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Critics Reassess Starship Troopers As a Misunderstood Masterpiece

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the everyone-fights-no-one-quits dept.

Sci-Fi 726

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Calum Marsh writes in The Atlantic that when Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers hit theaters 16 years ago today, American critics slammed it as a 'crazed, lurid spectacle' featuring 'raunchiness tailor-made for teen-age boys' and 'a nonstop splatterfest so devoid of taste and logic that it makes even the most brainless summer blockbuster look intelligent.' But now the reputation of the movie based on Robert Heinlein's Hugo award winning novel is beginning to improve as critics begin to recognize the film as a critique of the military-industrial complex, the jingoism of American foreign policy, and a culture that privileges reactionary violence over sensitivity and reason. 'Starship Troopers is satire, a ruthlessly funny and keenly self-aware sendup of right-wing militarism,' writes Marsh. 'The fact that it was and continues to be taken at face value speaks to the very vapidity the movie skewers.' The movie has rightfully come to be appreciated by some as an unsung masterpiece. Coming in at number 20 on Slant Magazine's list of the 100 best films of the 1990s last year, the site's Phil Coldiron described it as 'one of the greatest of all anti-imperialist films,' a parody of Hollywood form whose superficial 'badness' is central to its critique. 'That concept is stiob, which I'll crudely define as a form of parody requiring such a degree of over-identification with the subject being parodied that it becomes impossible to tell where the love for that subject ends and the parody begins,' writes Coldiron. 'If you're prepared for the rigor and intensity of Verhoeven's approach—you'll get the joke Starship Troopers is telling,' says Marsh. 'And you'll laugh.'"

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The Only Good Bug is a Dead Bug. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45363233)

The Only Good Bug is a Dead Bug.

Re:The Only Good Bug is a Dead Bug. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45363269)

The only good bugger is a dead bugger.

It tried to follow the plot (3, Insightful)

jfdavis668 (1414919) | about a year ago | (#45363267)

I was surprised how well the movie tried to follow the plot of the book. But, flying across the galaxy to fight bugs with assault rifles at 10 feet? Everyone in the army looking like members of the fashion club? Where are the armored suits? Skydiving from space? Hand held nukes? (OK, they had a little bit of that). The basic training parts of the book were critical. And why did they include Doogie Howser, Gestapo? For all the teenage blood and gore in the movie, it did portray the concepts of the book fairly well.

Re:It tried to follow the plot (3, Insightful)

canadian_right (410687) | about a year ago | (#45363295)

I've always enjoyed the movie Star Ship Troopers as a satire of fascism and chauvinism. I thought it conveyed the spirit of the book, if a bit skewed, quite well.

It followed a few of the plot lines, but ... (5, Insightful)

Gription (1006467) | about a year ago | (#45363597)

Heinlein's Starship Troopers is a masterful morality play. The movie can only be seen as such by someone desperately searching for meaning that isn't really there. The fun technical wizardry of the jump suits was written out of it so the obvious CG element was lost..

So why did they bother to call it Starship Troopers? A fun movie but no trace of what was special in the original remains.

Re: It followed a few of the plot lines, but ... (1)

jd2112 (1535857) | about a year ago | (#45363765)

They called it a Starship Troopers because Aliens was already taken.

Re:It tried to follow the plot (5, Interesting)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year ago | (#45363771)

When it (the movie) first came out, I was mostly in it for the bare boobs. We didn't have Internet access back then.

Re:It tried to follow the plot (5, Insightful)

lgw (121541) | about a year ago | (#45363833)

People frequently misunderstood Heinlein. He wrote about many fictional societies in which he took some idea that sort of sounded good, and pursued it to its logical extreme where it broke.

People read Starship Troopers and see Heinlein as a fascist, instead of seeing the book as illustrating the good and bad sides to such a society from the point of view of someone living there. We're all brainwashed by our culture to some extent, after all, because that's what culture is.

People read Moon Is A Harsh Mistress and see Heinlein as a Libertarian (gotta watch those libertarian fascists!), instead of seeing the book as illustrating the good and bad sides to such a society from the point of view of someone living there.

In both books our heroes defeat the major dramatic conflict, but also find that society did not become utopia as a result.

The movie was a shallow satire. The book was a thoughtful morality play. I still like the movie though, as was far more annoyed by the lack of jumpsuits than the political fun.

Re:It tried to follow the plot (5, Insightful)

thomst (1640045) | about a year ago | (#45363943)

canadian_right confessed:

I've always enjoyed the movie Star Ship Troopers as a satire of fascism and chauvinism. I thought it conveyed the spirit of the book, if a bit skewed, quite well.

Oh, for criminy's sake! A "satire of fascism and chavinism" that "conveyed the spirit of the book"? Give to me a break.

The two things are ENTIRELY mutually exclusive. You can convey the spirit of Heinlein's final juvenile novel, or you can make a "satire of fascism and chauvinism", but you cannot do both. In fact, I'm reminded of Heinlein's own observation that, "A man may choose to follow the path of faith, or the path of reason. He cannot do both."

