A Review by Noah Antwiler
Robert A. Heinlein's novels, in my opinion, are very insightful books that usually have quite a lot to say. I think people read Heinlein novels not for the science fiction elements, but for the exploration of the human situation. Most of the time, he seems to explore social issues such as the role of the family, men, women, the military, the government. I personally find his books to be overly didactic, and most of the time the plot is just a clothesline on which to hang extended essays about his views on these matters. I have only read Starship Troopers, The Puppet Masters, and Stranger In A Strange Land, so I'm by no means a Heinlein scholar, but I actually find Heinlein's style very effective and his novels are always very thought provoking. There's only one thing handicapping Heinlein's books.
He is insane.
Starship Troopers is probably Heinlein's tamest novel in terms of expressing his controversial views. This book explores the role of violence as the dominant way to resolve disputes, translated faithfully into the movie. It also introduces an odd form of government where the democracy is given to an elite class of citizens who must earn voting rights through civic service in the armed forces. Sort of a funky democratic/fascist government. It's much deeper than all that, and Heinlein actually presents a convincing case that such a government might be ideal, despite his relatively weak justification that this government was adopted simply because "It just worked." Or you could argue that it's a satirical argument against such a government. Whatever floats your dropship. The Puppet Masters gets rather comical by introducing an alien threat that eventually requires the world to walk around entirely naked. Constantly. But where it gets really weird is in the near-allegorical retelling of the Christ story in Stranger In A Strange Land, where Heinlein introduces a savior that encourages free, repetitive, and very public sex with many, many partners. It gets even weirder still when this same savior shares these wacko orgies with entire families, encouraging incestuous behavior.
And that's where he starts to lose you. I read once that if you want to read Heinlein, you should avoid Stranger, because he can really scare you off. I've also read that the rest of his books can get even weirder still. The man has some really out-there ideas that just weren't for me, such as not really seeing much of a problem with incest. So odds are good that eventually, most people will jump off the Heinlein bandwagon sooner or later. But he's undoubtedly contributed some of the finer sci-fi novels to the world.
But that has nothing to do with the movie.
The movie is, well, not the book. At all. Here is a complete list of the ways in which the book and the movie are the same:
- Some of the characters in the movie happen to have the same names as other characters in the book.
- There are indeed hostile bugs that live on a planet called Klendathu.
- The system of government is basically the same.
- There is a scene in which a grizzled sociology teacher explains that violence can solve any problem.
And that's about it. Basically, you've got a movie about gung-ho commando types-- all of whom look like models-- fighting an army of CG bugs. And then they sprinkled Heinlein juice on it to give it flavor. As such, there are two ways a viewer can take this movie. As a serious interpretation of the Heinlein novel-- in which case you will be horrified, offended, and probably walk out of the theater-- or as a generally witless over-the-top action movie that knows precisely how campy it is. I know a lot of people that have serious mental anguish over this movie, and if you even mentioned the words "Starship Troopers" in their presence, they will go on for an hour about how much they hated it. I personally never liked television or movies labeled "campy" because that just really means "intentionally bad." If you make a movie intentionally lame, is it still not lame? You can't just make a crappy movie, throw winks to the camera every chance you get, and expect us to forgive how bad the movie is because you meant it to be stupid. And yet, movies like Cabin Fever and the Batman movies are praised for their camp and kitch values.
So it was with conflicted hearts that we approached Starship Troopers, because there's arguably no sport in taking shots at a movie that knows it sucks. So I really watched the movie closely (probably more closely than it ever deserved to be watched) to see if it is indeed a campy romp through a clichéd war movie. I no longer think it is. There are certainly satirical elements in the film, primarily the newsreel-style footage with the tagline "Would You Like To Know More?" But upon listening to the director's commentary, I find that the satire is not aimed towards mocking the war movie, but more towards mocking fascism and the sort of "manifest destiny" American imperialism demonstrated in the movie. I don't remember any time in which the director, Paul Verhoeven, admits to camping the movie up, or having a laugh at the cheesiness of it all. He actually seems quite earnest in his exploration of the fascist imagery in the film. It seems he has a gift at satirizing the American media's style of news delivery, especially in his earlier film Robocop, which is very similar in tone.
