Reviewed by Scott Murdock
Rating: 8 Beans
uestion: What do you get when soap opera stars battle giant insects from the planet Klendathu?
Answer: You get your money back.
Five high school friends -- Jonny Rico ("One Life to Live" star and "Beverly Hills 90210" alum Casper Van Dien, whose most notable big screen appearance has been a role in "BeastMaster III"), Dizzy Florez (Dina Meyer, "Dragonheart" and TV's "Bevery Hills 90210"), Carmen Ibanez (Denise Richards, who has had a guest role on "Melrose Place"), Ace Levy (Jake Busey, "Contact" and "Twister"), and Carl Jenkins (Neil Patrick Harris, aka "Doogie Howser") -- sign up for military service after graduation. Throughout their experiences they are joined by Patrick Muldoon from "Melrose Place" and "Days of our Lives" and "Saved by the Bell", "Golden Girl" Rue McClanahan, and a continuing list of poor casting choices. It should be noted that the strongest performances come from Michael Ironside, known to sci-fi fans as Ham Tyler from the "V" saga, and from "Party of Five" guest star Brenda Strong, who sci-fi fans probably won't also recognize as a nurse from "Spaceballs".
If you have ever seen an episode of "Beverly Hills 90210", then you don't need to arrive at the theater until about 65 minutes into the movie. It is not until this point that the action begins, when oversized bugs from the planet Klendathu send a gigantic asteroid hurtling through space so that it slams into the Earth and destroys Buenos Aires. This is of course taken as an act of war.
Wait a minute. How stupid do the writers of this film think we are? Klendathu is shown on a map to be entirely on the opposite side of the galaxy. Even if the asteroid were traveling at the speed of light, it would take tens of millions of years to reach Earth, and that would be assuming that Earth would even sit still for that duration of time so that it could be hit by the asteroid when it arrived. The asteroid is clearly moving nowhere near the speed of light, a bulky star cruiser is easily able to maneuver around it as it drifts by.
Anyway, the humans arrive at the bug home world, only to achieve total defeat. Military Intelligence begins to theorize that it is possible at least some of the bugs have developed intelligence of their own. Wow... until then I guess everyone thought that manipulating asteroids to defy the laws of physics and precisely hit a target tens of millions of light-years away was just normal instinctive beetle behavior. (I think I read about that in "Mark Trail" just last week.) After that brilliant deduction the mission's new objective is to simply capture one of the intelligent insects. This allows the writers to bail out on us after 230 miserable minutes without ever bothering to bring any closure to the story.
Things to look for:
- The goal of the mission is total annihlation of the Klendathu insect population. Why not just stay in space and nuke the entire surface of the planet instead of landing on the planet and losing hundreds of thousands of soldiers in order to shoot the bugs one at a time? That would be like trying to kill every cockroach in New York City with a shoe.
- In the opening days of the war over 300,000 troops are killed and their corpses are left strewn all over the battlefields... unless they were "90210" cast members before joining the war effort. Watch as the entire war is momentarily halted so that the dead solider with "90210" experience can be given a proper funeral.
- Thrill as a passing asteroid exhibits strong gravitational effects on the objects inside a spacecraft, yet no such effects are noted as the same spacecraft approaches planets such as Jupiter and Klendathu. Also note that the extremely rapid acceleration of a ground shuttle and rapid deceleration of a crashing escape pod have no effect on the unrestrained occupants even though a passing asteroid can make coffee climb the side of a cup.
- A society than can build spaceships that travel to the opposite side of the galaxy in an extremely short time (a feat not even possible in "Star Trek") still uses standard-issue machine guns as the primary military weapon. (In fact, the troops TRAINED on better weapons than they were issued to fight this war.)
- Is Carmen just Little Miss Perfect or what? Wipe that smile off your face, girl, your entire family has just been killed and your friends are dying all around you.
- Any clue what the war is even about? There are vague references to territorial claims, but apart from the destruction of a small colony of Mormon extremists within established insect territory, there really seems to be no evidence of interspecies hostility until the bugs suddenly decide that the galaxy simply cannot be safe form them unless Buenos Aires is destroyed.
Unfortunately the special effects in this film are quite good, so I cannot completely recommend it as a bad movie. However, since the special effects are truly the only redeeming quality, I'm going to go ahead and give "Starship Troopers" 8 out of 10 beans.
Other reviews for this movie:
Roger M. Wilcox
Ken M. Wilson