Starship Troopers, the novel, is a straightforward exposition of the process by which callow teenagers are transformed into trained soldiers. There's no trace of sexism in it, and no hint of fascism, either. (That Heinlein sets the story in a society in which an individual must serve the public for a period - remarks he made in response to interviews published over the years made it clear that he did not envision military service as the only option - before being granted the sovereign franchise does NOT amount to "fascism".) The movie, by contrast, discards every trace of what makes the book effective as a coming-of-age tale, replaces Heinlein's social model with a truly fascist one, and makes the military's leadership a clown college (Space marines using carbines against the Bugs? Really?), to boot. It has NOTHING to do with the book, besides sharing a title.

You, sir, are a ninnyhammer.

Re:It tried to follow the plot (2)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#45363405)

I was surprised how well the movie tried to follow the plot of the book.

In what way did the movie follow the plot of the book? Verhoeven even admitted that he didn't even finish the novel. He supposedly read a couple of chapters then got bored and stopped. Outside of a handful of similar events they are almost nothing alike.

Re:It tried to follow the plot (3, Funny)

perpenso (1613749) | about a year ago | (#45363575)

I was surprised how well the movie tried to follow the plot of the book.

In what way did the movie follow the plot of the book? Verhoeven even admitted that he didn't even finish the novel. He supposedly read a couple of chapters then got bored and stopped. Outside of a handful of similar events they are almost nothing alike.

Might want to add that it is a very short book.

Re:It tried to follow the plot (3, Insightful)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about a year ago | (#45363661)

"speaks to the very vapidity the movie skewers"

Hollyweird is the definition of vapidity, IMO.

I will note that the movie made no attempt to delve into the political statements made in the book. Of course, Hollyweird isn't really into libertarian thought, so they would have brushed over that if they did understand it.

Re:It tried to follow the plot (3, Insightful)

Thorizdin (456032) | about a year ago | (#45363727)

Exactly, the movie tried to convey the opposite message that the book did.

Re:It tried to follow the plot (3, Interesting)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year ago | (#45363469)

What? No it didn't. Not at all. What book did you read?

No basic, no skinnies, no OCS, no power armor, no drops etc etc etc.

Plus all the 90210 idiots...blah.

It was obvious that the movie makers did have an axe to grind. The almost Nazi uniforms were the giveaway.

Re:It tried to follow the plot (1)

Gareth Iwan Fairclough (2831535) | about a year ago | (#45363855)

What? No it didn't. Not at all. What book did you read?

No basic, no skinnies, no OCS, no power armor, no drops etc etc etc.

Plus all the 90210 idiots...blah.

but there are boobs, guns and even a hand held nuke. What's not to like?

It's no worse (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45363273)

Than the fools that thought Heinlein was promoting fascism. That was hilarious. He debunked that quite thoroughly, but there are still idiots out there promoting that false idea.

Critics are idiots... (-1)

evilviper (135110) | about a year ago | (#45363277)

Those elements were ALL in there from the start. It hasn't gotten any better or worse with age. It remains ham-fisted, dark, very poorly acted, etc.

I re-watch it from time to time. Not a good movie, but somewhere between campy and popcorn flicks, and doing neither well.

It was about halfway between Verhoeven's triumphant Robocop, and his decent into notorious shame with Showgirls, with many elements of both throughout. Unless the later gets reassessed and becomes an American Classic, Starship Troopers will also remain a just plain bad movie.

Re:Critics are idiots... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45363493)

I have to admit I've never seen Showgirls, but I still am pretty confident the ham-fisted, poorly acted aspect of Troopers is an intentional part of the film. Some of the casting, especially the lead and his love interest, were clearly done to get pretty people who were stiffs on camera, while the few (known) good actors either stay archetypes or ham it up. Robocop has the same thing, though relatively toned down in the main cast and highly amplified when it comes to anything shown on a TV in that movie. I don't think Troopers is a masterpiece, but it is a very well made ironic action film that goes well with popcorn.

Re:Critics are idiots... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45363607)

Well, at least it's not indecent shame.

Re:Critics are idiots... (3, Funny)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year ago | (#45363641)

I don't understand why everyone dislikes showgirls, It is a great erotic film. In my opinion it could only be compared to wild things, it is so good. the story is nothing special, if you compare it to normal films, but it is head and shoulders above even the best porno.

Re:Critics are idiots... (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year ago | (#45363801)

You are weird. Showgirls!? Are you trolling?

Re:Critics are idiots... (0)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year ago | (#45363875)

The 1995 film, with the absolutely amazing lap dance scene, among many others??

How could anyone not find Showgirls one of the top 10 sexiest films of all time?

Seemed European not American ... (1)

perpenso (1613749) | about a year ago | (#45363761)

Not a good movie, but somewhere between campy and popcorn flicks, and doing neither well.

It was a 90s action movie, nothing more. It was a good movie in that context. Only a disappointment if one considered the book and what the movie could have been.

Was it art? Well perhaps to the crowd that accepts an everyday item in a jar of piss as art. Well, at least after you tell that crowd the movie is an anti-American commentary.

Was it a commentary on "American imperialism"? No, that's quite a bit of revisionism. The main characters were not from the USA, the government was global in nature and the look of the government and the military was absolutely European.

