Loosely based on the 1959 novel of the same name by Robert A. Heinlein, this special effects-laden sci-fi action film takes place in a fascist 23rd century Earth, as the planet wages war against an army of Arachnids from space.
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A brilliant satire of fascist agit prop dressed up as summer sci fi popcorn flick (in a style crying Milius = Eisenstein = Riefenstahl) played so straight, there's no comfortable distance for some viewers due to a lack of prestige to the main cast or obvious "wink''s. One of Verhoeven's best US films, this could be an effective propaganda in the right presentation, which is the highest compliment a satire can get.
It starts out as an idealistic society depicted like a Leni Riefenstahl movie, then it goes into an absurd war against absurd enemies. The amount of violence, the character's indifference to their comrades' deaths, the "roughneck" humor derivated from all the clichés of Nam, and of course the film, constantly interrupted by TV spots. This is extremely clever.
I'm amazed that so many in 1997 missed how clearly this is a satire. By the halfway mark, its skewered war movies, sci-fi, high school melodrama, and action heroes—and it makes a sly proposition that if our cultural avatars are bland, cheerfully fascistic action figures whose most defining characteristics are bloodlust and sex appeal, maybe we deserve to be eaten by giant space bugs after all. 4 out of 5 stars.
A beautifully stupid and epic film. Sprinkled throughout are elements of trashiness (the shower scene, the menu-like narrator, the end titles) but they all support a singular, epic vision of the Earth in the future, one that is critical and doubtful, sad and jacked-up. It's a masterpiece though, a many-edged sword, and tragically endless.
America, the human species. The outsiders, the aliens. The melting-pot militaristic society, thinking of any other group that is different as enemies, a threat, underestimating its enemies' intelligence. A bunch of soldiers, conformists to society not questioning any of its ideals and politics. Sugar-coated imperialistic propaganda in the government-controlled media. HELLO! This is America in a dystopic future! Duh!
A testament to how mindblowing Verhoeven's film is: While teaching at Wesleyan, Anthony Braxton once canceled class for a week after seeing this, leaving a note on the door saying - "There is nothing more I can teach you. All I can do now is ask you to watch Starship Troopers."