Starship Troopers - Structure

eight sequences:

three-act structure:

hero’s journey:'s_journey.htm

Note: This movie seems to have a double midpoint, or at least a midpoint that is so long that it’s probably better to break it into two. It starts quite early and is not formally introduced (no “Federal Network”), but it has all the usual elements: after losing the girl and reaching a dead end, the protagonist is tested, there is death and rebirth (he quits, then he doesn’t), and a sudden change of events (the destruction of Buenos Aires) sends him in a new direction. However, immediately after, and smack in the middle of the movie, there is a very real death (the protagonist is declared KIA), and this is also where the story catches up with the prologue/hook before moving into the second half proper. The first (part of the) midpoint is about an important change in the protagonist’s personal story and could therefore be called the “dramatic midpoint”, while the second (part of the) midpoint is more of a structural midpoint and could be called the “formal midpoint”. Anyway, this long/double midpoint is (as all other movies) central to the story: it emphasizes the protagonist’s change of outlook from a inner/private/adolescent world (love, parents) to an outer/public/mature world (war, survival of the human race, citizenship) which in turn emphasizes the movie’s overall theme about a totalitarian society that offers no alternatives than the surrender to its own non-compromizing logic.

ACT 1 - Johnny joins the army to win his girlfriend’s heart

PROLOGUE / HOOK: introducing the protagonist, introducing the conflict, grabbing the viewer's attention

(length=2:15; 1.9%)

00:30 - FEDERAL NETWORK: Federal recruitment ad, news about the conflict with the Arachnids (exposition)

01:31 - ACTION: Broadcasting live from the invasion of Klendathu, a news reporter is killed by an Arachnid, soldiers arrive and shoot it, Johnny (protagonist) is ambushed and mortally wounded (hook)

SEQUENCE 1: introducing characters and the world, ordinary world, status quo, call to adventure, inciting incident, meeting the mentor 

(length=15:27; 13.3%)

  1. “A Day in School”

02:45: One year earlier, in his class, Rasczak (mentor) reiterates the value of citizenship (exposition), Johnny’s attention is on Carmen (love interest), her feelings are lukewarm (exposition)

05:16: After class, test scores show that Johnny is bad at math and Carmen is good (exposition), she intends to join the Fleet Academy (exposition), Dizzy (friend) is in love with Johnny and jealous of Carmen (exposition)

06:45: In the bio lab, the teacher highlights the strengths of the Arachnids (exposition), Carmen is squeamish around them and throws up, Johnny and Dizzy are unaffected (exposition)

08:10: Back at his house, Carl (friend) tests Johnny’s psychic abilities, he has none, Carl then mind controls his pet ferret to demonstrate his own exceptional powers (exposition, foreshadowing)

09:44 - ACTION: At the sports arena, Johnny and Dizzy play for the school’s football team against Zander (nemesis), Zander is attracted to Carmen, she is excited when he tells her he is about to join the Fleet Achademy, Johnny is jealous (call to adventure), through team work and exceptional athletic skill Johnny and Dizzy score the winning touchdown (foreshadowing)

  1. “Farewell Dance”

12:25: Back home, Johnny prepares for the farewell dance, at Johnny’s request material for joining the army arrives in the mail (inciting incident), Johnny’s parents are horrified, they want him to go to Harvard (denial of call)

14:08: At the farewell dance, Dizzy invites Johnny to dance with her, he rejects her, he seeks out Rasczak to tell him that he intends to join the army, Rasczak advices him to “figure things out for himself”

16:28: Johnny finds Carmen talking to Zander, he admits he is jealous, he tells her he intends to sign up for service, she hints that “my father’s not home tonight” (reward for call)

SEQUENCE 2: predicament and lock-in, first major plot point

(length=4:08; 3.6%)

  1. “Joining the Army

18:12: At the recruiting building, Johnny, Carmen and Carl all take the oath to join Federal service (first major plot point), they line up for registration and their respective assignments are revealed

19:53: Back home, Johnny argues loudly with his parents, they insists that he resigns, he insists he wants to be a citizen, he walks out and is “cut off” (predicament and lock-in), his Mom guesses that Carmen is the real reason behind his decision

20:31: At the transportation hub, Johnny and Carmen get ready to go to their respective destinations, before she departs Johnny forces Carmen to say she loves him, but she cannot do it with conviction

ACT 2 - Johnny loses his girlfriend, only to start to grow up

SEQUENCE 3: special/other world, approach, first obstacle, raising the stakes, the plot thickens

(length=18:02; 15.48%)

