Action movies have become a large part of modern-day cinema, bringing people together over generations. What exactly makes an action film? In order to figure out the inner working of an action film, one must first judge the use of universal action-film concepts in any one specific film. The film that will be critiqued in this paper is Starship Troopers, which was directed by Paul Verhoeven. The criteria on which this action film will be reviewed are: the use of a hero and villain, how realistic the film was, the special effects and the intensity of the film. The goal of this review is to identify the criteria on which action films are based and to evaluate the effectiveness of their usages in this film.
This story takes place in the future, where humans have achieved interplanetary travel and work under a leadership called the Federation. The main character or hero is named John Rico. At the beginning of the film, Rico is just graduating high school. “Johnny” Rico, his girlfriend Carmen Ibanez, and his friend Carl Jenkins all joined different parts of the Federation’s military after high school. They meet up throughout the film, briefly each time and then return back to their individual positions. Through the course of the movie, Rico rises through the ranks to become an officer and gains control of his own squad. His actions in and out of combat paint him as an almost larger than life war hero. People are drawn to his leadership, which is a significant trait of all heroes. Although Rico does not start off as much more than cannon fodder; throughout the course of the film the audience gets the chance to see him blossom into the war hero he was destined to be.
Through the Federation’s interplanetary conquests, they discovered a planet, occupied primarily by giant insects, called Klendathu. These bugs, named the Arachnids, can launch asteroids filled with spores to different planets to colonize. One of those asteroids hit Rico’s home of Buenos Aires while he was in Mobile Infantry training, the frontline of the Federation’s military. Soon after, the Federation declared an all-out war on the Arachnids. The humans suffer huge losses on the planet of Klendathu and attempt to gain an advantage by occupying its neighboring planets.
The Arachnids are basically giant killing machines, being both large and very lethal. It is easy to justify killing these creatures with the “Big Brother” type of propaganda that the Federation contrives. The reason why these creatures are so hostile is because the Federation invaded their home planet. It is a natural instinct to defend one’s home from invaders. This does not make them the villain of the story. Heroes and villains in this film are not as black and white as most action films. Heroes and villains are usually synonymous with good and evil, when it comes to war there is never really any good sides. War requires two sides, both are at fault for killing the other side. It could be said that the Federation were the real villains of this film.
This film is very heavily based in science fiction, but some aspects are very universal. The acting and overall behavior of the characters is quite realistic. It is hard to fully grasp the complexity of human reactions when presented with such extreme scenarios such as this one. It is impossible to know exactly how one might react in times of such tragedy and despair, but the actors play their roles so well it becomes easier to make inferences as to people’s motives and emotions. There is no way of telling the future, so achieving space travel and discovering aliens could happen. It just hasn’t happened, yet. Movies like this require more imagination to believe some of the more far-fetched ideas, such as having Rico’s friend Carl be a psychic and able to read the alien’s mind. Part of the allure of this film is that it juggles natural laws and the unrealistic. This aspect of the movie is common in sci-fi