Re:Seemed European not American ... (1)

evilviper (135110) | about a year ago | (#45363913)

Even judged by the standards of a brainless action movie, it's still terrible. Lousy plot, stiff acting by brainless models, cartoony weapons, etc. Compare and contrast with Robocop.

You what? (5, Insightful)

lisaparratt (752068) | about a year ago | (#45363293)

It really took Americans 16 years to work this out? To me, the satire was brazenly obvious the moment I watched it for the first time all those years ago.

Re:You what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45363377)

What the hell is that supposed to mean?

Re:You what? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45363533)

What the hell is that supposed to mean?

You'll understand in time. See you in 16 years.

Re:You what? (5, Insightful)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | about a year ago | (#45363419)

No, we got that it was satire. It only took 16 years for them to find someone who thought it was a GOOD satire.

Re:You what? (4, Insightful)

Zumbs (1241138) | about a year ago | (#45363609)

Looking at the discussion forum for the movie at imdb, I would say that there still are a lot of people who do not realize that it was an obvious satire. I have no idea of the nationality of the posters, nor do I really care that much. Just opens a door to that old mudslinging fest.

Re:You what? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45363693)

Judging from the reviews you didn't get that it was satire in the first place.
This maybe says more about the so-called critics than what they said about the movie.

Re:You what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45363435)

I'll buy that for a dollar!

VerHoven puts cultural satire in just about everything he's done - except for Basic Instinct - or I missed it.

Re:You what? (5, Insightful)

M. Baranczak (726671) | about a year ago | (#45363449)

I saw the movie a few years after it came out, and that's exactly what I thought. The satire was not subtle at all - how did so many people miss it?

Re:You what? (3, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | about a year ago | (#45363515)

The satire was not subtle at all - how did so many people miss it?

My experience is that Europeans recognized the satire immediately, while Americans thought it was a serious movie glamourising American militarism.

Re:You what? (4, Informative)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year ago | (#45363601)

The satire was not subtle at all - how did so many people miss it?

My experience is that Europeans recognized the satire immediately, while Americans thought it was a serious movie glamourising American militarism.

Um, no, we did not think that. We thought it was a spectacularly badly made movie.

Re:You what? (4, Insightful)

Fluffeh (1273756) | about a year ago | (#45363673)

We on the other hand thought it was a glorious parody. Not amazingly well made, but the quality of the satire made up for what the movie was lacking. If anything I dare say that it might be hitting just a bit too close to home for a number of US folks to truly appreciate. For me, it was almost like being inside a ninety minute example of Poe's Law - dazzlingly brilliant in its dark undercurrent of ghastliness.

Re:You what? (1)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#45363723)

I've known many people who have seen the movie. None of them thought it was serious. You seem to be making shit up out of whole cloth.

Re:You what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45363749)

The same thing happened with Fight Club.
At least the decided to take some interesting quotes from the bad reviews and
put them as a trophy on the DVD box cover.

Were you referring to South American ? (1)

perpenso (1613749) | about a year ago | (#45363917)

The satire was not subtle at all - how did so many people miss it?

My experience is that Europeans recognized the satire immediately, while Americans thought it was a serious movie glamourising American militarism.

Funny, in America we immediately thought it satire and that the militarism portrayed was European in nature. The uniforms had European looks, the ranks seemed European (the US has no Marshals), etc. The newsreel like scenes very 1940s in their style.

Re:You what? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45363513)

Exactly.

No one ever accused Americans of being quick on the uptake. Most of them still don't understand "Borat" was poking fun at them, not with them, and that Borat could never have been filmed in almost any other country except the US as anyone else wouldn't have been fooled.

Americans are not too sophisticated in these matters.

Still, better late than never huh ?

Re:You what? (1)

HappilyUnstable (1838562) | about a year ago | (#45363823)

You seem to confuse the ability to laugh at oneself with being too dense to realize one is the subject of the joke.

I would be more worried for countries so concerned with being mocked or subject to satire that the films and arts are censored. That definitely sounds like a sophisticated society.

Also, Borat was hilarious.

Re:You what? (4, Insightful)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about a year ago | (#45363763)

The satire was Hollyweird's, not Heinlein's. The story portrayed in the movie is NOT the story that Heinlein wrote.

Re:You what? (4, Informative)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a year ago | (#45363777)

This was before the internet as we know it. In 1990, in the US, we were told what to think by NBC/CBS/ABC. If you disagreed with anything you saw on those 3 networks (which all pretty much agreed with each other) you were considered mental ill.

Regular Americans got the satire ... (1)

perpenso (1613749) | about a year ago | (#45363815)

It really took Americans 16 years to work this out? To me, the satire was brazenly obvious the moment I watched it for the first time all those years ago.

Regular Americans got the satire and the jokes at the time. Its only the "elite" that have had a recent revelation, a revisionist reinterpretation of what was meant merely as fun and laughs as social commentary for politics and events that did not exist at the time.

Whose roughnecks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45363305)

RICOS ROUGHNECKS!

Re:Whose roughnecks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45363409)

HOOAH!

