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Juan "Johnny" Rico
- Played By: Casper Van Dien
- 10-Minute Retirement: He tries to quit after he is demoted (due to getting a fellow trainee killed because of his desire to win), but just as he is walking out of the base, the bugs Colony Drop his hometown and he promptly forces his way back into the Infantry.
- The Ace: Rico is damn near good at everything he does. The guy has some serious talent as a soldier and not only that he's really smart in combat strategy as shown when he's able to beat an opposing team and take up leadership when he needs to.
- Beauty Is Never Tarnished: His hair is always perfect. Always. Even when he just took off his helmet after marching around a hot desert planet.
- Big Eater: Johnnie, and by extension the rest of the M.I. troopers. The physical conditioning they undergo to remain in shape for drops means they need to eat many more calories than sedentary civilians. For instance breakfast in the barracks while on leave on Sanctuary:(Ace and I) hit the chow line for a half dozen shell eggs and sundries such as potatoes and ham and hot cakes and so forth and then we hit dirt (off-base) to get something to eat.
- Blood Knight: It's not that he is actively seeking battle he's just more eager to kill the bugs more than anyone.
- The Call Knows Where You Live: Buenos Aires.
- Character Development: At the start of the movie he's a dashing, lovable highschool jock that is love struck with his girlfriend and is quite confident in his abilities, but later on he fills into a leadership position and his personality shifts into a more serious role and he starts to act more like his former lieutenant/teacher.
- Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: It's heavily implied this is Rico's reason for enlisting.
- Distracted by the Sexy: During his training and his service, Juan is often deprived of the presence of women, to the point that he waxes longingly whenever he sees one from that point on.
- Did They or Didn't They?: With Carmen. Less ambiguous in the film as they were a couple before she broke up with him to go career.
- Fire-Forged Friends: Rico and Ace, with Ace initially starting out as The Rival, but he is eventually humbled and becomes Rico's friend.
- Generation Xerox: It's implied that his father wanted this of him. Inverted in the book where the father survives, enlists and gets transferred to his son's ship.
- Heroic BSoD: Rico ends up seriously depressed and almost resigns while in boot camp. The triggering event isn't the nonstop hazing or the difficulty of the tasks set to them, but rather realizing that those setting the tasks are mere mortals after all, and that everything he thinks he knows about the military is all wrong. Goes through another one when he learns his parent are dead. In the book its revealed his father survived and they later reunite.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Gets an arachnid pincer in the leg in the botched Klendathu invasion in the book and movie; it's indicated he was killed by the cut to black and the fort database identifying him as KIA, but he survived.
- The Leader: Johnny Rico. The moment he arrives at camp, all the other recruitsexcept Acelook to Rico as their leader. Hes appointed as the first team leader, and even after he gets Breckinridge killed, Zim arranges for him to get publicly whipped rather than expelled because he sees Ricos leadership potential. On Klendathu, when Ace freezes as team leader, Rico immediately takes over and is consistently promoted from then on out.
- Only Mostly Dead: He gets better.
- Overranked Soldier: He rockets up the ranks because his superior officers keep dying. "Fresh meat for the grinder" indeed.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: He's supposed to be Argentinian, but all of the actors who played him so far just use their normal (American) accents while playing him.
- Race Lift: Johnny's actual name is Juan and he's Filipino in the book, with Johnny as his nickname, but in the movie, cartoon and CGI movies he's a Caucasian Argentinian. (though none of the actors who played him even bother to make him sound remotely Argentinian.)
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: He is the stubborn and headstrong red oni to Carmen and Carl's tactical and more intelligent blue oni. When it comes to Dizzy and Ace he is more stoic and serious as the other two are energetic and more lively.
- Real Men Dont Cry: Averted. When Johnny reunites with his father in the book. The two cry tears of joy, hug and kiss.
- Real Men Wear Pink: Johnnie is especially proud of a pair of earrings that he wore on dates and inherited from his mother's grandfather. Earrings for men isn't limited to civilians; part of the uniform for his first regiment is a small gold skull earring with a string of bones under, one for each drop. He eventually ditches the jewelry after he's assigned to the Roughnecks and sees that the platoon simply doesn't care about if a trooper has prior experience but whether or not he's made a drop with them.
- Revenge: When his home is destroyed along with his parents he reenlists back to Mobile Infantry to avenge their deaths but is less successful after he almost dies. But then after the death of his friend/lover Dizzy and his once favorite teacher Raczack he becomes more serious and wants no more than to kill the bugs and is more successful in this attempt.
- A Taste of the Lash:
- In the book, he's court-martialed and whipped after making a careless error during training that could have resulted in friendly casualties in combat. The fact that he's whipped and allowed to return to training actually means that the instructors think that he's worth the effort to teach and want to keep him around.