I no longer think it's camp he was going for, just a really over-the-top action extravaganza that'd be a lot of fun. You watch that football scene and you'll get the picture. Most people heard the line "They sucked his brains out," marveled that Michael Ironside could say it with a straight face, and decided a line THAT bad had to be camp. Might have been, but the movie still sucks.
I remember with fondness how many people begged me-- literally begged me-- on message boards and private e-mails to do Starship Troopers as an Experiment. I'm still really shocked at how much venom people had at this movie. I mean, I didn't like it, but there are nerds that must burn Verhoeven in effigy in their basements next to their shrines to Sephiroth. It does really go against almost everything represented in the book, and thoroughly soils the title with its badness. It's got no jumping mechs-- the trademark weapon of the Federaration's Mobile Infantry, the characters are all wrong, and so on. Evidently, Heinlein is credited with inspiring the whole mecha-in-anime culture with some of the people I've talked with. If you don't get understand, you have to realize that these fans were completely betrayed by this movie. You can't just steal a title from an established story and discard the story. You have to at least try and involve the source material here. These fans got hit with a bait-and-switch. It's like going into a movie called Moby Dick and suddenly being blindsided with 90 minutes of David Arquette and Carrot Top chasing a whale around on jet skis, shouting their collect call telephone plan jingles at each other. You can name Arquette's character Queequeg if you like, you're still going to piss people off.
After writing the Experiment for this movie, I have newfound respect for the MST3K guys, especially since they go through the movies more than we do. The previous experiment, Dungeons & Dragons, took about two days of writing. The work went pretty fast and we went right to recording. But this movie took literally ten times as long to get through. I can't really explain why this could be, but Troopers proved to be a completely soul-crushing experience when forced to actually sit down and pay attention to it. We kept putting writing sessions off for the next day, and often could no longer take the movie for any more than 2 hours at a time. And I really don't think this is because we're getting lazy, I rather think it's because we'd just seen Starship Troopers 2, and were on about our 3rd writing session to discover to our horror we'd only gotten an hour into the film AND FOUND WE HAD ANOTHER 70 MINUTES TO GO. This movie is devastatingly long and at that point, we had already burned out on the film. And yes, Starship Troopers 2 is a far, FAR worse film.
The basic premise is simple: human colonization has extended to the stars, and McDonalds has so many franchises now that the number must be expressed in exponential notation. This expansion has gotten the race into trouble, however, as they've intruded on a hive-minded race of bugs (called, appropriately, "The Bugs") that don't take kindly to intruding monkeys. The Bugs exterminate humans where they can find them and routinely chuck asteroids at Earth from clear across the galaxy. How the Bugs know where Earth is, and how they're able to throw rocks with perfect accuracy at such an awesome distance is never made clear. I'm also no physicist, but I should imagine these rocks would take thousands of years to cross the intervening distance between planets, even assuming they were hurled at the speed of light. This makes the Bugs' aim all the more impressive, since planets and stars are in constant motion during this time. If this is not the case, then the Bugs must have some way of tossing rocks at a speed much higher than light speed, which is impossible. It would also make the asteroids impossible to intercept as demonstrated in the opening newsreel. And so, we combat this threat with the Mobile Infantry and the Fleet. The Mobile Infantry is a group of jarheads who wear plastic armor with morale that would shatter if they saw the Sharks from West Side Story approaching.
The hero is Johnny Rico, a blond-haired, blue-eyed young American with a manly man's square jaw and nice teeth. He has nothing to do with the book's Johhny Rico, who is supposed to be a Filipino. I'm not sure what a Filipino was doing in Buenos Aires, but the Johhny Rico in the movie is still quite out of place. He's about the least "Rico" looking person you could find aside from Dustin Diamond, and I should think for a hero who lives in Buenos Aires named Rico, you might cast someone who looks-- you know-- Argentinean. Brazilian, Chilean, Mexican, Spanish, ANYONE who might be able to justify that their name is Rico without being the whitest white boy around. Before you ask, nope, he's not an adopted Rico, since his mom and dad are white too! It's stuff like this that happens right away in a movie that just plain distracts me, wondering what convoluted history led to the odd twist of fate where this guy got named Rico. Although you're not watching Starship Troopers to see a movie that makes sense, you're watching it to see stuff blow up.
