November 9, 1997 [Starship Troopers]

Oh, that Verhoeven: Who else could make a digitized gorefest out of Heinlein’s armchair-general lecture--more like a stubborn monologue delivered by a craggy grandpa, a glass of scotch, neat, cradled in his hand as he leans forward and pours out the wisdom of service and discipline and limited democracy.  As a book, Starship Troopers depends on grandpa often--as a movie, though, it puts his money where his mouth is, and it’s all service, and no armchairs allowed as the Roughnecks leap across desert terrain to gut and be gutted.  Their wills triumph as the Bugs are gloriously squished.

--And one more clever sledgehammer blow: Verhoeven trawls Melrose Place and Beverly Hills and offers up a succulent bevy of girls and boys to slap and tickle and shower and grit their teeth and growl and take a bite out of the Bugs--and get bitten as well, and how.  These kids are as smooth and shiny as a spaceship’s hull--but softer, all curve and bulge, their makeup and hair perfect, their soulful eyes erotic in the promise of ultra-violence--and OK, I thought of A Clockwork Orange, Alex’s own pale boyish face smiling with charm, spreading into a snarl, delivering deep wounds.  

Verhoeven’s twentysomething soap stars seem to be having the time of their lives--although none as much as ex-Doogie Howser, getting to be Doc again--but this time, what fun! He's a peach-fuzz Mengele jamming giant needles up the Bugs--the gloppy final shove censored by the TV, whose go-get-em-boys contributions on the Home Front add to the creepy grin the movie wears all the way through.  Starship Troopers’ ten-ton satire is almost pornographic in its sadomasochistic attention to every detail of this "iron dream," but it knows what it’s doing and leaves me a little shamefaced to admit how much I enjoyed it.


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