Starship Troopers

"A new kind of enemy. A new kind of war."

Hello everyone, it's another fine day! Today I'm going to talk about the film adaptation of Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers, a very peculiar film directed by the smarmy Paul Verhoeven, a Dutch director who is known among other things, for being the first person to ever accept a Razzy in person. He is best known for being the director of Total Recall, and also Robocop. I'm not here to talk about those movies though. Instead let's talk about Starship Troopers, a movie about Jonny Rico, a young man from Buenos Aires who is inexplicably white, just like all of his friends and classmates. He lives in a future society where citizenship is earned only through civil service to the federation. Because Rico is as dumb as a sack of hammers, he decides to join the mobile infantry, which is presently not a super awesome prospect, because the federation is embroiled in a battle with the insectoid arachnid race (I'm not dumb, they're really bug-like but for some reason they call them Arachnids). These things are... really big, and like to tear people into bloody pieces, so you could imagine how being the guys landing on foot to face them down might not be the best career choice. Rico finds himself in the mobile infantry, even as he is estranged from his high school sweetheart, who is Denise Richards, a math genius who is in training for flight school (to pilot spaceships, because she's so smart OBVIOUSLY). In the process, lots of people get brutally killed and their guts explode all of the place.

Look at those... good looking... ugh Busey face.
That's the sort of movie we're talking about here. There's lots of really Nazi-ish propaganda (also some of the officer uniforms look exactly like SS officer uniforms) and lots of people glorifying the use of overwhelming military force to solve problems. After all, bug monsters can't be reasoned with! Every soldier that dies does so for the glory of the federation, no matter how senseless all the violence is. What I mean to say is that Verhoeven is really super subtle with his 'satire' and in expressing his attitude towards the military and warfare. This is especially entertaining because Heinlein's original novel seemed to put forth a somewhat opposite attitude towards the application of force as a means of conflict resolution, and the virtues of martial service. Paul Verhoeven clearly does not share this sunny outlook, and takes this rare opportunity to more or less make a mocking parody of Heinlein's original work. As you might expect of something like that, The film, much like the original work, had a polarizing effect on audiences.

All shot on Hell's Half Acre. Literally.
Overlooking all of that for a moment, let's just talk about the movie as is. Starship Troopers at its core is a movie about a kind of dumb "good guy" who joins the space army so that he can kill space alien bugs, with machine guns and explosions, while people get dismembered. The plot generally lacks any traditional closure, covering the opening segments of the war up to the point where a "brain bug" is captured by the federation forces. Rico goes from being a boy in high school, to being the veteran sergeant. Along the way there are scenes of shit talking and light dialogue between prolonged scenes of guys shooting machine guns and rockets at big bugs, and getting their arms and legs torn to pieces. Also they fit some boobs in lengthwise in between all the guns and blood, just for good measure. These things are all the hallmark of Verhoeven's films, and it makes for a rather dim movie, essentially devoid of plot or direction, save the self-righteous decrying of military action. Bear in mind I'm not saying it's good to be a warmonger, I'm just saying that Verhoeven's execution is hamfisted and unpleasant. The movie IS so ridiculous that it's good for an occasional laugh though.

This is NOT how I met your mother.
So back to the polarized views on the film. While generally panned for its nonsense plot, it was commended for the quality of its special effects, which were admittedly impressive for the time. So positive reviews were pleased with the "Action Sci-fi" angle the movie took, even if the plot was almost non-existent and the acting was generally shitty. Like I said above though, beyond being good for a laugh, I didn't find much to enjoy about one scene of ultra violence after another, especially when you know that the whole point of each one is to make a really obvious point about how war isn't good, and how people who like it are fascists. While you might not agree with Heinlein's attitude in the original novel (and even his actual stance can be debated) at least it can be said that the novel was a sophisticated look at a variety of complex social topics, rather than a gory gun orgy that's also trying to mock the complex novel.

Then again, there is sometimes something to be said for gun orgies, I just don't think that it was much to enjoy in this case. That's about all I have to say on the matter! Join me again on Tuesday for ultra-violent science fiction that I can actually get behind!

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