Johnny is in love with a local girl named Carmen Ibanez, played by Denise Richards. This is even more laughable than Whitey Rico, because of all the people you imagine might conceivably be called Carman Ibanez, it sure ain't Denise Richards. They go to the same high school with Doogie Howser, M.D. and a girl who has a crush on Johnny, Dizzy Flores. Dizzy is played by Dina Meyer, who also looks nothing remotely like someone named Flores. It's an interesting note that 99.9% of the people I see in this Argentinean high school are white, over the age of 25, and all attractive. There appear to be no native citizens of Buenos Aires here at all, and everyone here has become the physical ideal of human beauty, and everyone speaks English. There are no real geeks, fat kids, skinny kids, smelly kids, or goths that went to my high school. The entire campus looks like a modeling school where the women wear dresses that would have had the security at my school sending them home to change immediately. But then, my school was kind of puritanical. The point is, in this movie clearly America has invaded Argentina and put all the citizenry to death, populating the country primarily with Caucasian runway models.
Johhny is also captain of the football team. The movie takes us to the last game of the season where Johhny's team is taking on the Giants. Not the New York Giants, presumably from another Argentinean school populated entirely by white people. This is probably the most hilarious scene in the movie because of how ridiculously over the top the action is. When stiff-armed or hit, anyone who is not a major cast member flies backwards comically as if they were shot with a high powered rifle in a Lethal Weapon movie. When Rico, Zander, or Dizzy break tackles, everyone they even remotely touch is catapulted backwards as if hit by a truck or repelled by some awesome haymaker to the face. This proves that having a defensive line composed entirely of stuntmen is a bad idea. Johnny can also apparently do a running somersault clearing 8 vertical feet, even throwing in a twisting pike to impress the judges. Either that, or football fields of the future come with trampolines or pneumatic stunt catapults at the 20-yard line. They also don't appear to follow the rules of football, since there are no kickoffs, and there are no PATs. Even arena football has kickoffs. It's also funny because no flags are thrown for blatant personal fouls, and incredible that three touchdowns are made on three consecutive plays. But the funniest bit must be that Dina Meyer is the team quarterback. Excuse me a moment.
HA HA HA HA!!!!!
Allow me to clarify. Gender equality is a major component of this movie. Co-ed football, co-ed showers, co-ed military units that are free to fraternize. Gender equality is a very good thing. It is also not always true. Football is such an example. Dina Meyer might truly be tough as nails, but in any high school football game there would be some very large, very angry 300 lbs. men who would spear her so hard, she'd snap like a saltine cracker. She must be quicker than a hiccup, because most of the football players I've seen in my time would be all too happy to hit a QB so hard his head would fly off, and then drink the blood from his neck stump. They're REALLY REALLY big people. Not to say that Rico is a football-worthy physical specimen either. I'd like to see him take a pass up the middle and get destroyed by a free safety at a full run.
Anyway, the opposing team captain (Zander), keeps hitting on Rico's chick. Zander is played by Patrick Muldoon, but he looks and sounds so much like Rob Lowe from The West Wing and Wayne's World it's terrifying. Rico is understandably jealous since Carmen obliviously eats up every line Zander throws her way. Carmen at all times seems to be on a reefer high, or at least possessed of a stupidity that would make Paris Hilton shrink in awe. Since she looks nothing like someone named Carmen Ibanez, I hereby dub her Space Bimbo. I now call Zander Space Rob. because he's Rob Lowe...IN SPACE!!! Space Bimbo tells Rico that she's leaving to the Academy immediately after graduation to train as a pilot in the space fleet. I find this rather amusing since Space Bimbo seems ill-suited to pilot a golf cart, much less a ship with warp drive. Space Bimbo is the kind of high-maintenance chick that you constantly need to impress to assert dominance, else she realizes what a loser you are and moves on to more worthy mates. So it is thus that Space Bimbo drags Rico by his manhood into federal service because (for some mysterious reason) he loves her.