Wrong side (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45363307)

> right-wing militarism

No. Heinlein said they were left-wing socialists like the Nazis (National Socialists) from Germany. If anything the movie is horrible for making fun of Democrats in the US who are the only people in this country actually trying to save it. The Rethugs are trying to kill all of us as fast as they can with guns, environmental problems, and nuclear accidents. It's only the left-wing, like in Starship Troopers, that is trying to save us.

Re:Wrong side (2, Insightful)

pecosdave (536896) | about a year ago | (#45363401)

making fun of Democrats in the US who are the only people in this country actually trying to save it

LOL wut?

Neither of the two major parties in the U.S. is trying to save the country. The OWS crowd is making a misguided effort who's goals would actually make thing worse - but they really do have the goal of fixing the joint, and the Tea Part "proper" is trying to fix a few things while ruining others. These are the major party people with their hearts in the right place.

There's two separate crowds in the country making an effort to save it that actually have the proper goals in mind - the Constitutionalist who want to fix our nation and bring it back to it's chartered place which is quite admirable, and the Libertarians who want to go a step further than the Constitutionalist with a fuck-all get rid of everything else while you're at it attitude.

Your beloved Democrats are making a very visible and direct effort to bankrupt the whole of the people and reduce freedom across the board while their at it.

Re:Wrong side (1, Insightful)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about a year ago | (#45363793)

+1 insightful

There are just so many clueless monkeys out there. Maybe some of them will read your words, and give them a thought or two. I don't hold out much hope, but maybe.

Re:Wrong side (1)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#45363491)

Actually it was not based on the Nazis if Poul Anderson is to be believed:

I never joined in the idiot cries of "fascist!" It was plain that the society of Starship Troopers is, on balance, more free than ours today. I did wonder how stable its order of things would be, and expressed my doubts in public print as well as in the occasional letters we exchanged. Heinlein took no offense. After a little argument back and forth, we both fell into reminiscences of Switzerland, where he got the notion in the first place. [Anderson 1992:319]

http://www.kentaurus.com/troopers.htm [kentaurus.com]

Unless, of course, you study the author... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45363309)

I find this to be somewhat laughable. Robert Heinlein was entirely serious about the message that the story delivers. That only those who serve in the military and commit violence in the name of their country should truly be considered "citizens" of the country.

The book is most assuredly not a "send up" or "farce" or anything of the sort. It was a statement of Mr Heinlein's beliefs.

Go do a little reading about him. Learning who he was may alter your perspective on his books...

As for the movie being "a critique of the military-industrial complex" - not a chance. It was exactly what is appeared to be.

Re:Unless, of course, you study the author... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45363375)

Actually, the movie was created by people who didn't appreciate the original message in the book. (At least if the wikipedia article on the movie is to be believed.)

Re:Unless, of course, you study the author... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45363475)

It shouldn't be believed, anyone even remotely familiar with Verhoeven's work should be able to see the movie for what it is: an in-your-face lampoon of the source material.

Re:Unless, of course, you study the author... (3, Interesting)

hguorbray (967940) | about a year ago | (#45363437)

That's what is so brilliant about the movie. Henlein was a good writer and wrote some great books, but his social theories were a little odd to say the least and reflected the chauvinism of the nationalist, technocratic exceptionalism of the '50s -better living through chemistry, etc that presaged the rise of the military industrial complex and corporatism masking itself as progress.

I avoided it for 15 years then saw it late night a few months ago and thought it was both spot-on and hilarious.

-I'm just sayin'

Re:Unless, of course, you study the author... (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45363507)

Yeah, the book was serious, as was Heinlein. The movie wasn't.

While you're harping on everyone for not recognizing Heinlein for his strong support of the military, you're missing the director of the film Paul Verhoeven(Total Recall and Robocop). He's a big satire guy. So it's not surprising he made a satirical version of a a novel he never finished reading.

I find both the novel and movie great, but they have almost nothing to do with each other.

Re:Unless, of course, you study the author... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45363549)

Case in point.

You just don't understand.

16 years huh?....looks like you need a few more.

Re:Unless, of course, you study the author... (4, Interesting)

RazorSharp (1418697) | about a year ago | (#45363569)

This is pretty much what I was going to post. This whole "critique of the military-industrial complex" view fails to take into account that the bugs were an actual threat to earth.

Also, the whole "misunderstood masterpiece" bit is absurd. What little satire exists was recognized by the most famous movie critic of all time: [rogerebert.com]

It doesn't really matter, since the Bugs aren't important except as props for the interminable action scenes, and as an enemy to justify the film's quasi-fascist militarism. Heinlein was of course a right-wing saberrattler, but a charming and intelligent one who wrote some of the best science fiction ever. "Starship Troopers'' proposes a society in which citizenship is earned through military service, and values are learned on the battlefield.

Heinlein intended his story for young boys, but wrote it more or less seriously. The one redeeming merit for director Paul Verhoeven's film is that by remaining faithful to Heinlein's material and period, it adds an element of sly satire. This is like the squarest but most technically advanced sci-fi movie of the 1950s, a film in which the sets and costumes look like a cross between Buck Rogers and the Archie comic books, and the characters look like they stepped out of Pepsodent ads.

