Directed by Paul Verhoeven, the 1997 cult classic “Starship Troopers” is a sci-fi action thriller film that follows the journey of three friends: Johnny, Carmen, and Carl. The issue lies not in the visual presentation but rather in the execution of the film. Understandably, in 1997, depicting an extravagant battle between extraterrestrial species and humanity was challenging. However, there was room for improvement in designing more memorable fight sequences. With a limited scope for the cast to work with, the film falls short of becoming a captivating science fiction epic. However, “Starship Troopers” serves as a satire on propaganda and critiques the glorified military action and humankind’s fascistic tendencies.

Spoilers Ahead.

Starship Troopers (1997) Plot Summary and Movie Synopsis:

The film starts with an advertisement from the United Citizen Federation where they guarantee citizenship if someone serves for them. The Federation is always in need of soldiers who can help them win the war against the Bugs. These bugs are giant creatures from different planets that target Earth, and it has become a longstanding war in this 23rd century. Most of the time, the humans have won the fight, but there are times when the Bugs have tactically attacked the human race.

We are introduced to Johnny who is distracted in class and not as good a student as Carmen. Johnny loves Carmen very much, but Carmen is driven by her dream to become a pilot. Johnny comes from a rich household, and when his father learns that he is going to sign up for the Federation, he becomes very angry. Dizzy, on the other hand, loves Johnny very much, but since he is in love with Carmen, she does not stand much of a chance. Carl, the mind-reader, is trying to teach Johnny how to read what he is thinking but Johnny is not very good at that. Together, they are moving forward with their destiny as a long journey awaits.

Why does Johnny sign up for Mobile Infantry?

Professor Rasczack once told the class the difference between a citizen and a civilian. Well, Johnny, at that time, did not understand much about that. The only thing he cares about is to be with Carmen as long as he can. He becomes possessive to see Carmen talking to Zander, one of the pilots of the Federation. But, knowing how Carmen is,  Johnny Rico, a young athlete, understands that to stay close to Carmen, he must join the Mobile Infantry despite his parents’ disapproval. Because Carmen is going for the pilot position and if Johnny stays back, he will never have the chance to see her again.

Johnny goes for Mobile Infantry while Carmen goes for Pilot. Their friend Carl joins Military Intelligence, and Dizzy, who loves Johnny, switches to his team. But sadly, Carmen breaks up with Johnny as their careers go different ways, and she starts liking her co-pilot, Zander. Johnny is disheartened by the fact, and all hell starts to lose. In training, Johnny impresses Sergeant Zim and gets promoted to squadron leader. He starts to get familiar with the customs and make friends while ignoring Dizzy along the way.

Why does Johnny Leave and again Return to Mobile Infantry?

During a practice session, a wrong call from Johnny mistakenly kills a squad member. This leads to his demotion and punishment. Johnny decides to leave the troop and return back to home. But soon, he learns that the Bugs destroyed Buenos Aires, where his parents live. He goes to the commanding officer, saying that he wants to stay and fight along with the soldiers. Sgt. Zim shows him the paperwork he signed before requesting to leave the troop. But seeing the determination in Johnny, he decides to tear the paper and allows him to join the squad.

A group of soldiers along with Johnny, Dizzy, and Levy is sent to Klendathu, the Bugs’ planet. Since they are high on adrenaline, they underestimate the Bugs’ attacking strategy, thinking that they will not have any strategy at all. This causes many casualties, as even Johnny gets hurt. However, before a Bug kills him, Lieutenant Rasczak arrives to save him. The word is spread across the Federation that Johnny is dead. Even Carmen gets the news, and she becomes very upset. But, inside the Mobile Infantry, Johnny is being treated, and a sense of romance grows between Dizzy and him.

How does Lieutenant Rasczak Die?

After getting better, Johnny, Dizzy, and Levy decide to join Lieutenant Rasczak’s elite team known as the Rasczak’s Roughnecks. During a fight, Johnny proves his worth by killing a massive Tanker Bug on Tango Urilla single-handedly and gets promoted to Corporal. As time progresses, he and Dizzy become close because Rasczack tells him not to pass on the good things while there is time. Johnny’s relationship with Rasczack is becoming more like father-son, which they both admit quite comfortably.