Rico is hard-pressed to out-think a dead muskrat, and his piss-poor test scores earn him a one-way ticket into the Mobile Infantry. They used to call it the Dead Meat Walking, but morale plummeted. Space Bimbo's scores are great (yeah, right) and she gets accepted into the Academy. Doogie's a psychic (just roll with it) and gets put into Military Intelligence. This whole segment's taken up about 20 godawful minutes so far, and it's only now that Rico's going to BOOT CAMP. He's not even close to going out to fight Bugs, and this is when despair starts to set in.
Rico gets sent to army boot camp, and is promptly shouted at for the remainder of his stay by the hardassed, perpetually angry Career Sergeant Zim. This is unfortunate since any boot camp scene involving a hardassed shouting drill sergeant is immediately labeled a ripoff of Full Metal Jacket, whether true or not. Nothing really happens in this part of the movie, except to transition Rico away from Buenos Aires while the bugs drop a gigantic rock on it, which fuels him with feelings of revenge against the Bugs. To further rip off FMJ, though, we have to spend an inordinate amount of time watching Rico and Dizzy (who stalks him all the way into requesting a transfer into his unit) run obstacle courses and train and stuff. The other two main functions of this scene are to introduce the character named Ace, played by a most unwelcome Jake Busey and the only talked-about scene of the movie.
THE CO-ED SHOWER SCENE!!!
In one of the most unlikely twists of fate, the director opts to go a step further with his gender equality angle and boldly demonstrates that in the future, men and women in the military shower together! This is a laughably impossible scenario even for the most wildly fantastic science fiction, because men simply aren't wired to handle that kind of visual input. For centuries, men are conditioned to keep their eyes level and pay attention to the present business. It's the Shower Code, eyes up, clean up, get out. But all of a sudden you throw naked breasts and soap into the mix, and the instinctive male's eyes are drawn like moths to a flame to stare like idiots. Even assuming nobody's worried about sexual harassment, discrimination, or violence, you have to imagine that if you put chicks like Dina Meyer naked in a shower in a room full of marines, someone's going to lose an eye.
Training continues for Rico, which seems to consist only of the most unimportant tasks like running the Eliminator course from American Gladiators and throwing knives. I see the value in athletic ability, but the days of training to throw knives seems rather pointless. "The enemy cannot push a button if you disable his hand!" Zim declares. Yeah. But I could shoot him in the face with my rifle, too. I'd also be genuinely surprised to learn if modern marine knives are balanced for accurate throwing, anyway. Another activity is the laser tag course where Rico and Dizzy show off their impossible football moves to kill the other team and capture their flag. I wonder why they're not being trained traditionally in firing actual rifles for a brief time until I find out in the next scene.
During their first live fire exercise, the squad proves to be entirely inept and unable to check their own fire, and Cadet Hick gets capped in the head. It seems they've never learned a damn thing about safe weapons usage, nor even trained to fire from a stationary position. Nope, here they're given live ammo and told to run forward spraying their weapons like idiots. But hey, they're professionals. I'm sure nobody will be hurt.
But even if they were well-trained, I question the logic of the military introducing target drones that fire lasers which cause electrical shocks and involuntary muscle spasms that could accidentally trigger the discharge of an automatic weapon. Rather than Rico's ignorance, the liability probably lies with the Federation's extremely badly thought-out training exercise. But Rico takes the fall anyway, and Captain Chip-Tooth decrees that he be given "administrative punishment." Which is really just a fancy term for The Spanking Machine.