Ebert still gave the film a paltry 2 out of 4 stars. Whether the director was trying to satirize Heinlein or not, it was still a pretty shabby movie.

Re:Unless, of course, you study the author... (4, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about a year ago | (#45363651)

Also, the whole "misunderstood masterpiece" bit is absurd. What little satire exists was recognized by Roger Ebert

I had just finished reading that review and no, Ebert really missed the boat. Yes he recognized some of the message, but then says this without a hint of irony:

We smile at the satirical asides, but where's the warmth of human nature? The spark of genius or rebellion? If "Star Wars'' is humanist, "Starship Troopers'' is totalitarian.

He got it on the nose, Starship Troopers is the embodiment of totalitarianism -- that's why there is no "spark of rebellion" no "warmth of human nature" its a totalitarian society that has squashed human nature -- and yet he didn't realize it even as he was writing it.

Re:Unless, of course, you study the author... (4, Interesting)

evilviper (135110) | about a year ago | (#45363877)

This whole "critique of the military-industrial complex" view fails to take into account that the bugs were an actual threat to earth.

They weren't a threat, until we incited them to attack. IIRC, that was only quietly suggested in the movie, and easy enough to miss, but it was there.

Re:Unless, of course, you study the author... (1)

markass530 (870112) | about a year ago | (#45363589)

Only Service is required jackass, not Military Service. and LOL @ Commit Violence in the name of their country, do the police commit violence in the name of your city?

Re:Unless, of course, you study the author... (2)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about a year ago | (#45363843)

Correct. Service, and willingness to sacrifice. I extend as much respect to a doctor who volunteers to serve an impoverished community, here or abroad, as I have for those who served in uniform while carrying a weapon. And, Heinlein's views support my own. Willingness to serve your fellow man defines your own value, IMHO. The selfish bastard who only ever thinks of himself is so much worthless trash in my book.

Re:Unless, of course, you study the author... (5, Interesting)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | about a year ago | (#45363595)

Like Stephen Colbert--the best parody of a ludicrous position is often to just embrace it and take it 3 steps further.

Re:Unless, of course, you study the author... (5, Interesting)

JBMcB (73720) | about a year ago | (#45363643)

Robert Heinlein was entirely serious about the message that the story delivers. That only those who serve in the military and commit violence in the name of their country should truly be considered "citizens" of the country

Not quite. His core belief was, as he put it, there's no such thing as a free lunch. You don't get to live in a free society without being required to defend it.

Re:Unless, of course, you study the author... (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year ago | (#45363679)

Have you never watched the movie? I really could care less of how the book was, the movie is obviously a parody, and a loko at a dystopia future government. This is not a discussion, it is not like their is any question.

Re: Unless, of course, you study the author... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45363713)

The way I read the film was, it is presenting itself as one of those action flicks like, say, Top Gun, where the military allow the filmmakers to use a lot of kit, but there is a quid pro quo and the filmmakers have to turn out a piece that propagandizes for values the military approves. Except, of course, in this case the film Starship Troopers is made years from now in a fictional future.

This conceit is, iirc, cued by some advertising or whatnot at the start of the film (it's been a while since I saw it)

  So, anyway, if you watch it like this, as a somewhat crummy and unintentionally funny propaganda effort from the future, you will see, through the lenses of the ludicrous script, transparent attempts at indoctrination, bad acting, and so on, a portrayal of the sort of future society that could create such a film.

The satire comes in when you consider that such a society is only a mild caricature of that obtaining in some 'advanced' western nations right now, and that the film itself only slightly exaggerates the badness of similarly propagandistic war films from the last few decades.

self-aware sendup of right-wing militarism (2)

pecosdave (536896) | about a year ago | (#45363335)

I don't think right-wing has that cornered these days. Granted, starting with Korea or so a lot of our wars were right-wing, but Obama has sort of swung them back left.

Re:self-aware sendup of right-wing militarism (4, Insightful)

Quakeulf (2650167) | about a year ago | (#45363383)

It's always a good thing by the governments to play the left against the right because in reality it has become more of a divide and conquer strategy to make people fight each other instead of fighting the government. Just look at what public officials can get away with these days.

Re:self-aware sendup of right-wing militarism (1, Insightful)

pecosdave (536896) | about a year ago | (#45363509)

I agree with you.

Left and right are mindsets - not political movements. Politicians have figured out how to harness the left and right mindsets to keep us arguing about time-wasting argument fodder to keep us from paying attention to the real problems.

I've given it a lot of thought.

Left wing mindset people drive progress, creativity, and our culture keeping us moving forward preventing cultural and stagnation.

Right wing mindset people harness the ideas often created by the left, make them work smoothly, effectively and keep the lefties from moving us forward over a cliff.

You need both left and right wing people to make the world work properly - as well as a few of us rare "mid minded" people that qualify as both and neither at the same time to patch together the differences.

Politicians have turned it into a cultural war where "both sides" are the same and "either" side winning gets us about the same results, and by keeping the war going and amplifying the differences between the "two sides" they keep those who are fighting from seeing there's really more than two ways to look at it and the very act of fighting this war ensures the wrong side wins.