Soon, while responding to a distress signal on Planet P, the Roughnecks stumble upon a devastated outpost. They find a General who is afraid, knowing that there is literally no way out from the outpost. Within a few moments, they find themselves ambushed by the Bugs. Dizzy and Johnny ask for additional support as the Federation sends Carmen and Zander to their rescue in a dropship. But before all of the soldiers can safely leave the outpost, Dizzy gets critically injured.

On the other hand, a Bug horrifically mutilated Rasczak, leaving him in utmost pain. Seeing the parental figure in such distress, Johnny gets tensed as he does not know what to do next. Later, Johnny decides to end his suffering by killing him before getting on the ship. Carmen learns that Johnny is still alive but sadly Dizzy has passed away. The survivors return to their station, where they bid farewell to Dizzy by organizing a ceremony for her.

What is Carl’s Plan to Win the War Against the Bugs?

Starship Troopers (1997) Ending
A still from “Starship Troopers” (1997)

Carl, who is now a high-ranking colonel, arrives at the funeral. He comes with a shocking revelation to Johnny and the rest of the team. He explains that the Roughnecks were intentionally led into the deadly trap with the purpose of confirming the presence of a strategic Bug known as the Brain Bug. Carmen expresses her anger, knowing that Carl deliberately put the lives of the Mobile Infantry in danger. In other terms, if it wasn’t for Carl, Dizzy would still be alive. But Carl does not show much empathy toward it because he only has one objective: he wants to win the war against the Bugs once and for all.

Johnny understands that Carl’s decision, no matter how selfish it may sound, is a necessary sacrifice in the grand scheme of the mission. Later in a surprising move, Carl entrusts Johnny with the leadership of the Roughnecks, granting him a field promotion to the rank of lieutenant just like Rasczak. Johnny’s new mission demands that he lead his team back to Planet P and apprehend the Brain Bug. Carl wants to examine its brain so that he can learn their weak points and then plot a crucial attack on the Bugs. Johnny knows the importance of this mission, and he has already lost so many things along the way. So, he enters Planet P with utmost determination this time round.

Starship Troopers (1997) Movie Ending Explained:

Does Johnny Capture the Brain Bug?

As the troop marches in Planet P the spacecraft which Carmen and Zander are driving takes a hit from the constant bombing of the Bugs. Everyone inside the spacecraft mostly dies, and two somehow manage to escape in a shuttle. However, the shuttle crashes inside a cave, where Carmen and Zander find themselves surrounded by Bugs. Carmen tries to radio-contact Johnny as he quickly orders his troop to organize a search party. But, sadly, there are just too many Bugs, and Johnny understands that there is no hope for them. So he continues with his main objective: finding the Brain Bug.

However, the Bugs have other plans with Carmen and Zander, as they do not kill them but let them suffer. We see the Brain Bug for the first time as it employs its sinister trunk to extract Zander’s knowledge and later kill him. Meanwhile, Johnny orders his squad to move forward with their objective while he takes a different route along Levy and Watkins. Johnny says that he feels like Carmen is still alive as they move forward with the rescue mission.

As they confront the Bugs, the Brain Bug, sensing the danger ahead, hides itself inside the cave. The Bugs approach Johnny and Carmen after critically injuring Watkins. But before they can harm Johnny, Levy, and Carmen, Watkins makes the ultimate sacrifice, detonating a miniature nuclear device, allowing his comrades to escape the cave. The blast almost kills all the Bugs inside the cave, leading the troop on the path of victory.

Read More: 30 Underrated Sci-Fi Movies From Across The Globe

Soon, Johnny finds out that Sergeant Zim has successfully captured the Brain Bug as he walks toward him to congratulate him. Meanwhile, Carl, with his psychic abilities, detects a sense of fear within the Brain Bug. The whole troop celebrates as they learn that finally the Bug fears them as a unit. The film ends with another broadcast from the Federation, where we see Carl’s team study the Brain Bug to ensure the victory of humankind. The broadcast also shows Carmen as a commanding officer of her own spaceship and Johnny leading his squad for another battle against the Bugs.

Starship Troopers (1997) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia
The Cast of Starship Troopers (1997) Movie: Casper Van Dien, Denise Richards, Dina Meyer
Starship Troopers (1997) Movie Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi | Runtime: 2h 9 Mins
Where to watch Starship Troopers

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