This review is of the TV-14 version of the film. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version would be more negative
Starship Troopers is definitely a very well known film even if it’s one that you might not know the details of. It’s the title itself that is more popular than anything and the franchise has withstood the test of time. It fully embraces the sci-fi nature of the adventure and this feels like a true Star Trek type adventure. It can get a little overly violent at times and you should definitely expect a big body count. There are parts of the film that work better than others but at the end of the day I’d say it was solid.
The movie starts off by explaining the situation which is that the bugs are slowly taking over large parts of the universe and the federation isn’t having any of that. They are always recruiting more people to stop these monsters but that also means that the body count is rather high. A lot of people don’t make it out of the situation in one piece which is what makes things tricky. Johnny’s parents don’t want him to enlist because they are wealthy so they could shield him from having to go and fight. Johnny wants to do his part though and additionally his girlfriend Carmen is enlisting so this way they can be together.
Unfortunately they are assigned to different platoons so they will need to try and make a long distance relationship work. This will be tricky though because Carmen’s commanding officer is a guy named Zander who has a lot of natural charm. Meanwhile Dizzy has always liked Johnny but he never really noticed her since he only had eyes for Carmen. Carl is the only one standing apart from all of the drama and he is determined to do his part for the war effort. This is a huge war against the bugs and so it makes sense that the friends wouldn’t all be together. That would probably be a little too convenient right? That’s actually something the movie does really well which is to build a realistic environment and world that shows the scope of this battle.
One thing Starship Troopers does right here is establishing all of the characters and giving them each things to do. They all have individual goals of their own outside of what they are doing as a team. Sometimes it can be easy to zero in on the main character but everyone gets their time to shine here. Now some characters like Carl do look really suspect in the end though. It’s hard to tell me that the sacrifices were really worth it. Carl ends up being a very logical type of character who believes the ends justify the means and I tend to be at odds with characters like that. After a point sacrifices just get too numerous even if you do win in the end.
Johnny was a decent character but he made a whole lot of mistakes. I would say 1 or 2 too many as the movie went on. The scene where he takes off someone’s helmet to try and repair it before that guy gets blown to smithereens was a bad look. It seems like this is textbook safety 101 not to remove a helmet during a live firing session so that just wasn’t good. Then later on he’s still chasing after Carmen even when it’s clear that she’s moved on. Yeah it probably sucks for him that they had to break up like this but try to take it with class. Instead he picks a fight with Zander and the whole thing wasn’t a good look for him. He does put up a good fight there so physically he is strong but it wasn’t the best battle to fight.
Meanwhile Zander seemed rather reasonable the whole time. Yeah I thought the romance was weak since it felt like a total rebound but as a character he’s just really confident in himself and has the skills to back it up. He’s very similar to Johnny since they’re both rather cocky but Zander has more experience under his belt and you figure that he won’t be making any critical mistakes during clutch time. That’s what really separates the two of them.
Dizzy is definitely more on the tragic side since her feelings for Johnny are basically shut out for most of the adventure and then things get tricky later on. She was always good at giving him moral support though and seemed like a good friend. As for Carmen, well breaking up with Johnny and moving on so quickly was definitely not doing her any favors here. I feel like moving on that quickly just isn’t good and it was a little overly optimistic to assume they could go back to being good friends right off the bat. It’s really not a relationship change that can be accomplished so quickly and she should have given Johnny more space. He didn’t take this very well of course and at the same time it’s fair to say that rushing up to him as if they were still good friends was too soon.
By the end of the film the heroes all have to put aside their differences to take down the bugs though. The war is what matters above all else and these bugs are strong. Half of the landing parties are decimated on site because the bugs are largely immune to the guns except for if you hit them in very specific places. It is difficult to do that though and so the body count continues to rise real fast. This is mainly where the violence comes from as the characters are eaten and quite literally ripped apart. You feel like the main characters needed better weapons badly because otherwise it’s like you’re entering just to get slaughtered.
The film does acknowledge the propaganda the federation puts out to the new recruits. It was handled in an interesting way where commercials just take over the movie from time to time and they’re all about how cool it is to become a soldier. The whole world is built that way and it makes for an interesting dynamic. Most of the commercials are fairly cringe although I suspect that is the point here.
It’ll be fun to see Johnny as more of an experienced pilot. There’s a lot more you could do with this premise and way more battles that are to be fought. The aliens continue to improve after all and the humans have to follow suit or they will quickly be surpassed on the evolutionary ladder. It adds an extra layer of tension to the adventure as opposed to these being mindless monsters so that’s a good thing. You also had a number of solid supporting characters like Jonny’s teacher and the head drill instructor. All of this combined to help make the film a more complete package.
Overall, Starship Troopers is a good movie. If you’re a little queasy about violence then it may give you pause but beyond that the movie delivers on the sci-fi aspects and there are a lot of fights. The movie also fleshes out the world around the fights a whole lot which I thought was a very good idea. It’s an important way to make you more invested in the overall experience and it succeeds. We’ll see if the other installments in the franchise can top this one or not.