Re:self-aware sendup of right-wing militarism (2)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about a year ago | (#45363683)

Left and right are mindsets - not political movements.

While the two mindsets you describe exist and are, as you said, both useful, I don't think they have much to do with left vs. right these days (or liberal vs. conservative if you prefer). I think that left/liberal and right/conservative have, as used in contemporary American politics, become teams you root for, or just brand labels.

Re:self-aware sendup of right-wing militarism (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | about a year ago | (#45363853)

Right wing mindset people harness the ideas often created by the left, make them work smoothly, effectively and keep the lefties from moving us forward over a cliff.

Yea, like cutting taxes, slashing government spending, and not-my-problem if anyone feels any pain.
"smoothly, effectively and keep the lefties from moving us forward over a cliff" indeed

Re:self-aware sendup of right-wing militarism (1)

evilviper (135110) | about a year ago | (#45363807)

Just look at what public officials can get away with these days.

A LOT less than they could in the past. Study your US history, and you'll find that corruption in politics was far more extensive and flagrant than what we've got now. It went as far as the president of the US being decided by political dealings and corrupt electoral college members, rather than the public. It's only observation bias that makes you think things are getting so much worse, while in fact they're slowly improving (same is true of crime rates, gun violence, etc). Corruption in politics has been slowly declining for a long, long time.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._presidential_election,_1836 [wikipedia.org]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teapot_Dome [wikipedia.org]

Wake me up when we have another Watergate...

Re:self-aware sendup of right-wing militarism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45363615)

We've had exactly one "left-wing" war under Obama (Libya), along with the continuation of a drone strike policy started under Bush. If you want "left-wing" wars, Clinton is almost a better place to look: Bosnia, and Kosovo, military action in Haiti, various bombings targeting Al Qaeda, the ongoing no-fly zones in Iraq. And of course both of them (and every other recent president) had lower-level involvement in numerous other conflicts around the world.

Sorry, no. (3, Informative)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year ago | (#45363395)

This is not a new argument. It was made often at the time the film came out. Anyone following rec.arts.movies at the time is very familiar with the arguments that "it's a parody" and "you hate it because you just don't get it". (Check google groups for references.) This rang hollow at the time and it still does. There are several counter-arguments: If you followed the advance information while the film was being made, you know that aspects of the film were more expensive than originally thought, and the script kept getting simplified... and simplified again... and what ended up on screen were some pretty spectacular digital bug effects (for the time) coupled with unbelievably cheesy sets, costumes, and dialog, that being all they could afford with what was left. About that time the shift to "it's a parody! Really!" started.

I saw it for free (a company perk) and wanted my money back.

One could argue there's a reason this was Ed Neumeier's last big screen script, and why Verhoeven hasn't made a Hollywood film since the turn of the century.

So, no. Just no.

...and then, for no reason whatsoever, the Starship Troopers animated series came out, "based on the movie by Paul Verhoeven", and it wasn't half bad. Shrug.

Re:Sorry, no. (1)

0123456 (636235) | about a year ago | (#45363461)

Not only was it made at the time the movie came out, but the director explicitly states it in the DVD commentary.

Re:Sorry, no. (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year ago | (#45363687)

...but of course, he would...

Re:Sorry, no. (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year ago | (#45363747)

Does it matter how it got that way? It obviously has dystopian future government themes. And maybe they edited it into a parody, without setting out to make one, but it is a parody.

Re:Sorry, no. (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year ago | (#45363893)

Does it matter how it got that way? It obviously has dystopian future government themes. And maybe they edited it into a parody, without setting out to make one, but it is a parody.

Right, but... side issue... so why didn't they edit John Carter into a parody? It clearly needed the same treatment. who knows fifteen years from now, John Carter could have been heralded as a parody of ... I dunno, human expansionism, maybe. God only knows, it needed something.

But why does it matter? It matters to the extent that the claim that all the cheese was intentional doesn't match the advanced information (including fairly credible inside information) and it annoys me when someone slices into the rough and then insists they meant to do that and I'm just too stupid to get the joke. Beyond that, I've already spent too much time on this. By the time the last bit of bug juice had drizzled off the screen, I had already decided never to see a Verhoeven or Neumeier film again, and so far I've kept that promise.

Re:Sorry, no. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45363859)

...Verhoeven hasn't made a Hollywood film since the turn of the century.

Uh, what? He's no more or less busy now than he ever was. He has four movies under his belt since 2000 with two more announced, which is about on par with the rest of his career.

