Thursday, March 26, 2015

Retro Review - Starship Troopers

There is no way I can analyse this movie objectively. It is one of my favourite childhood movies and just hearing the theme song gives me goosebumps.

It was even more significant for me because I served in the armed forces in the Guards battalion, the elite infantry force that is dropped directly into combat on transports, much like the Mobile Infantry. Every time we were dropped into battle I would hear that this song being played in my head.

So what is it like for me to watch this movie again after almost 20 years? Well I have 3 comments.

First, this was one of the last films of our time to use actual models and animatronics rather than pure CGI for all the big set pieces, from the carrier ships to even the warrior bugs. Thus this film was a showcase of the best non-computer special effects developed over the years, even though it heralded the end of that great era.

After this movie, the film industry went fully towards the CGI direction, and the resulting films over the next decade had really poor graphics. It took a long time before CGI came anywhere close to being life-like (something that miniature models did not have to struggle with as much) and thus Starship Troopers remained one of the highest quality sci-fi films of the time, and I rank it up there with Jurassic Park in terms of special effect's quality.

Second, oh my goodness the sheer amount of nudity and sex in this movie! There are possibly more topless females in this show than males, which is already a high number considering that these are army guys.

I'm ambivalent about the nudity though. It isn't all used for sexual appeal within the story so I'm not sure if i could say it was fan-service, or they were trying very hard to paint a picture of gender equality. With very little distinction between men and women, both genders went to battle together, shared the same bunk, and even showered together. I don't know if this is very progressive or very sexist, but it sure is very subversive.

Third... the gore. We're talking 300 in an era without green-screen. Stabbing, dismembering, decapitation, you name it. But what surprises me most is that there's a toy range for this movie.

Doesn't that mean this movie was... targeted at kids? Okay I can't really remember what this movie was like 20 years ago, but I'm pretty sure I would not have been allowed into the cinema if there was so much blood and gore (and nipples). So maybe there was a more PG version that was released.

Here's a parody toy advert that is more true to the nature of the movie (and how inappropriate it is for them to have children's toys for it).

But the gore was not unwarranted in this movie either. While some scenes look like they are glorifying the military machine, they are balanced out with other scenes of the horrors of war. When troopers whom you've spent half the movie getting to know suddenly have their bodies mangled by giant bugs (that their guns are ineffective against) on an alien planet, you get a glimpse of the shock and horror of battle in it's unadulterated form. It's crazy gory... but the scary thing is that it's not that unrealistic in its depiction of war. 

Except for how their guns never ran out of ammunition although everyone was firing on full-auto. That's just impossible.

Sex, violence, guns, spaceships and aliens... that are mostly not created by CGI.

Bechdel Test: Failed. But women beat up men in this film.

No. of films seen this year with:
     White man saving the world - 4
     Non-white/male protagonist - 8

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