Starship Troopers, the movie
Based on the novel by Robert A. Heinlein, but also based on a screenplay about an interstellar war against bugs that was independent from the novel.
I think I last read the novel in the early 2000s, so my memory of the novel is a little fuzzy, but it’s well known that the novel is a coming of age story about a young man who graduates from high school and then joins the military, it’s a science fiction novel about an interstellar war against bugs in which the soldiers wear these super-suits (and the suits were not in the movie), and it’s speculation about a future government in which only people (men or women) who served in the military are considered to be “citizens” and are allowed to vote.
It’s the future government part of the book that, for some reason, really triggers liberals. This is not a form of government that Heinlein is married to, he just liked to mix things up and explore different future possibilities. In the previous two books I reviewed recently, Orphans of the Sky features a theocracy and Double Star a parliamentary monarchy, sort of like the United Kingdom but where the emperor seems to exert a little more power than Queen Elizabeth II (or maybe the message of that book is that behind the scenes, the monarchs in constitutional monarchies are more active in manipulating the government than they let on in public). Heinlein even wrote a book, For Us, The Living, in which he presents a communist government as the ideal. Heinlein obviously had a curiosity and imagination that modern liberals lack.
When I first saw the movie in 1997, I was more clueless about this stuff than I am today. I just figured that they made a really bad movie unintentionally, because they weren’t very smart. However, the Wikipedia article has the truth.
Verhoeven had never read the book, and attempted to read it for the film, but it made him “bored and depressed”, so he read only a few chapters:
I stopped after two chapters because it was so boring,…It is really quite a bad book. I asked Ed Neumeier to tell me the story because I just couldn’t read the thing. It’s a very right-wing book.
In a 2014 interview on The Adam Carolla Show, actor Michael Ironside, who read the book as a youth, said he asked Verhoeven, who grew up in Nazi-occupied Netherlands, “Why are you doing a right-wing fascist movie?” Verhoeven replied, “If I tell the world that a right-wing, fascist way of doing things doesn’t work, no one will listen to me. So I’m going to make a perfect fascist world: everyone is beautiful, everything is shiny, everything has big guns and fancy ships, but it’s only good for killing fucking bugs!”
So here we have a director, Verhoeven, who is so arrogant that he thinks he doesn’t even need to read the book in order to direct a movie supposedly based on said book, and instead he sets out intentionally to make it a bad movie.
In order to make the movie as bad as possible, the background story is introduced through news reels and TV commercials that are silly and comical, not to be taken seriously, a parody of what Verhoeven thinks that the book is about, even though he didn’t actually read the book. Everything in the movie is over-the-top and beyond belief.
But Verhoeven knew that if he stuffed the movie with the best-looking young actresses and actors that he could find, and turned up the violence and gore to a level never seen before, horny young men would enjoy the movie anyway even though it’s a bad movie. And I have to admit, it’s a real treat to watch 26-year-old Denise Richards acting as flirtatious as possible in every scene in the movie. 29-year-old Dina Meyers was also very enjoyable to watch as the more tomboyish and buff but still beautiful Dizzy Flores who had a crush on Johnny Rico, played by 29-year-old Casper Van Dien.
The characters have Hispanic last names because they come from Buenos Aries, and in the book Johnny Rico is actually supposed to be Filipino, but everyone knows that fascists have to be Aryan types, so Verhoeven has a convenient excuse to whitewash the minority characters and replace them with blue-eyed white people.
There is also the blue-eyed actor who previously played Doogie Howser who is surprisingly good looking in a “fascist” military uniform.
The characters start out as high school graduates, but everyone looks way too old to be fresh out of high school.
In the book, the bugs started the war and humans were unable to negotiate with them, but in the movie it’s hinted that the humans invaded bug space and refused to leave. Why? Because fascist governments, you know, are evil.
For the movie, the designers created sets and clothing that remind you of Nazi Germany, because, you know, fascists always look just like 1930s Germany.
Does fascism even have a real definition, or is it just the ultimate liberal bogeyman? The government in Starship Troopers is more progressive than the United States in 1960. Society was racially diverse and colorblind, the world was united under a single world government (isn’t that the goal of liberals?), and unlike the United States at that time there was no military draft; service in the military was completely voluntary, and even after you joined the military you were free to drop out at any time.
In a recent article from November of this year, Verhoeven is outraged that Columbia Pictures is remaking Starship Troopers based on the actual book (which he didn’t read) and then segues into an attack on Donald Trump.
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If you look at pictures of Denise Richards today, you will observe that hasn’t aged very well. So sad. But Dina Meyer still looks very good at 48.