Re:Sorry, no. (1)

bagorange (1531625) | about a year ago | (#45363879)

Unfortunately you are wrong.
The film/movie's use of then common news media tropes show this:
for example, embeds and nods to even-handedness in TV news , immediately dismissed as hopelessly naïve -
[embed reporter] "Some say the bugs were provoked by human attempts to colonize within the AQZ, that a "live and let live" policy is preferable to war with the bugs..."
[Rico] "I'm from Buenos Aires, and I say kill'em all !"
The use of onscreen info and hyperlinks "Would you like to know more?"
All Fair and Balanced, just like a certain popular outlet
I would also point you to responses to Verhoeven other famous work - Robocop. Described by noted American critic Ebert as a laudable satire.
I have no doubt that Heinlein meant every po-faced word he typed, Verhoeven was clearly not playing it straight. Verhoeven probably left Hollywood because it is very very difficult to make good films there. Black Book [wikipedia.org] has 77% on RT

I have expectations now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45363407)

If its supposed to be a joke, i hope its as funny as schindler's list. liam neeson was cast in it for his knack for making lists

About time (1)

asmkm22 (1902712) | about a year ago | (#45363439)

Anyone who couldn't see all of the satire and sarcasm in that movie was blind, deaf, and dumb. It had very little to do with the books, aside from general setting and some characters, and instead chose to focus on other things. It took violence over the edge to comedy. It took romance over the edge to comedy. It even took dramatic acting over the edge to comedy (in a way that most comedies can't touch).

It represented the way Americans look at things; bigger and more outlandish than they really are. We drive big cars, we talk big talks, and we walk big walks. Usually in ways that are so over-the-top that they bleed over into -- you guessed it -- comedy.

I'm confused... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45363451)

So...should I not have given him my money because I disagree with his politics like people did with Ender's Game?

If that gets better when "reassessed" (4, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year ago | (#45363457)

that can only mean one thing: That the current piss being pushed out by Hollywood is really bringing the standards down. And in comparison, even turds can shine.

Give it another decade and then let's take a look at Uwe Boll movies again.

What wouldn't Atlantic publish? (4, Insightful)

mi (197448) | about a year ago | (#45363477)

Though a far-Left Socialist in his pre-war youth, Heinlein moved firmly to the near-Libertarian right by the end of 1940-ies (he was a big proponent of government's sponsorship of space-exploration, which does not make him quite a Libertarian).

His novel [wikipedia.org] asked the question, that bothered him for years — why do we bestow the franchise on every born American? His argument was that between the king having full power in a monarchy to the power being shared by all in a democracy there is a middle ground of voting rights being held only by those, who have demonstrated — through personal sacrifice — their willingness to serve the humanity (as a civil servant or a soldier). Under his plan, you'd only get to vote after retiring from the service — something the protagonist forgoes for many years by deciding to become a career officer...

Very little of this is in a movie — and it was justly derided for the omission.

But to find satire on "jingoism" and "American militarism" — however much the Atlantic's Illiberals may want to scratch that particular itch — in that movie is to give it way too much credit.

It was a sendup of more than the right (1)

g01d4 (888748) | about a year ago | (#45363483)

Attractive women in combat is hardly a paradigm of right-wing militarism.Nor was the gore which could easily have been aimed at Hollywood. I thought parody was the clear intent when I first saw the film on cable many years ago.

Stupid Critics, Stupid Movie (2)

Daetrin (576516) | about a year ago | (#45363487)

Any value the movie has as social commentary is overshadowed by its total misuse of the source material. The claims by Verhoeven and other critics that the novel supports fascism are shallow at best. The characters in the novel engage in a number moral debates about the values of their system of government, which you can certainly disagree with but can't just wave away with a simple accusation of fascism. In fact there's evidence that Heinlein got the idea of universal service in the novel from Switzerland, which as we all know is a hotbed of fascism. [/sarcasm]

And another take on it as parody (2)

Krishnoid (984597) | about a year ago | (#45363535)

One of the best 'reviews' [chicagoreader.com] I've read of it from Dan Savage (adult content, no pictures).

Hello and welcome to (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45363543)

last decade.

"Service Guarantees Citizenship! Would you like to know more?"

As a starcraft fan (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45363545)

I cannot not like this movie.

Like hearing an art critic (2)

Kjella (173770) | about a year ago | (#45363557)

It's a fun movie but you're not supposed to take it seriously, I don't get the people who do. It's like the people who hate on "Pacific Rim" and give it 1/10 stars because well it's essentially giants robots and monsters brawling it out in major cities with the most contrived mind meld technology and over-the-top characters you could possibly imagine. Except the whole premise is ridiculous, the monsters don't die from bullets and grenades and missiles and bombs (well except one, but spoiler) but they die from getting punched to death by a giant robot. How can you go to a movie like that and expect something else, it's like going to a horror movie and expecting deep drama. It's not going to happen and no, if you're seeing it in Starship Troopers you're imagining things.

MST3K == Rifftrax.com (0)

waspleg (316038) | about a year ago | (#45363633)

You can find pirate copies with the audio already synced but you should donate to them anyway. It's a new release and hilarious.

Check it out [rifftrax.com] I have no affiliation; I'm just a fan.

Bah (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45363665)

What's with all the silly pretension that a movie can only be good if it is satirical or makes some kind of social statement?

The movie was good entertainment with plenty of eye candy and epic battles. What's wrong with it being just that?
It may have been satirical too, but I don't actually give a shit.

Who still pays these guys? (2)

Kevin Fishburne (1296859) | about a year ago | (#45363677)

I always liked the film. Hell, it's one of my favorite sci-fi movies right alongside Alien, Aliens, Predator, 2001, Moon, etc. It wasn't difficult for me at all to identify and appreciate the satire, and I'm no literary genius or film critic. Watchmen did something similar, creating what seemed to be an alternate dimension of stereotypical right-wing ideology. I don't even agree with half the stuff either of the films were implying, but rather than being offended I was immensely entertained and even found them (gasp!) thought provoking.

