Most of the reviews of 'Starship Troopers' on this site seem to fall into one of three groups:
a. Those who hated it, because of the silly 90210 look, mediocre acting, goriness, poor science, or infidelity to Heinlein;
b. Those who say "Give it a break, it's a fun beer & pretzels movie"; and
c. Those who applaud the anti-militarism theme.
I disagree with all of the above. Actually, I somehwat agree with group a., but for different reasons.
Criticising a movie for infidelity to a primary source or technical inaccuracy is like criticising it for being in colour; they are very few mainstream movies not like that.
In this case, however, any dismay by Heinlein fans is deserved. There are huge differences between script and novel, and where a resemblance does exist the movie seems to _mock_ the book. In fact, I became convinced that either Verhoeven or Neumeier strongly dislikes Heinlein - in particular, his social beliefs - and deliberately parodied his work.
'Real' science fiction is about exploring the possibilities of actual (and plausible future) science and technology, and its effects on us and our society. Hollywood's version of 'sci-fi' is often an action movie decked out with bizarre gadgets, blaster guns and slimy-skinned humanoid villains. Sci-fi fans call this 'science fantasy' to emphasize the difference. To a sci-fi fan, 'science fantasy' is derogatory - just as 'sci-fi' is to a 'serious' novelist!! Heinlein was a science fiction author, and both sociological and technological details in his books are important to the plot. The movie is pure science fantasy. Of course it's rare for Hollywood to produce a non-fantasy sci-fi movie, but when seen from the viewpoint of the anti-Heinlein theory, the bad science in this movie does seem needlessly exaggerated. Heinlein was careful with his science, and even included physics calculations in his work; this movie has starships piloted by kids staring out the windshield, and being shot down by the farts of giant bugs. A parody, perhaps?
Forgetting the times in which Heinlein lived, people have sometimes accused him of revealing fascist traits. One idea from 'Starship Troopers' was of extending suffrage only to military veterans. Bizarre extremism to present day readers, but remember the context: Heinlein was writing just after the vast armies of WW2 saved the world from the Nazis, when national service was still nearly universal, and the Cold War was just hotting up. Anyone advocating the abolition of compulsory military service looked suspiciously like a commie fellow traveller. But there was Heinlein (a naval veteran) suggesting a novel compromise path: make military service voluntary, but with suffrage as an inducement - while those who refused service to the nation didn't get to run it. So the "fascist Heinlein" claims are somewhat shallow. Compare "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" - admittedly a much later work, but distinctly liberal/leftist (it's about an ingenious and inclusive popular revolution overthrowing a repressive colonial government). Now we seem to have the movie 'Starship Troopers' taking the "Heinlein was a closet fascist" theme and ramming it down our throats. The Mobile Infantry are dressed in SS-like uniforms instead of power armour, the Terran government uses Nazi propaganda techniques, and an intelligence officer is dressed as a Gestapo agent. It's so blunt no-one could miss it - but many did. When some viewers asked about the strangely fascist newsreels, we were told it was a parody of WW2 Nazi newsreels. Huh? Why parody 1940's Nazi newsreels in a movie set in the future? Unless it was a comment on the social ideas being parodied at the same time...
I'm surprised the 'beer & pretzels' crowd didn't notice the blatant anti-violence, anti-military 'messages'. It almost seems as if the makers are offering their eye-candy science fantasy (and sex) as a lure to get the 'beer & pretzels' types to watch their messages'. If so it is rather, erm, ironic that a movie parodying Nazi propaganda techniques should employ slightly subtler but essentially similar methods itself...
Finally, a couple of particular gripes: Some people have lauded the special effects. I believe that when it was first released, this movie had the greatest number of synthetic images realistically interacting with human actors. Bravo for that. However the point of special effects is not to rack up statistics, it is to create astonishing images not otherwise possible to film. In this respect, 'Starship Troopers' was ok but not anything special. Compare the pedestrian starship combat to the breathtaking starship battles in 'Babylon 5'. Or look at the scene of crewmen on the exterior of a spaceship hull in 'Star Trek: First Contact' - as the 'camera' slowly panned away and revealed the massive grandeur of the scene, it really evoked a feeling of hanging by your bootstraps above an infinite void. _That_ was an inspired effect. Anything like that in 'Starship Troopers'? Nah.
Some people were also impressed by the battle scenes. WHAT?!?! You get more convincing battles in the average cowboys-and-indians flick. Case in point: 90 zillion bugs, packed into a broad canyon, are swarming toward you. You have tactical nuclear rockets, and a radio link to a star fleet. So you pull out your assault rifle and try to shoot them one at a time!
Overall, I neither loved nor hated this movie. I'm not sorry I went, but I won't see it again. My strongest impression is a mild annoyance that Verhoeven seems to have thought he could mess with a whole bunch of heads, and mostly they didn't even notice him doing it.
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