the movie begins with four high school friends about to go their separate ways and join the federation's military, knowing that they will probably never see each other again (of course, we know that coincidence will more than likely toss them back together again at some point). there's a bit of romantic subplot, but nothing that really takes away from the main thrust of the film. johnny rico, our protagonist, heads to mobile infantry along with dizzy, carmen goes to the fleet academy to be a pilot, and carl is smart enough for a fast-tracked career in military science. johnny proves to be more dedicated than he ever dreamed he could be (perhaps in an effort to show up his wealthy parents, who threatened to cut him off if he joined up), becoming squad leader and ultimately rising higher and higher in the ground forces as the troopers head to war with the evil bugs from outer space. yes, that's right - i said evil bugs from outer space, the ultimate threat to life on earth. the bugs are nasty, soulless, and they like to maul their prey. and that is precisely what makes this film so satisfying to watch. the computer-generated bugs are scary, yucky creations that could come only from the imagination of a young boy, and they act as a young boy might imagine they would. verhoeven has done a wonderful job creating his villain, and the bugs make the movie really shine. no matter that the shine is probably freshly spilled blood.
yes, the future does have perfect teeth, perfect bodies, and perfect hair (whoa, johnny rico, do you carry a comb where that big knife is suppose to go in your leg holster?), but that's quite alright. after all, this is a b-movie for the 90s, the kind of flick you'd see on mst3k if it was made 50 years ago. however, if it was made 50 years ago it wouldn't have been one bit as good - it benefits from the sets, costumes, and computer work (and judging by the lack of name-brand lead actors, this is where all the money was pumped), all of which make it a worthwhile endeavor to get your butt out to your local multiplex instead of seeing a similar flick on tv.
it was so clear that the film was coming from somewhere soon after wwii; i loved the big brother/nazi imagery, the blandness of the everyman that trooped against the bugs. that trenchcoat that doogie was wearing was pure ss, and it fit ever so well. i did wish that we had seen more of carl, harris' military scientist character. he looked like he was well on his way to evil, from those newly chiseled cheekbones to the spit-shine on his shoes, and i would have liked to have seen more about why his time in the upper echelons of the military changed him from his innocent high school days.
the acting - who cares? actually, i thought it was fine for this kind of low-brow scifi flick, and everyone was at least passable. ironside was definitely the high point of the film. the only person that really annoyed me was that carmen chick, who looked like she had that smile painted on her lips and never bothered to wipe it off for the duration of the movie. at least casper van dien let his set jaw do the acting some of the time instead of his pearly whites. and patrick muldoon had really bad hair, but i've never thought that he was one of the pretty people, so i just ignored him. watch for rue mcclanahan (golden girls) and the braless wonder, the heir to the oh henry candy bar fortune, in a couple of small roles.
to sum up, if you like cheese and gore and you like it served hot and tasty, go see this film. i give it two severed appendages up, plus a decapitated head. it has the effects, it has the blood, and it has that oh-so-lovely automaton acting style that made me feel like joel robinson was sitting right next to me.
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