22:20 - FEDERAL NETWORK: Federal recruitment ad, promo for upcoming live execution of murderer, recruitment ad for psychics, news about Mormon colonists being wiped out by Arachnids (foreshadowing)

  1. “Boot Camp”

23:42: At the boot camp (threshold, obstacle), Johnny is lined up with his new unit, drill instructor Zim inspects them with disgust, he tells them that if they cannot take the training they can always go down “Washout Lane” (foreshadowing), Dizzy shows up reporting for duty, she was transfered to this specific unit at her own request

26:33: In the mess hall, Johnny is mad at Dizzy for “tagging along”, he starts making friends with Ace (friend)

27:54: At the agility course, Johnny expresses his ambition to become squad leader

28:14: Zim demonstrates the value of bringing a knife to a “nuke fight”

29:10: In the shower, the recruits tell each other why they signed up, but Johnny refuses to share his story, Dizzy says that he signed up “for a girl”

  1. “Carmen”

30:37: At the Fleet Acadamy space station, on the Moon, Carmen watches a video letter from Johnny, he tells her about the life in boot camp while his unit interrupt and disturb him

31:28: Carmen pilots a shuttle to the orbiting space dock to report for her first real pilot training, she is all excited and happy, Zander happens to be her instructor, he reveals that he “made sure they would run into each other”

36:08 - ACTION: In combat training, Johnny and Dizzy successfully repeat their winning move from the football match, Johnny is “given a squad to see what he can do”

37:28: Johnny receives a video message from Carmen, she tells him she is gonna “go career” and that they cannot be together anymore (the plot thickens, raising the stakes), Johnny admits to Ace that he got what he deserved because he “joined up for her” (low point)

SEQUENCE 4: dramatic midpoint, first culmination, test, point of no return, ordeal, death and rebirth

(length=12:14; 10.5%)

  1. “Failure and Punishment”:

40:22 - ACTION: At a live fire exercise (test), one from Johnny’s squad is accidentially killed, Johnny is releaved of squad command

41:39: At the commander’s office, Johnny is questioned about the accident, he is then sentenced to “administrative punishment”

42:42: In front of the entire company, Johnny takes ten lashes

  1. “War”:

44:13: Aboard the “Rodger Young”, Carmen and Zander are chosen to crew for the captain because they are “good together”, suddenly an asteroid threatens to hit the space ship, Carmen and Zander successfully evade it, but it continues on its way towards Earth

48:03: Johnny has resigned and packs up, he calls his parents and they all make up, the call is interrupted by atmospheric interference (from the asteroid approaching Earth), Dizzy says he “doesn’t have what it takes to be a citizen”

50:01: As he walks out “Washout Lane”, news come in that the asteroid destroyed Buenos Aires (and killed Johnny’s parents), it is announced that Earth is now “going to war”

51:42: Johnny goes back to the commander to recall his resignment, the commander looks the other way as Zim tears up the resignment form (first culmination, point of no return)

SEQUENCE 5: formal midpoint, outer world ordeal, outer world death

(length=14:24; 12.4%)

52:36 - FEDERAL NETWORK: The Federal Council announce plans for an offensive against Klendathu, Carl, now a “military scientist”, explains how to kill an Arachnid, recruitment ad for people to help the war effort

  1. “Preparing for Battle”

54:03: Broadcasting live from Fleet Battle Station Ticonderoga, the news reporter from the prologue interviews Johnny’s unit, Johnny states that he is from Buenos Aires and wants to kill all the Arachnids

54:57 - ACTION: Carmen spots Johnny in the crowd, they talk, once more she introduces him to Zander, now a Lieutenant, she says that they “are a flight team”, Johnny gets jealous, he and Zander fight, when they split up Carmen leaves with Zander

57:43: At the tattoo shop, Johnny and his unit all get matching tattoos

  1. “Klendathu”

58:00: Together with the rest of the attack force, Johnny and his unit get dropped down on Klendathu, during the drop the Arachnids start to fire at the space fleet above, aboard the “Rodger Young” Carmen and Zander are hit before they can go for “high orbit” (cliff hanger)

1:01:11 - ACTION: The drop ships land on Klendathu, Johnny and his unit disembark with the rest of the attack force, they attack the Arachnids, but get overwhelmed by the counter-attack, during the retreat Ace, now the squad leader, is indecisive and Johnny takes charge

1:05:06 - ACTION: The story catches up to the live broadcast from the prologue, Johnny attempts to save one from his squad, he is ambushed, wounded and surrounded by Arachnids (ordeal, death, cliff hanger)

