The Best Scenes of Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers

The Best Scenes of Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers
The Best Scenes of Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers

Starship Troopers is nuts. No, really. If you’ve never seen Paul Verhoeven’s 1997 sci-fi action spectacle about a group of wide-eyed soldiers who join Earth’s battle against a hoard of violent insects, you’re missing out. At the time of its release, the satirical epic earned mediocre reviews and ticket sales but has since become a cult favorite thanks to its spectacular special effects, clever satire, and absurd comedy. This movie is hilarious, down to the over-the-top gore and those goofy propaganda films. Is it a significant bit of sci-fi made by a genius or a silly epic made by a crazy man who once positioned a cyborg cop as a literal Jesus Christ figure? You decide.

While not a cultural phenomenon in the vein of Verhoeven’s RoboCop or Total Recall, both of which are far superior efforts from our Dutch pal, Starship Troopers demands your attention. It’s a rip-roaring good time for those who can stomach the gruesome violence, look past the wooden acting, and are in the market for a lot of Verhoeven’s not-so-subtle politics. So in case you need further prompting, and to celebrate the film’s 25th anniversary, here are the best scenes from the action epic.

Klendathu Drop

Starship Troopers may be an allegory for fascism — particularly of the Nazi variety — but it still features plenty of epic moments expertly designed for the big screen. Check out this bit, dubbed the “Klendathu Drop,” which gives us our first taste of the action and mayhem that dominates the film’s latter stages. The dated VFX (remember it was 1997) and cheesy acting (which may or may not have been by design) are hard to ignore, but the ambition and technical skill level are incredible.

Propaganda

Those familiar with Paul Verhoeven will recognize his love of mock commercials. We saw this gimmick deployed in RoboCop and again in Starship Troopers to great effect. Starship Troopers was my first foray into Verhoeven’s mad world, so the jarring comedic overtones surprised me initially. However, I’ve come to appreciate them now that I have a firmer grasp of Verhoeven’s style. Pay particular attention to the crazy mother happily celebrating violence enacted by her children at the 2:25 mark in the video below — that bit gets me every time.

Live Ammo Training Sequence

Early in the film, we see our heroes — Johnny Rico, Dizzy Flores, and Ace Levy — tackle a wide-open training course using live ammunition (while hundreds of extras hustle about in the background — glaring oversight or more of Verhoeven’s goofy humor?). The exercise goes as planned until one of the soldiers removes his helmet and loses his head via a stray bullet. The moment introduces our characters to the horrors of war and ends with Rico being whipped. Oh, Hank from Breaking Bad delivers the whipping orders. The 90s were wild.

The live ammo sequence would be harrowing if not for the campy way it’s shot, edited, and acted. It’s hard to tell if the filmmakers are actually going for it or mocking the entire militaristic venture.

“Of course, we really, really tried to get away from [Robert A. Heinlen’s] novel, because we felt that the novel was fascistic and militaristic,” the director remarked about a potential Starship Troopers remake during a screening of the film at the Film Society of Lincoln Center (via Spin). “… Going back to the novel would fit very much in a Trump Presidency.”

Either way, it’s an effective example of Verhoeven’s go-for-broke filmmaking style. You either go with it or tune out completely.

The Shower Scene

This selection comes with a disclaimer — as Arnold Schwarzenegger once said: “I’m not a pervert!” Choosing the coed shower bit in Starship Troopers as a high point may seem like a weird  decision on my part, but a lot is boiling under the surface in this seemingly gratuitous scene. As Verhoeven told Empire: “The idea I wanted to express was that these so-called advanced people are without libido. Here they are talking about war and their careers and not looking at each other at all! It is sublimated because they are fascists.”

This guy did direct Showgirls, so the shower scene may be little more than an effort to draw publicity using the ever-alluring power of sex. Verhoeven was naked during the shoot, which muddies the water further, so to speak. At any rate, here we have an example of the lengths Verhoeven is willing to go to get his point across. We shouldn’t be surprised: this man dedicated 90% of Hollow Man to Kevin Bacon’s schlong.

(I’m not posting the shower scene here, but I’m sure it exists somewhere on the world wide web for your viewing pleasure.)

Every Scene with Michael Ironside

A carryover from Verhoeven’s Total Recall, Michael Ironside is the de facto MVP of Starship Troopers. The grizzled vet makes dumb dialogue sound great — “I need a corporal. You’re it until you’re dead or till I find somebody better!” — and damn near steals the show until he blows up during a gruesome desert battle. He fits the material like a glove — and no, I’m not sure if that’s a compliment.

The Ending

At the end of Starship Troopers, Rico reunites with his gal pal Carmen (Denise Richards, swoon) and manages to find and expose the Brain Bug controlling the other insect species. Nazi Neil Patrick Harris arrives and psychically deduces that the Brain Bug is afraid, which causes our heroes to rejoice.

“They’re very happy to continue at the end into more war,” Verhoeven told Empire. “It’s a very depressing movie!”

Indeed, the final scene is another propaganda flick that shows the Brain Bug enduring a seemingly X-rated examination. At the same time, our heroes enthusiastically take their place in new positions within the United Citizen Federation — which means they can apply for a license to have kids, vote, and run for public office! Hooray! Of course, we always knew fascism was terrible. Thanks to Starship Troopers, now we know why.

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