Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers is still one of my all-time favourite science fiction books. For that reason alone, I avoided going to see Verhoeven’s film “adaptation”. To more than make up for that, here’s a great review of the film … by that, I mean the review is great, not the film:
We start off with a news report from the surface of the planet Klendathu, the bugs’ home world, where you will instantaneously flash on that Korean-war era song,
“Hear the sound of runnin’ feet
It’s the old First Cav in full retreat
They’re haulin’ ass,
Not savin’ gas,
They’ll soon be gone.”
Things are bad and getting worse, as a mob of Mobile Infantry types mill about, getting in each others’ lines of fire, screaming things like “Run for your life!” or words to that effect. It isn’t until later in the film that you discover that milling about is the only formation they practice regularly, and aimless running is their chief tactical mode.
[. . .]
Our heroes head to the surface, where they mill about some more. The concepts of formation, organization, and command and control appear to have been lost. They top a rise and stand in dumb amazement, one thumb in their mouth and one in their ass playing switch, as they see giant bugs expand with gas, then lift tail toward the sky and blast a blue-white fart of anti-spaceship gas up to where the fleet is in orbit.
Our guys stand shoulder to shoulder, firing at the mass of bugs, using a set of tactics that hasn’t worked well since Gettysburg. Actually, the guys at Gettysburg were a bit better better equipped for what they were doing, since they had artillery (a concept that has been lost, apparently) and weapons with an accurate range of over eight feet. Other lost concepts that would have proved Really Helpful here include close air support, mortars, air-dropped mines, barbed wire, fire, maneuver, cover, concealment, objectives, and useful orders. (I mean, “Kill everything that has more than two legs” is really neat, but “Go to coordinates XXYY, and set up a perimeter. Your covered arc runs from AA through CC. You’ll be linking up with Unit Name on your left and Other Unit Name on your right. Hold the position until you’re relieved by Unit Name. At that time go to YYZZ and await further orders” would have actually been helpful.) Nor, for that matter, do we have armored fighting vehicles, heavy machineguns, shoulder-launched missiles, or other stuff (a spray can of Raid?) that might have come in handy.
[. . .]
We go bug hunting again. And after an engagement that proves that a British Square from Waterloo would have done better than the MI at fighting bugs, we win anyway. We have a party! Dizzy and Johnny finally get it on. (I have to comment that I really liked the Special Effects in this film. Especially Dizzy’s left special effect and her right special effect. Carmen has even bigger special effects, but she never whips her shirt off so it’s hard to be sure.)