- Gets this in the film when he removes a trainee's helmet while live bullets are flying around him; that trainee gets one of those bullets and it blows half of his face off.
- Tragic Bigot: Against the Bugs in the film.
- Two First Names: Rico is a common given name in countries preciously colonized by Spian.
- Unstoppable Rage: When Rico gets angry he will go on a warpath until he slaughters any bug in his way.
- Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Over the course of the film, he goes from a young man on the fence about the morals of his society to a hardened soldier who vehemently supports genocide against the Arachnids.
- Working with the Ex: Rico and Carmen.
- You Killed My Father: Johnny's mother is killed when Buenos Aries is destroyed. His father survives in the book but dies same as the mother in the film.
Carmentica "Carmen" Ibanez
- Played By: Denise Richards
- Ace Pilot: Carmen, overlapping with Drives Like Crazy.
- Almost Kiss: Between Carmen and Zander in the film just before the asteroid appears.
- Beauty Is Never Tarnished: She sustains a massive explosion to the face when the bridge takes a hit over Klendathu. While Rico's recovering in the bacta tank, Carmen has a tiny cut through her eyebrow which actually serves to enhance her looks.
- Drives Like Crazy: Flies this way. She doesn't suffer any serious repercussions for her recklessness and it's even treated as a positive trait. She takes chances, but she's also a damn good pilot who is able to take such risks because she can pull them off (barring the part early on where she knocks the ship's entire communication tower off on an asteroid, but since the asteroid was spun as an alien attack she was probably commended for that). Kind of like Maverick.
- Dull Surprise: Denise Richards pulls a few of these throughout.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Gets a pincer through her shoulder in the climax; unlike Zander, she survives despite losing a lot of blood and is rescued.
- Important Haircut
- Improbable Parking Skills: It's implied that she had to have them to land her shuttle in the middle of a besieged Mobile Infantry outpost during a fierce battle. Of course, she had already been established as the Ace Pilot.
- Major Injury Underreaction: She gets impaled through the shoulder with a giant bug pincer. But aside from some minor discomfort and pain, a wound that should have killed her quickly through heavy blood loss or hydrostatic shock is ignored, even retaining full use of the arm and walk around like she barely received a scratch. She's even seen firing an assault rifle with (more or less) proper grip. Though at least she didn't have it braced on her "wounded" shoulder.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Like Casper Van Dien and the rest of cast(with the exception of Neil Patrick Harris's character, who is American), Denise Richards uses her American accent while playing the Argentinian Carmen.
- Only a Flesh Wound: She gets impaled through the shoulder by a bug talon the diameter of a soda can, picked up and thrown around by it, and yet minutes later is firing a high caliber machinegun, outruns a nuke, and then throws her arms around her friends and skips away smiling. What brave new world is this, that has such painkillers in it?
- Promoted to Love Interest: To Johnny in the film. In the book, Carmen and Johnny have a mild interest in each other in high school, and later go on one date and share a kiss when they chance to meet up in training, but never exactly have a romance.
- Race Lift: Possibly. While Carmen is clearly Argentinian, it's never specified if she is a white Argentinian or a mestizo Argentinian. Given the majority of people living in Argentinia are either white or mestizo, Carmen could be either. Denise Richards is either of those things.
- Sex for Solace: In a deleted scene, Carmen sleeps with Zander for the first time right after she learns (wrongly) that Johnny is killed in battle.
- Stress Vomit: When disecting an arachnid worker bug in class, she ends up throwing up. (Probably the reason she joined up with the fleet instead of mobile infantry is that she can't stand blood or violence.)
- Played By: Dina Meyer
- Action Girl
- Ascended Extra: In the book, her equivalent was a Sacrificial Lamb for the first scene. She has a much more important role in the film.
- Communications Officer
- Death by Sex: After spending over half of the movie pining following Rico's breakup with Carmen, the day after Dizzy and Rico have sex, she dies.
- Fiery Redhead: In the film.
- Gender Flip: Dizzy is male in the book and not a love interest for Juan, while Dizzy in the film is female. See Unlucky Childhood Friend below.
- Hesitant Sacrifice: Dizzy, in her final words, screams for Johnny to not let her go.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Gets four pincer stabs by a stray arachnid on Planet P after blowing up a Tanker, and she dies from the blood loss.
- The Lad-ette: The toughest female character in the movie. She can beat most men in armed combat and arm wrestling, loves playing rough sports and enjoys drinking with her male friends.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Like the rest of the cast, Dina Meyer uses her American accent while playing a Argentinian character.
- Promoted to Love Interest: To Johnny in the film as part of a Love Triangle with Carmen.
- Race Lift: Like Carmen, She's Argentinian but her exact race wasn't disclosed in the novel, but she could be either a white Argentinian or a mestizo Argentinian by enthic groups most common there. In the film, she's played by the white Jewish American Dina Meyer.