Meanwhile, Space Bimbo is training at the fleet Academy. We're led to believe this is all happening roughly at the same time since we see several video-mails exchanged between Rico and herself, so color me surprised when she rushes out to a space shuttle AND FLIES IT SOLO. She pulls Skywalker-worthy twists and turns through the fleet shipyards that, if any competent officer ever saw, would have her flight status revoked before you could say "Wild Things sucked." Here I go again bringing the real world into this, but I know for certain that you have to train for years before the Air Force will let you fly an aircraft, yet she's referred to as "Cadet" at this time and seemingly given carte blanche to fly as crazy as she likes with people's lives on the line, despite a bad reputation that seems to have circulated through the entire base. But it gets worse; she's allowed to helm a battle cruiser! So after a week or two, Rico's still throwing knives, and Space Bimbo's already cleared to fly shuttlecraft and capital-scale warships? I guess math really is important after all.
Space Bimbo lands and meets the bridge crew as she takes the helm. The captain reminds me eerily of Captain Janeway from Star Trek: Voyager, which is never a pleasant reminder. And Space Bimbo's supervising instructor is, get this, Zander from the football game. Excuse me a moment.
THEY GRADUATED AT THE SAME TIME! THEY ENTERED THE ACADEMY AT THE SAME TIME AND THEY WENT THROUGH THE EXACT SAME TRAINING! IT'S ONLY BEEN A WEEK, AND HE'S AN INSTRUCTOR ALREADY? WHAT THE HELL!!
This movie has a very skewed perception of time. If the protagonists are fresh out of high school, they're no more than 18 or 19 years old, and there's no way in hell an 18 year old is entrusted with the helming of a capital ship or allowed to train recruits. Further, it's incredible to believe that Rico's still stuck running an obstacle course while Zander and the Bimbo are already the active helm officers on a real military operation.
Space Bimbo, once given control of the helm, continues to show off and endanger the ship with her reckless behavior. Once again, any competent supervisor or captain would have her brigged quicker than a gnat farts. The ship prepares to head out, and Zander commands Space Bimbo to engage the Warp Drive. Yes, the Warp Drive. Full power, Scotty! But they don't engage it yet; Zander feels compelled to mount the tension and issues a rather strange countdown by shouting "5! 4! Ready! Steady! Go!" Ready steady go? Has anyone ever issued a countdown on ready-steady-go in military history? No? Know why they didn't? BECAUSE IT MAKES YOU SOUND LIKE A DORK! And never mind that the countdown has seemingly no purpose whatsoever other than to prepare you for a blast of noise and CG that'll "wow" you.
Zander wastes no time in moving in on Rico's chick, complimenting her on her ability to, quote, "lick my navs." This quote is in top contention for the goofiest line in the film, because there's no way it could have looked good even on paper. It just sounds dirty, but Zander is really complimenting the navigational route she's planned, which is apparently an optimal flight path. I will in no way minimize the complexities of astronavigation, but come on, it's a straight line! Can't a computer do that kind of thing by now anyway? Unfortunately, this optimal route sends them right down the throat of a bug meteor. (What ARE the odds of that happening by chance in the vast infinity of space?) Instead of immediately taking evasive action, they nonsensically break out the emergency thrusters whose button is rather inconveniently encased in glass (?) and proceed to count down (?) before engaging them. Why would you wait to get CLOSER to the giant meteor before activating the super thrusters? Just TURN! Did they feel they needed a challenge or something? The rock hits the ship anyway and tears off a sizable hunk of the dorsal side which was probably pretty important, proving once again that women are lousy drivers. Captain Janeway is rather glib about the whole affair though, despite losing several crewmen and actually compliments them on their excellent piloting! Seems to me their piloting got a lot of your boys killed, Cap. They weren't paying attention to their post and were actually busy flirting with each other when the meteor caught them by surprise.
Naturally, Space Bimbo immediately cheats on Rico and dumps him like week-old takeout food at the earliest opportunity. Disheartened, Rico immediately quits and is rather upset to learn that the bugs dropped a meteor on Buenos Aires (why?) which puts the kaibosh on his welcome home party, since Chuck E. Cheese has been pulverized into a zillion flaming bits. Rico entreats Captain Chip-Tooth (who really should get that thing looked at) to let him return to active duty, since all his clothes are toast. Rico gets back in easily and finally-- FINALLY-- we're getting to the actual war.
