre, for that matter) are made up of the smartest people in the room, out-of-the-box thinkers, clutch performers.

Rico may be a great athlete full of courage and valor, but he's as dumb as a box of rocks and as impressionable as a canister of Play-Doh. Feel free to mold him into any shape that you wish, so long as you speak to him with conviction. The personification of this arises mostly within his dealings with Michael Ironside's Lt. Rasczak, Rico's onetime teacher and future commanding officer. Rico so looks up to Rasczak that not only does he implore the man for orders even before joining the military, but parrots his every line as if, once he heard and memorized them, the space in his brain for other thoughts was gone forever.

P.S. - This didn't make the list, but in doing 'research' for this post, I just discovered this fact and I think my brain just got sucked by a big smart bug. I don't know how many times you've seen the movie, but I've seen it probably 10-20 times, including once in the past 48 hours. I just discovered who plays the biology teacher early in the film. HAD NO IDEA. I'm not gonna spoil it for you, but I'll even throw in a picture and see if that helps. I'm not sure if I'm just impressed at the acting or makeup or ashamed of myself for never having picked up on it. Random and weird...

11 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Favored Five: Great Things About...Starship Troopers"

Univarn said...

It is a well known fact that Busey's teeth possess their own gravitation pull well beyond the capacity of most masses. As such, whenever he's on screen the camera has to be nailed into the ground or it will be instantly pulled in his direction. Most actors are latched onto the camera via a specially designed 'Anti-Busey rope.'

BTW Clancy Brown should be #1 and you know it! Vacuous void or not, Rico's as colorful as a bowl of grits and thinner in characterization than a cardboard cutout.

Movielocker said...

Haha, thanks for the fun list... have to watch this one again. Can remember the first time I saw it when it came out... so much fun. Nearly nobody got it. Jeez.
Feel free to take a look at the blog I´m writing for...http://blog.movielocker.com/
Have a nice day and continue the fun work

Ed Howard said...

Man this movie's such a blast. It's on TV all the time and I can never resist watching at least part of it anytime I stumble across it. Good call on the brilliance of the PSAs, too. They solidify the film's satire and inform the whole rest of the film. Without the PSAs, it would be difficult to know how to read the rest of the film with its blank characters and lousy acting and blood-and-guts action sequences. With the PSAs, it becomes clear that Verhoeven is mocking the gung-ho action stereotypes and the bland action heroes. It's a brilliant move.

I've always thought of this film as half of a diptych with Showgirls. It's Verhoeven giving Hollywood what it wants with extreme, silly sex and extreme, silly violence. They both test the limits of kitsch, satirizing our culture's appetites by gorging in them, seeing how much we can take before we're full.

Unknown said...

Clancy REALLY doe makes everything better. I'm still bitter about him getting killed off way too early in BUCKAROO BANZAI.

Ryan McNeil said...

So on an atrocity scale of one-to-ten, the fact that I've never seen this ranks?....

Castor said...

@ Mad: 9! Atrocious.

Starship Troopers is one of those movies that is so campy bad that it's awesome! I haven't seen it for quite some time but you made me want to now.

Sebastian Gutierrez said...

Yeah! Seriously Hatter. Get on that noise! This is an awesome movie, even if it is technically a piece of shit.

And, hell yeah! Nepotism totally helps dude get by!

Great post!

Nic Cage said...

I love it! Clancy Brown IS amazing, I agree.

I cannot believe that I never noticed who the biology teacher was...that's crazy.

Fletch said...

Aiden - Hell yeah, you do. And if you haven't done one already (sorry, can't recall, but I think not) you need to have it be your review of the day.

Univarn - Um...yeah (on the Busey thing). *backs away from Uni once more*

As for the Rico placement...you say "Rico's as colorful as a bowl of grits and thinner in characterization than a cardboard cutout." I say, exactly! That's why he's such a great choice for a lead character. He flies in the face of every stereotypical action lead cliche out there. Okay, maybe not all of them, but he's certainly unique in his own right.

Movielocker - will do! Thanks for checking in!

Ed - I like that theory about this and Showgirls. To be honest, I've never watched that thing all the way through, so any joy in its over-the-top-ness has been lost on me thus far. Do you enjoy it in the same way that you do this one?

J.D. - I think one of my first intros to Clancy was in an Outer Limits episode from the early 90s. He was great then, too. Zim's no great character for him, but I love his final send-off here.

Hatter - I'd love to agree with Castor given my love for this flick, but I think it may be too late for you to really enjoy this one. You'd have to be committed to it, as it takes several viewings to truly, truly appreciate its brilliance. But definitely give it a shot...I'll say a 6 on your scale.

Castor - Sweet! Apparently, it plays on Showtime a lot - main reason I watched it again was due to a free preview weekend. Saw it come up and had to DVR and watch it.

Seb - gracias!

Nic - Seriously, right? Was everyone else aware of who she was?

Ed Howard said...

Fletch, funny as it seems, yeah, I'd say I enjoy the two films in similar ways. They both use blank, horrible actors to get across these over-the-top satires of American excess. The scenes of sex and nudity in Showgirls work the way the action scenes in Starship Troopers do: an extreme form of catering to lowest common denominator culture while at the same time viciously mocking it.

JacksSmirkingRevenge said...

Come on, you apes! You wanta live forever?

LOVE THIS MOVIE. But as is often the case, nowhere near as good as the book. Hell, I just love Heinlein, greatest SF righter of all time.

Anyway, just wanted to point out that Rico does actually think for himself once in the film, when he stopd Radsczak from killing the colonel. Oh, and Clancy Brown is far and away the best part of the movie, "Medic."