- The Squadette
- Unlucky Childhood Friend: For Johnny in the film at first. Averted after Carmen breaks up with him, Johnny and Dizzy briefly hook up and stay together until she dies.
- Vasquez Always Dies
- Played By: Neil Patrick Harris
- Psychic Powers: Telepathy to be precise.
- Putting on the Reich: Just check out his uniform. The cap and black longcoat haven't been seen on an officer since 1945.
- Rank Up: He ascends the military chain even faster than Rico, starting in military intelligence and ending up as the head of the Ministry of Paranormal Warfare.
- Spared by the Adaptation: He gets an anticlimactic off-screen death in the book when the research base he's stationed on is destroyed. In the film, he survives.
Private Ace Levy
Private Ace Levy
- Played By: Jake Busey
- Clint Squint: He has a characteristic squint. It's especially noticeable once he becomes Rico's Number Two.
- Communications Officer
- Deadpan Snarker: Smart-mouthed and a wise-cracker.
- Declining Promotion: Ace turns down a promotion to corporal after he froze at Klendathu. Now hes just here to fight.
- Fire-Forged Friends: With Rico.
- Hit Me, Dammit!: Ace says this to Johnnie Rico after he beats Johnnie in a fight. Afterwards they shake hands and Ace accepts his authority.
- Impaled Palm: On the receiving end of this from Zim in the film when he asks a question about why knives are necessary.
- Played By: Clancy Brown
- Back in the Saddle: He's so eager to get back on the front lines that he deliberately gets himself demoted to private to do so.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: To the point of exaggeration. His routine is so over the top that Kitten can't help laughing at him. Zim casually breaks recruits' arms and throws knives into their hands as part of their training."Medic!"
- Impaled Palm: Used to great, if heavy-handed, effect against Ace in the film.Zim: The enemy can not push a button... if you disable his hand. Medic!
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Gives Johnny a bit before he is scourged.
- Knife Nut
- Large Ham
- Offscreen Moment of Awesome: He's the one who captures the Brain bug alive.
- Sergeant Rock: When he becomes a sergeant and starts leading assaults.
- Played By: Michael Ironside
- Artificial Limbs: His mechanical left hand.
- Asskicking Equals Authority: His entire History & Moral Philosophy lecture about why only veterans have the right to vote.
- Back in the Saddle: He returns to duty as lieutenant in the MI.
- Badass Teacher: Even before Rasczak shows up as the leader of the Roughnecks, it's already clear the man has been through some stuff.
- Bait-and-Switch Tyrant: He has a reputation for being a "real nutbuster" among troops outside his unit, but Raschak's Roughnecks are fiercely loyal to their commander. He comes across as stern and demanding, not hesitant to shoot one of his own troopers to save the poor ape from being eaten alive by a nest of bugs, and says he'd expect anyone in his unit to do the same for him. But then we see that he understands the importance of soldier morale by ordering his troops have a party while they're in a safe zone, and even allowing Rico and Dizzy to finish up their R&R in the tent.
- Colonel Badass
- Composite Character: The film version is a combination of both the book's Rasczak and Rico's teacher Colonel DuBois.
- Father to His Men: Rasczak is adored by the Roughnecks, having saved most of their lives. When Ace says he heard Rasczak was a "nut buster," Birdie punches him in the face.
- Half the Man He Used to Be: A big bug chews off his legs and virtually left him for dead. Rico is forced to shoot him.
- Hand Signals: He uses them while approaching the outpost on Planet P.
- I Cannot Self-Terminate: He informs all of his new recruits "I've only got one rule: everybody fights, no one quits. You don't do your job, I'll shoot you myself." Later, during a battle he is being consumed from the waist down in a pit he's been sucked into. He tosses his rifle to Rico and screams for him to "Do it!" which prompts Rico to empty the magazine into Rasczak. Not that bad as a rule, considering the alternative to being shot in the head by the teammate is getting slowly devoured and/or brain-sucked by aliens...
- In the Back: Killed this way while rescuing two of his men.
- No One Gets Left Behind: In the book; his soldiers either died or returned. One under him went MIA.
- Pre War Civilian Career: Rico tells one of his comrades that he knew Rasczak from before the war when he was his teacher.
- Played By: Patrick Muldoon
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Seeing this trope a lot? Twice at the end of the movie. First gets a pincer in the leg that immobilizes him, and then gets the suction claw of the Brain Bug in his head and gets his brains sucked out.
- Played By: Brenda Strong
- Played By: Marshall Bell
- Dirty Coward: The Roughnecks clearly view him this way.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: He is clearly traumatized from watching an entire base get wiped out by Bugs, and implicitly realizing the war effort is screwed. Tellingly, the rest of the cast dismiss him as a Dirty Coward for having hidden from the Bugs rather than die horribly in a stupid attempt to fight them.