NOT! They're organizing for the major offensive! More talking! Yayyyy! As the troopers muster for the invasion, Rico runs into his ex and promptly picks a fight with him. Actually, Rico demonstrates considerable restraint. If this guy had stolen my chick I'd probably have cranked him over the head with a steel folding chair from behind and run away before he woke up. The most surprising twist is that Zander is rather anxious to brawl with Rico who IS a trained marine. Most marines I know wouldn't even breathe hard after feeding an Air Force jet jockey his own elbows. The two fight to a relatively even match (proving this is science fiction) before they're separated.
The first major battle on the human offensive is at the bug homeworld of Klendathu (gezundheit!) which, naturally, is a complete rout for the marines. Thoroughly unprepared, the marines mount a land invasion ON FOOT across the desolate landscape, and proceed to get cut to pieces in short order. It doesn't help that the marines' morale breaks like the wind in a Taco Bell, and their rifles seem to be wholly inadequate to even piss the bugs off. It takes a dozen of them to corral and put down a single arachnid warrior, which means the bugs are destined to win by attrition alone. Even more mystifying is what the infantry hopes to achieve with this land invasion, since the bugs appear not to have any cities or industrial complexes of strategic importance. Charging blindly across the surface of the planet seems to be just lining up for the slaughter, which is exactly what happens. The bug counterattack comprised of brightly colored warrior bugs and giant tick-looking things that launch gigantic blue balls of flame from their asses which can destroy targets in space proves to be too much for the infantry, forcing them into a full retreat.
In space, things aren't going much better. It seems the space fleet's primary tactic is to cluster their slow, unwieldy ships in a formation so tight if the captain farted, the vibration would be felt 4 ships away. They're packed so tightly together, the Ass Bug Flak doesn't even need to be that accurate to cause near-total devastation on the fleet. The formation further cripples them because damaged ships and explosions causes massive collisions and even further casualties. They're unable to even take the most modest evasive action. I remind you, gentle reader, that space happens to be quite vast. There's lots of room for everybody! Why are they all packed together like boxed foam peanuts?
Rico, gravely wounded from the battle, recuperates from his injuries by floating in a glass tank full of green fluid (where have I seen that before?). Zander and Space Bimbo make a token effort to see if Rico survived, but he's listed as KIA. Being observant for the first time in her existance, Space Bimbo notes, "It's strange, there's almost no missing or wounded," to which Zander ponderously replies "Bugs don't take prisoners."
Wow. That's deep.
The newsreels inform us that the Sky Marshal in charge of this whole military snafu basically got laughed out of office for such a ridiculous failure. We're talking Italian tank offensive bad. So there's a new Sky Marshal and a new battle plan: "To fight the bug, we must understand the bug." Hey, wow, I'm seriously impressed that there's a voice of reason around here. This is a valid strategy, phrased in a way most likely to illicit giggles from even the most serious-minded viewer. There's no rest for the recuperated Rico, and he's thrust back into a new group. This group is led by Rico's old cynical and wholly bitter sociology teacher, Mr. Rasczak, who's got a new chromed cybernetic hand to replace his old war amputation. Good thing he joined the ARMy, eh? Ha ha ha ha!
All right, that was bad, and I apologize.
You can really tell Michael Ironside is having a good time with this movie because he growls out his lines with a hardassed earnestness and intensity that actually reminds us of what good, fun acting is. You know, sorta like R. Lee Ermey's Full Metal Jacket drill sergeant with a Clint Eastwood "make my day" angle. Ironside can actually elevate most terrible material like this from the diahhroea it usually is to something actually memorable...if no less goofy. He makes history as being the best actor to date to growl out the line "They sucked his brains out," with the most dramatic, honest, straight face ever EVER. Yeah I mean the line is stupid, but imagine having to actually say that line in a movie and keep from grinning. His utterance of the line "If you see a bug-hole, NUKE IT" is also worthy of praise. Once again, he elevates bad dialogue to something entertaining! He can't work miracles, though.
