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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Quick Review: Starship Troopers

Comcast provides free movies on demand--a cool service, although the bulk of the movies are things that couldn’t actually be considered “good.” One of the movies is Starship Troopers, a film that I hated the first time through. I was curious as to whether my initial response would hold up to a second viewing.

It didn’t fare particularly well.

In reference to the Heinlein novel, this is a film with none of the thoughtfulness or intelligence of the book. Its characters are smaller, it shows no knowledge of the military, it abandons the social and political text for sarcastic melodrama, and, well, it just misses the damned point. It completely eviscerates the political context (not to mention casting Heinlein’s Juan Rico as a lily white idiot named John Rico).

And it doesn’t stand up on its own, either.

The acting (with the exception of Neil Patrick Harris) is horrid. It’s wooden and stilted and the screenplay reeks. The mobile infantry training, as represented in the movie, is sterile, unrealistic, and useless. It bears no resemblance to the reality of dragging your body through the dirt, digging foxholes, eating MREs, and sleeping in the cold. Real training is forced marches and tedious days at the range and learning how to be a soldier instead of a civilian. Most of it is about as exciting as learning how to correctly stow your gear in your locker--and the fun parts, like your first field training exercise, are punctuated by all the little ways that your drill sergeants can make your life a little extra miserable.

Whatever the hell it was that director Paul Verhoeven imagined had no relationship to the reality of life in the military. None.

And, seriously, is there a worse actor in the world than Casper Van Dien? His acting consists mostly of powerfully flexing his jaws and jerking his head melodramatically.

What’s most offensive about the thing is that it seems like a big flip of the finger to everything Heinlein was trying to say. It’s an intentional fuck you to the book and anyone who takes it seriously. Of course, I shouldn’t expect better from a man who had this to say about the United States and Starship Troopers.

“Take STARSHIP TROOPERS, great example, probably the most political statement I’ve ever made. Five years ago, most of the critics totally trashed that movie. They called me a nazi, saying I was idolizing Leni Riefenstahl. Now, that image has totally changed. A lot of people see now that the film is about the United States. The whole situation in Afghanistan is almost an exact copy of STARSHIP TROOPERS; the whole gung ho-mentality of bombing everything, blasting the Taliban-forces out of the caves. I put all that in STARSHIP TROOPERS! The corrupted atmosphere of propaganda, once invented by Goebbels, has now taken over the United States as well. It’s extremely interesting to see how the media can besiege an entire nation with propaganda.”

And this.

I felt that the soldier characters were all idiots. They were willing to die for their country because of the propaganda they had been fed.

And this (from the same interview):

In his novel Starship Troopers, Robert Heinlein envisioned a kind of military fascist utopia. Although we liked a lot of things in the book, I needed to present the extremity to which that kind of utopia would lead. It’s not very far away from the Bush government, in fact.

Yeah, here’s a guy who respected his audience and the (somewhat) source material. You’d have a hard time convincing me he even understood the idea of Starship Troopers.

The only possible good points are the few moments of gratuitous nudity and that it reminded me just how much I still love the infantry. Just not the fake infantry of Van Dien’s hideous creation.

“To the everlasting glory of the Infantry,” indeed, and to men like Roger Young.

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Yup. Wasn’t a big fan of the movie either.

But wasn’t it cool to see little Doogie Houser, MD all grown up and being an evil, twisted, manipulative bastard?

Best thing about the movie was the special effects, and even those weren’t eye-popping in theaters.

on Jan 12 2006 @ 02:20 AM

Hrmph. At the end when they’ve captured the “brain bug,” and have dragged it out for all the soldiers to gawk at—and it’s quivering and looking around in obvious panic—Doogie actually has to make telepathic contact with the thing to figure out that “it’s afraid!”

The special effects were obviously a lot better than the script.

on Jan 12 2006 @ 07:32 AM

While I was looking for quotes from the director, I came across a site that talked about “Doogie Himmler.”

Cracked me up.

Now, following that train of thought: the funniest thing that Doogie has ever done was Undercover Brother. That’s good stuff.

on Jan 12 2006 @ 08:36 AM

I’ll have to dig up and post the review I wrote about it for the local science fiction club. I didn’t like it much, calling it “Verhoeven’s rebuttal to Heinlein’s Starship Troopers.” If they’d given it a completely unrelated title and changed the character names, I’d have considered it a stupid-but-fun action SF movie.

Shortly after the movie came out, someone in a newsgroup I was following had the following in his .sig file:

When bringing books from print to screen,
‘Tween Heaven & Hell, there is a fine line.
So ghods above, I beg you please…
Don’t let Verhoeven do more Heinlein.

on Jan 12 2006 @ 09:20 AM

But don’t call him unpatriotic.  “I support our (stupid, brainwashed) troops!”

on Jan 12 2006 @ 12:52 PM

But the movie did have Denise Richards…

on Jan 12 2006 @ 02:45 PM

VerHoeven was doing this deliberately.

He made the protagonist look like a Nazi as much as possible ... VerHoeven grew up in Nazi-occupied Europe. You can see the very heavy Nazi symbology in the flags displayed just like Reich-banners on building when he grew up.

He diliberately painted the Bugs as victims, and then sat back to see if the average american would cheer for the storm-troopers.

He rather subtly raped Heinlein’s work ... it looks merely bad at first glance ... but the evil VerHoeven inserted in this version is deeper than that.

on Jan 12 2006 @ 04:29 PM

And then, of course, there’s “Starship Troopers 2”, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0367093/

It seems to be competing for the same audience demographic as the Iron Eagle series.  (Nope, I don’t know what that demographic is either.)

on Jan 12 2006 @ 04:39 PM

I can’t find it now, but I read an interview where Verhoeven stated that he didn’t actually read the book.  That he only read the script addaptation and relied on others that had actually read the book to come up with his artistic vision.

on Jan 15 2006 @ 08:12 AM
jed

But the movie did have Denise Richards…

Yeah, well whoop-de-do. If we’d seen as much of her as we did in Wild Thing, well it would’a been better.

But I dug Dina Meyer.

Co-ed showers. Heh.

And for some reason, even in a crap movie, I always like watching Michael Ironside. I guess it’s because I’m always hoping he’ll make someone’s head explode.

on Jan 16 2006 @ 08:55 PM
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