Played By: Seth Gilliam
Jean Du Bois
Lieutenant Colonel Jean DuBois
- Author Avatar: The character who speaks most directly for Robert Heinlein's personal politics and philosophies.
- Composite Character: Combined with Lieutenant Rasczak in the film.
- Might Makes Right: The entire point of DuBois' Federal History class. He argues that voting is exercising authority, and authority is violence, the supreme directive from which all other authority is derived. When a student protests that violence doesn't always solve everything, he points to how violence was successfully used against Hiroshima, and that it has "solved" more problems in history than any other factor.
Played By: Matt Levin
Played By: Anthony Ruivivar
Played By: Eric Broskotter
Played By: Steven Ford
- Acid Attack: The Tanker Bugs, which take the place of human mechanized armor in the Arachnids' Hive Caste System, are able to secrete a highly corrosive acid from their mouths that melts enemies within seconds.
- Always Chaotic Evil: Although it's deliberately left unclear whether the Bugs started the war or if the humans did, they are absolutely merciless in battle and kill the humans without restraint.
- Big Bad: The Brain Bug which leads the other Bugs.
- Big Creepy-Crawlies: They're alien insects, sure, but they're still massive. Arachnid warriors are easily the size of a car, while the Plasma Bugs are considerably more massive.
- Eat Brain for Memories: The Brain Bugs, who use a rather straw-like proboscis to stab through the skull and suck out the juicy brainmeats within.
- Elite Mooks: The tanker and hopper bugs. An encroaching tanker especially just means the soldiers are better off retreating since they have few means to counter them effectively.
- Feel No Pain: The Arachnid soldiers will keep coming even as their limbs are being shot off.
- Fire-Breathing Weapon: The Tanker Bugs are essentially organic flame tanks. They're huge bugs with a thick exoskeleton and the ability to spray flaming, corrosive liquid similar to napalm.
- Fountain of Expies: The Arachnids from the book became the major inspiration for every swarm of man-eating Insectoid Aliens that infest the Science Fiction and Space Opera genres. From the Xenomorphs from Alien, to the Tyranids from Warhammer 40,000, to the Zerg from StarCraft, to the Brood and the Annihilation Wave from Marvel Comics.
- Greater-Scope Villain: Behemecoatyl is retroactively the Bigger Bad of the first two films. It is the absolute leader of the Bugs, but is never seen in the previous ones, in which the humans only fought its minions.
- Hive Caste System: In addition to the Bug castes in the novel, the movie and its direct-to-DVD sequels added Plasma Bugs, who shot blue death from their butts clear up to orbit; Tanker Bugs, giant bombardier beetles who spat red death at close range; Chariot Bugs, who carried around the bloated Brain Bugs; Hoppers, which could fly but were otherwise similar to Warriors; and in the later films Control Bugs, who were much smaller and could mind-control people similar to Puppeteer Parasites, and the God-Bug or Brain-Of-Brains Behemecoatyl, a top-level caste with a hyperintelligent and telepathic Bug that overgrows most of a planet. Even so, in the original, they used tools instead of Organic Technology.
- Hive Drone: Subverted. The United Citizen Federation, believing that the entire race were mindless insects, send thousands of troops to invade their home world. The invasion cost the Mobile infantry 100,000 lives in the first hour because a super-intelligent Brain Bug had coordinated a defensive strategy.
- Hive Mind: The Arachnids (or Bugs). The series expanded on them having a caste system, with each subspecies filling a specific role. The Brain Bugs and Behemacoatyl (from the third film, Marauder; the largest Bug seen so far - its body engulfed almost a planet) have extreme psychic abilities that can be used to control all bugs in the colony.
- Insectoid Aliens: The Arachnids come in various shapes and sizes too - the common "infantry", so to speak, consists of pretty large (taller than humans, but not by much), four-legged, shrieking horrors, but there are also giant fire-breathing beetles, dragonfly-wasp-fly-like flyers big enough to grab and lift a man from the ground and, best of all, enormous brain-eaters that resemble bloated larvae. They seem to have a hive mind system.
- It Can Think: The humans just quickly assume that the Bugs are dumb, mindless animals, and just the idea of them being capable of intelligent thought is incredibly offensive. However, the humans learn their lesson once the Bugs spring a massive trap and repel the initial human invasion force. It's later revealed that they are being led by extremely intelligent "Brain Bugs", a leadership caste.
- Pheromones: When the replacement soldiers arrive at the outpost, they find everyone dead, the corpses ripped to shreds. The commanding officer, however, is intact except for a hole in his skull where his brains were sucked out. One soldier remarks about the dead officer's odor, and is told that the enemy "bugs" use that scent to mark the man as "important", so that the mooks don't destroy useful intelligence.
- Zerg Rush: The attack style of the soldier bugs.