In summary, movie critics are generally shitbags full of methane and are lucky to have a job...doing anything.

WATCH the final scene (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45363699)

One would have to be brain-dead to NOT notice that ST is hilarious satire, but the final scene should have prevented even the thickest yank critic from making a fool of him/herself.

The last scene makes it clear that the preceding 'movie' was a "recruitment propaganda drama" made for the benefit of the citizens depicted in the film. The Dutch consider (or used to, the Netherlands has recently descended into a Fascist state itself) themselves liberal experts in the nature of the Nazi machine that conquered so much of Europe, and post-WW2 (until Blair's people got hold of them), the Netherlands prided itself on having a free regime the very opposite of that built by Hitler.

The director of ST, Paul Verhoeven, was comparing the present day war machine of the USA, and the internal propaganda used to get average American citizens supporting the atrocities against Humanity carried out by their uniformed butchers, with the self same mechanisms that were active decades earlier in Nazi Germany. Americans were MORAL-blind to the meaning of ST, because it hit far too close to home to acknowledge.

Paul Verhoeven is a very clever director. He knew that getting Hollywood to back a movie with a profound message against aggressive warfare (the SUPREME Crime against Humanity, and the ONLY form of warfare America ever wages) would be impossible if a person with an average American IQ could identify its real meaning without help. So, he 'buried' the message at a level that only people with an IQ in the high double digits at least would notice, ruling out every US film critic. Like most Europeans, Paul Verhoeven has a love/hate relationship with the USA- and the things that Europeans hate most of all are American politicians, American jingoism, the racism in American society, America's hatred of the poor, and America's war machine.

If you have trouble identifying the themes in ST, no Human should EVER depend on your ability to think or act rationally/intelligently.

"so bad it's good" != "misunderstood masterpiece" (1)

nitehawk214 (222219) | about a year ago | (#45363715)

Heinlein did not intend for the message to be one of a farcical satire. He meant it.

I am pretty sure the writer was going for the same old-timey WWII rah-rah feel. They just failed so badly it became indistinguishable with Oh yeah, it's a parody, everyone laugh, haha."

What is the term for something that is unable to be determined if it was a farce or not?

Ok... No (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45363717)

If it REALLY took you this long to figure this out. You are not critics.
You are fucking clueless and need to stop selling your opinion. It is worth nothing.
You are ripping people off because you are a completely clueless waste of space.

This movie was OBVIOUS. Over the top, in your face biting satire and sarcasm about the american (or any out of control pure nationalistic) experience.

The satire is obvious (1)

Lucas123 (935744) | about a year ago | (#45363721)

I think you can enjoy the movie for its raw violence and special effects while also appreciating it for its swipe at the military-industrial complex. You don't have to chuckle your way through it, but how you miss the satire is beyond me. At one point a reporter interviewing soldiers headed into battle even states: "Some say the bugs were provoked by the intrusion of humans into their natural habitat, that 'live and let live' is preferable to war with the bugs." He's interrupted by mobile infantryman Johnny Rico who says: "Let me tell you something. I'm from Buenos Aires, and I say 'Kill 'em all!'" The movie in four minutes if you haven't seen it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ThrVQKl04Ak [youtube.com]

Obvious to some, not to most. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45363755)

My old workplace (a computer games company) went on a company trip to watch it at the cinema when it first came out.
I was absolutely astounded that I was the only one of the 20 odd people that "got" the references, such as the fact that humanity was the agressor, the obviously Gastapo inspired uniforms, the torture of a sentient being (which "funnily" enough has lost it's impact over the years since torture now seems to be an openly accepted part of US policy) and a bunch of other stuff I can't remember off the top of my head.
Of course the most memorable part of that movie was discovering Denise Richards. Sweet baby Jeebuz.

So There are People who do Like ST? (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year ago | (#45363785)

News to me, it has always been one of my favourite films.

wow.. (1)

sjwt (161428) | about a year ago | (#45363919)

Next up in about 32 years time, they might just work out the next impossibly difficult part of the movie to understand, That from the opening scene the whole thing is a web add from start to finish. Some how many ppl seem to miss the "Do you want to know more" web style click ads.

starshit troopers is still starshit troopers (3, Insightful)

jinchoung (629691) | about a year ago | (#45363923)

ugh... who DIDN'T recognize that that was what verhoeven was going for?

but it's all so FACILE and obvious and redundant. his satire had the depth of insight attained by lampooning the fact that the sun is hot. :P

yes, it's satirical... but so on the nose and idiotically shallow that it gains no mileage from it. it could only be admired for "insight" (for fuck's sake) by children or imbecile.

i should sue the guy for my eye injury sustained when his film forced me to attempt eyerolling at speeds beyond which is possible for average human beings.

the critique of the movie back then was that it was stupid. and that's still goddamn right.

robocop - brilliant
total recall - awesome

but starship troopers is fucking garbage.

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