Starship Troopers is a 1997 American military science fiction thriller film directed by Paul Verhoeven and written by Edward Neumeier, loosely adapted from Starship Troopers, a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein. It is the only theatrically released film in the Starship Troopers franchise. The film had a budget estimated around $105 million and grossed over $121 million worldwide.
The story follows a young soldier named Johnny Rico and his exploits in the Mobile Infantry, a futuristic military unit. Rico’s military career progresses from recruit to non-commissioned officer and finally to officer against the backdrop of an interstellar war between mankind and an insectoid species known as “Arachnids”.
Starship Troopers was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects at the 70th Academy Awards in 1998. Director Verhoeven says his satirical use of irony and hyperbole is “playing with fascism or fascist imagery to point out certain aspects of American society… of course, the movie is about ‘Let’s all go to war and let’s all die.'”
In 2012, Slant Magazine ranked the film #20 on its list of the 100 Best Films of the 1990s.
In the future, Earth has become a spacefaring Federation. While colonizing new planets, humans have crossed paths with an insectoid race known as the Arachnids or “Bugs”, with their home being the distant world Klendathu. The bugs appear to be little more than killing machines, though there are suggestions that they were provoked by the intrusion of humans into their habitats.
In the Federation, citizenship is a privilege earned by serving through such activities as military service; citizens are granted opportunities prohibited to others. John “Johnny” Rico, his girlfriend Carmen Ibanez, and best friend Carl Jenkins attend high school in Buenos Aires. Fellow student Dizzy Flores is in love with Rico, but he does not reciprocate. They enlist in Federation service after graduation. Carmen becomes a spaceship pilot while psychically gifted Carl joins Military Intelligence. Rico enlists in the Mobile Infantry expecting to be with Carmen, but is surprised to find Dizzy, who wanted to be near him.
At Mobile Infantry training, brutal Career Sergeant Zim leads the recruits. Rico is promoted to squad leader and befriends Ace Levy. He later receives a Dear John letter from Carmen, as she desires a career with the fleet and serves under Rico’s high school sports rival, Zander Barcalow. After a live-fire training incident that kills one of Rico’s squad, he is demoted and flogged. Rico resigns and calls his parents, but the call is cut off when an asteroid, launched by the Arachnids, obliterates Buenos Aires, killing his family and millions more. Rico rescinds his resignation and remains with the Infantry as an invasion force is deployed to Klendathu.
The first strike on Klendathu is a disaster, with heavy casualties. Rico is wounded and mistakenly classified KIA, causing Carmen to believe he is dead. Rico, Ace and Dizzy are reassigned to the Roughnecks, commanded by Lieutenant Jean Rasczak, Rico’s former high school teacher. The Roughnecks respond to a distress call from Planet “P”, where they discover an outpost that has been decimated by Bugs. The distress call ends up being a trap and the Arachnids swarm the outpost. Rico euthanizes a mortally wounded Rasczak and Dizzy dies in Rico’s arms as they are rescued by Carmen and Zander. Rico and Carmen reconnect and encounter Carl at Dizzy’s funeral, now a high-ranking Intelligence officer. Carl reveals that there is reason to believe an intelligent “brain bug” is directing the other Bugs and can learn about the humans. He field-promotes Rico to Lieutenant and gives him command of the Roughnecks, ordering the infantry to capture the brain bug.
As Rico’s Roughnecks join the mission, the Fleet encounters fire from the Bugs and Carmen’s ship is destroyed. The escape pod carrying Carmen and Zander crashes into the Bug tunnel system near Rico. Unknowingly guided by a psychic suggestion from Carl, Rico takes soldiers Ace and Sugar Watkins into the tunnels to rescue both. They find Carmen and Zander surrounded by several types of Arachnids including the brain bug, which places its proboscis onto Zander’s skull and drains its contents. Before it can take Carmen’s brain she cuts off the proboscis with a knife. Rico threatens the Bugs with a small nuclear bomb, so the brain bug allows them to leave. Arachnids pursue them and Watkins is mortally wounded, sacrificing himself by detonating the nuke to kill them while the others escape. After returning to the surface, they find that former Sergeant Zim, who had demoted himself to private so that he could serve, has captured the brain bug. Carl congratulates Rico and tells him and Carmen that the humans will soon be victorious, now that Intelligence can study the brain bug, which is found to be afraid. A propaganda clip is shown starring Carmen, Ace and Rico as model servicemen, encouraging the viewer to enlist.
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