The marines land on Planet P-- yeah, can you believe that? Planet P?-- and quickly find that the planet crawls. The infantry journeys briefly and battles with a giant napalm-spewing cricket, or a dog tick or something, that Rico dispatches with his football acrobatics (really) and a hand grenade shoved up its ass (really). It's also here that we discover that bugs are filled entirely with Nickelodeon goop products. I leave the science to you.
They find a ruined outpost that's either been totally trashed by the bugs or was simply the recent site of a Rammstein concert. Eager to get the hell out of Dodge, one team sweeps for survivors and Fudge Popsicles in the mess hall, while the other tries to get the radio working. It's here that they find the aforementioned fellow with the sucked brains, as well as a panicking future vision of Private Hudson from Aliens promoted to a general, hiding in the freezer. In between chewing the scenery and shouting "Game over, man!" the General reveals that there's some kind of new bug that actually has an independent intelligence that laid a trap for them. Rasczak gets tired of his bitching and wuss-slaps him down. The bugs attack right on cue, leading to the showcase battle of the movie. It ain't the Battle of Helm's Deep; the movie clearly suffers from the lack of an effeminate platinum-blond ninja elf. But it's actually not too bad. Oh it's chock-full of war clichés being shouted back and forth like "Lock and load!" "Reload! Reload!" "Hold the line!" "Last one! Make it count!" "Incoming!" "We need retrieval!" and "Where's my communications??", but it's still kinda cool.
It's still entirely stupid, of course, but kinda cool. For example, looking over the wall, the troopers can see the horde of bugs for miles ahead of them. This seems an ideal time to break out those much-flaunted rocket-powered nukes they used not 5 minutes previously in the film to wipe out an entire bug nest. Against a swarming force like this, I would think they'd pack a whole bunch of these weapons to neutralize the bugs' numbers advantage, but there's not an explosive to be seen. I guess they forgot them. A second rather strange omission to this battle are the hand grenades which only Rico and Dizzy ever seem to carry. Instead, the troopers hold the walls with their laughably ineffectual rifles. In this situation, it's rather like trying to kill a swarm of bull elephants with paintball guns. But in a funky twist of inconsistency, the rifles actually pile up the bodies rather quickly until the corpses actually mount over the walls. Previously it took half the platoon 15 seconds of concentrated rifle fire to slay a single bug, but now they're stacking up like student loan payments.
The bugs manage to burrow under the fort and take Rasczak by surprise by snatching him from underneath. It must have been ridiculously easy for the bugs to do this, since the fort seems to be constructed over a foundation of sawdust and kitty litter. Rico puts him out of his misery with a rifle shot to the chest (And be honest, don't you envy him at this point?) as a rescue dropship arrives to pull them out of danger. The dropship is piloted by none other than Space Bimbo and Zander, who not only are responsible for piloting the carrier, but also for piloting emergency retrieval missions. Dizzy dispatches another one of those napalm-belching ticks with a hurled grenade down his gob like a football pass (is there anything football can't teach us?). But she, too, is slain by the bugs who punch her full of more holes than the current Star Wars continuity.
Rico drags her onto the dropship where she has a tender death scene with Rico, who has actually been a Grade A jerk to her up to this point. I honestly doubt she'd be able to even whimper a pithy catch phrase with the injuries she took, much less a heroic death speech, but hey if it gets the movie closer to the end, I don't care. At least it wasn't as long as Trinity's death scene. JEEEEEZ.
Back home, Rico meets up with Doogie from high school, who seems to have been fully inducted into the Hitler Youth. With the grey gestapo getup, he looks like some space version of Colonel Klink. Once again, the funky movie time takes effect, as Doogie's made the rank of full colonel in LESS THAN A YEAR. Der Komissar promotes Rico to the rank of lieutenant (his authority to do this is doubtful), and declares ominously, "We're going back to P." With dialogue like this, I sometimes wonder if I even need to be here.