SEQUENCE 6: rebirth, acceptance, resolution, rising action

(length=16:00; 13.7%)

1:07:00 - FEDERAL NETWORK: Fleet admids defeat on Klendathu, a new Sky Marshall announces that they must now “understand the bug”, scientists discuss the possibility of intelligent bugs

  1. “Killed in Action”

1:08:11: Carmen and Zander, having survived the hit earlier, arrive back on Fleet Battle Station Ticonderoga, they see the wounded soliders, to her dismay Carmen finds Johnny on the official list of casualties (low point)

1:09:54: Johnny, having somehow survived the Arachnids, is treated in the infirmary, Dizzy shows her affection once again

  1. “The Roughnecks”

1:11:03: Johnny, Dizzy and Ace report to join the Roughnecks, the commander turns out to be Rasczak, who saved Johnny’s life, Rasczak then announces that a new battle plan will send them to Tango Urilla the next day

1:12:58 - ACTION: The Roughnecks patrol Tango Urilla for “bug holes”, they are attacked by a “Tanker”, heroically Johnny kills it, he is promoted to corporal (reward), he appoints Dizzy to be his squad leader

1:18:47: The Roughnecks camp for the night, Johnny rejects Dizzy once again, but Rasczak advices him to “never pass a good thing”, Johnny and Dizzy are finally together (reward), although he cannot say he loves her, at the same time the Rouchnecks get ready to respond to a distress signal from Planet P

SEQUENCE 7: main culmination, second major plot point, low point, solution is revealed, new challenge, rededication

 (length=19:21; 16.6%)

  1. “Whiskey Outpost”

1:23:00 - On Planet P, as the Roughnecks make their way towards Whiskey Outpost, the radio operator is captured by a flying Arachnid, Rasczak shoots him from the distance and declares that he “expects anyone in this unit to do the same for me” (foreshadowing), Johnny is promoted to acting sergeant

1:24:50 - ACTION: The Roughnecks arrive at the outpost, there are no survivors, Rasczak gives orders to call for retrieval, they find a surviving general who explains that the Arachnids set up a trap, the Arachnids move in, in the following battle Rasczak is mortally wounded and orders Johnny to kill him, in the last moment Dizzy is also mortally wounded, the survivors are picked up by a dropship piloted by Carmen and Zander, as they take off Dizzy dies in Johnny’s arms (main culmination, low point), Johnny talks to Carmen in the cockpit, he is concerned about “his soldiers”, not her

  1. “The Funeral”

1:38:26: At Dizzy’s funeral, aboard the “Rodger Young”, Johnny gives the eulogy, he repeats the textbook words from Rasczak’s class, now with conviction, that “a citizen has the courage to make the safety of the human race their personal responsibility”, Carl, now a colonel, arrives and reveals that he deliberately sent the Roughnecks to Planet P to prove the existence of a “Brain Bug”, and that they must go back to capture it (second major plot point, new challenge, solution), Johnny says the Roughnecks are “always ready”

ACT 3 - Johnny becomes a Federal role model

SEQUENCE 8: new tension and twist, final confrontation, climax, resolution

 (length=16:55; 14.5%)

  1. “Rico’s Roughnecks”

1:42:21: On Planet P, as the army prepares for the operation, Johnny is now Lieutenant and commander of the Roughnecks, he inspects the reinforcements “fresh out of boot”, he repeats Rasczak’s earlier welcome speech

  1. “The Brain Bug”

1:42:44 - ACTION: In orbit, the “Rodger Young” gets hit and starts to explode/go down, Carmen and Zander escape in an escape pod

1:46:11 - ACTION: Down on the planet, the Roughnecks pick up the distress call from Carmen and Zander, the two crash land into an underground cave and are captured by Arachnids, Johnny intuitively “knows” where to find them, meanwhile a “Brain Bug” arrives and sucks out Zander’s brain, Johnny and Ace arrive with an armed nuke, they save Carmen, over the radio they report the location of the “Brain Bug”, they escape through the tunnels

  1. “Victory”

1:55:29: As Johnny, Carmen and Ace reach the surface, cheering soliders rush to celebrate the capture of the “Brain Bug”, Carl arrives, Johnny guesses that Carl “told him” where to find Carmen, Carl reads the bug’s mind, he announces that “it’s afraid”, it turns out that Zim captured it

1:58:16 - FEDERAL NETWORK: Federal recruitment ad, Carmen, now captain, Ace and Johnny are all mentioned by name as Federal role models

1:59:16: THE END (length=1:56:31, excluding opening and closing credits)