Once Rico returns to P (tee hee), he promptly steals all of Rasczak's best schtick and uses it on his new group of privates, who also came to P (tee hee!). All of these new reinforcements are supposed to be recruits straight out of boot, and it sure looks like it. They look more like my junior high pep band than an elite military unit. Their mission: capture the brain bug! The bugs deploy their asstillery and turn it on the space fleet in high orbit. Once again, for reasons unknown, the entire fleet is clustered so tightly together, if you reached out the window, you could probably touch the ship next to you. You know, if explosive decompression didn't kill you horribly. The ships are once again entirely unable to avoid the barrage because of their awkward, nonsensical formation, and promptly cut to pieces. Space Bimbo's ineffective piloting gets the ship nailed dead-on by an ass blast (women drivers), and the ship is crippled. The captain gets crushed beneath a blast door as Zander and the Bimbo flee, and taking the prize for worst-acted scene in the movie, Captain Janeway gives the heroic speech "Abandon ship! That's an orr-uhhh--ugggggghhhhh..." as uber-heroic Souza band music plays to inspire us. For the next two minutes, Zander and Bimbo indulge themselves in lots of the action movie orgiastic shots of "Protagonists Running Away From The Gigantic Explosion." They reach the escape pods and blast off.
After many more shots of "Protagonists Flying Away From Giant Explosions" that space movies always have, Bimbo aims them square at Planet P. Zander scouts out a landing zone as they enter the atmosphere and once again refuses to deploy the drag chutes until he's given a "3! 2! 1!" countdown for absolutely no reason. I'm not sure why Zander keeps insisting on these countdowns, since they usually only serve to get them into more trouble and they're not really serving any purpose. Space Bimbo proves once again that women can't drive by crashing the escape pod into a sheer cliff face! Fortunately for our heroes, the mountainside proves to be hollow(!) and they land safely in some kind of cavern. Luckily, the escape pod is fully equipped with loaded infantry rifles and armor. Did I say luckily? I meant implausibly.
The bugs quickly enter the cavern and Zander holds them off with his guns until they're overpowered and captured. Sorta blows that whole "Bugs don't take prisoners" thing out of the water, don't it? Guess it's just the Klingons who don't. The Brain Bug (henceforth known as "Jabba the Bug") enters the chamber. Jabba the Bug is a goofy-looking mealworm-tyle creature with some kind of oral opening that looks like the terrifying final stage of a horribly disfiguring feminine STD outbreak. It's really goopy and nasty. The bugs hold Zander down and the Brain Bug plunges its natural drinking straw into his skull, sucking his brains out! (It doesn't take long.) Space Bimbo is next, although I'm sure the brain bug senses she's barely a snack, but she lashes out with her commando knife, slicing off his...uh...drinking thing. This makes me look like a complete fool for questioning Sergeant Zim's previous sage advice, "The enemy cannot suck out your cerebral cortex if you slice off his drinking straw." Or something like that.
They're about to kill SB when Rico finally makes the save, brandishing a tactical nuke in his hand. Jabba the Bug holds his drone warriors back, inventing some kind of weird new standoff. Jabba makes his retreat while Rico saves the Bimbo. The bugs attack swiftly, forcing the group into retreat. The guy-who-goes-with-them-but-whose-name-I-never-bothered-to-learn is wounded and grabs up the nuke, telling Rico to run while he still can! This is all supposed to be very heart-wrenching and heroic, but do remember that we're fighting giant cockroaches, and we never really bother to learn anything about this guy, so his sacrifice is kind of emotionally ambiguous. This was all really just to set up another "Heroes running away from a giant explosion" shot anyway, and that's just what we get. Gee, Space Bimbo's running awfully well for being stabbed through a major shoulder artery and/or lung.
Rico & Carmen emerge from the bowels of P to a scene of mass celebration! The movie's over! But that's not entirely why they're happy. Nope, it's because another unit managed to capture the brain bug, and it's led by none other than Sergeant Zim from boot camp, or rather, PRIVATE Zim who got himself demoted and reassigned. I think it would have saved a lot of manpower if they'd just sent the Crocodile Hunter. Oi'll getcha that little bloighter! Croikey! Herr Doogie uses his telepathy to detect that the bug brain is afraid, which seems to please the troopers greatly. The sight of the credits is a greater comfort to me.
And I would NOT like to know more.