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Critics Reassess Starship Troopers As a Misunderstood Masterpiece 726

Posted by samzenpus
from the everyone-fights-no-one-quits dept.
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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Critics Reassess Starship Troopers As a Misunderstood Masterpiece

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 07, 2013 @08:00PM (#45363233)

    The Only Good Bug is a Dead Bug.

    • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Thursday November 07, 2013 @09:43PM (#45364235)

      Mobile infantry made me the man I am today,
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FoPTPe33PQY [youtube.com]

      • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday November 08, 2013 @04:16AM (#45366111) Journal

        This is an interesting change from the book, because the scene is almost exactly the same but the meaning is totally changed (once you get another chapter in they diverge to the extent that it's impossible to tell they they're even similar stories). In the book, he's in the recruiting office to discourage people from signing up with any rosy view of what they're getting in to. When he leaves, he puts on prosthetics that make him seem completely normal - the mutilated veteran appearance is just for show.

        There's a good reason why the film diverged from the book - the book just isn't that good. The film is a satire of what Heinlein wrote in total seriousness. His books are a mixture of cult-of-the-individual libertarianism and characters travelling back in time so that they can fuck their mother[1]. It must be incredibly hard to write a screenplay based on his work that isn't satire, because there's no way you can take it seriously.

        [1] Yes, he really did write two books about this.

        • by allcoolnameswheretak (1102727) on Friday November 08, 2013 @05:11AM (#45366305)

          I'm not sure satire "works" if most of the people whose views are being satirized in the film like it and think it's cool. And if most other people with different views also like it and think it's cool. Doesn't this effect promote these views rather than being a 'funny critique' as was perhaps intended?

        • by Rich0 (548339) on Friday November 08, 2013 @06:46AM (#45366647) Homepage

          There's a good reason why the film diverged from the book - the book just isn't that good.

          I thought the book was interesting. It depicts a form of government that is unheard of in modern society which seems to try to reconcile some of the libertarian vs communist conflicts. (For those who haven't read it the gist of it is that the world is governed by a democracy in which only those who have served in the military can vote. The argument is that voting rights are open to anybody, but only after demonstrating a willingness to sacrifice for the common good. Non-voters still obtain the same freedoms/rights/etc, but are not trusted with the operation of the government.) I think it uses a story as a way to explore interesting questions - ones that are certainly relevant today in a world where we ban behavior that doesn't hurt anybody, allow people to hurt themselves, pay to fix people who have hurt themselves, have lots of people who are unemployable, etc. How do you reconcile the libertarian ideal of personal responsibility and freedom with the reality that many don't seem to thrive under those conditions?

          I'm not suggesting that creating the mobile infantry is the solution. Oh, and I find it amusing that they still use the term "mobile infantry" in the movie. The movie mostly has guys getting dropped off by spacecraft and running around on foot. In the book mobile infantry was more about guys running around in mechs - which really does sound like "mobile infantry."

          His books are a mixture of cult-of-the-individual libertarianism and characters travelling back in time so that they can fuck their mother.

          Can't say that I've read any of his other books. Honestly, this sort of stuff seems to be pretty common in Sci Fi and is part of why I don't read all that much of it. You can have conceptually interesting books like Ringworld and then 14 sequels which seem to be filled with bizarre sexual fantasies.

    • by msauve (701917) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @10:53PM (#45364719)
      Didn't Paul Verhoeven also make Showgirls? Upon further reflection, that one was about man's inhumanity to women.
  • by jfdavis668 (1414919) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @08:03PM (#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.
    • by canadian_right (410687) <alexander.russell@telus.net> on Thursday November 07, 2013 @08:06PM (#45363295) Homepage
      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.
      • by Gription (1006467) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @08:30PM (#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.
        • by Glock27 (446276) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @09:42PM (#45364225)

          Exactly. Starship Troopers was an entirely serious book, with some deep social commentary. Much of the current social morass might have been avoided if it (and similar ideas) had been heeded.

          The Starship Troopers movie was a travesty that RAH would have hated!

          • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @10:06PM (#45364365)

            Exactly. Starship Troopers was an entirely serious book, with some deep social commentary.

            Years ago, when I was undergoing U.S. Marine Corps infantry training, we were given a reading list of books on military leadership. Starship Troopers was on the list. It was one of the best books on leadership, and training, that I have ever read. Stay on the bounce.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 07, 2013 @11:04PM (#45364783)

            Seriously? Social morass? The crime rate has plummeted in recent decades, you know.

            That book advocates some majorly wackadoo ideology. Did you notice the part where Heinlein's obligatory self-insert character (this time an instructor, since he hadn't progressed to Gary Stu-ing the protagonist yet, much less half the cast, like in his later books) states matter-of-fact that the United States was destroyed because they ended corporal punishment in schools, and that the only way to instill a moral compass in a child is to beat it into him?

            This shit is contradicted by both history and psychology -- the moral compass develops naturally; frequent beatings, rather than teaching right and wrong, are one of the most effective ways to turn a child into a morally bankrupt sociopath.

              And don't get me started on the laughable "disproof" of Marx's Labor Theory of Value -- if Heinlein hadn't been such a puffed-up self-important asshat, he might have notced that Marx deals with his disproof in the first fucking chapter of Das Kapital.
              (And anyway, the LTV is not why Marx is wrong. The LTV is basically a statement about how the price of commodity goods is inexorably pressured downward towards the cost of labor needed to produce it. It doesn't apply to anything that's not a fungible commodity, and Marx warns readers not to do so.)

              I love Heinlein's books, but let's get real here -- he was a political kook who got kookier the older he got, and he frequently wrote awful stuff. (Like those later books where Old Man Heinlein Gary Stu and Young Man Heinlein Gary Stu hang out with Gorgeous Girl Heinlein Mary Sues and they all have sex with each other. *shudder*) If you think his politics are great, you just might be a kook yourself.

          • by runeghost (2509522) on Friday November 08, 2013 @02:35AM (#45365677)

            Exactly. Starship Troopers was an entirely serious book, with some deep social commentary. Much of the current social morass might have been avoided if it (and similar ideas) had been heeded.

            The Starship Troopers movie was a travesty that RAH would have hated!

            And the fact that there are many people who agree with you is exactly what makes Verhoven's movie high art. (It's not that Heinlein had nothing to say, it's just that his was a very one-sided viewpoint. The film gives a look at the same ideas from an entirely different axis.)

          • by TWiTfan (2887093) on Friday November 08, 2013 @08:53AM (#45367299)

            I'm pretty sure that establishing a fascist government ruled by the military wouldn't necessarily produce the peaceful utopia that you (and Heinlein) think it might. The great thing about Verhoeven is that he was uniquely qualified to see that, having grown up in Nazi-occupied Europe during the War. What sounds like a good idea on paper often leads to very bad things in actual practice.

        • by kylemonger (686302) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @11:12PM (#45364829)
          Heinlein's Starship Troopers was masterful propaganda, with its unbelievably virtuous heroes, unbelievably just justice system, and complete omission of the bloodbath that would have been required to cull humanity down to a populace who be satisfied to live under such tyranny. I'm surprised Heinlein didn't embrace eugenics while he was sketching out his vainglorious utopia. The movie at least tried to unpack some of the unctuous glorification of the military with the "Why We Fight" spoofs, and depictions of the noncoms and officers as fallible and occasionally cruel human beings.
      • by SJHillman (1966756) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @08:43PM (#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.

      • by lgw (121541) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @08:50PM (#45363833) Journal

        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.

        • Not really fascist (Score:5, Interesting)

          by steveha (103154) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @10:56PM (#45364739) Homepage

          I must strongly disagree with the use of the word "fascist" with respect to the society portrayed in the novel Starship Troopers.

          Let's look at how Wikipedia defines fascism:

          One common definition of fascism focuses on three groups of ideas:

          • The Fascist Negations of anti-liberalism, anti-communism and anti-conservatism.
          • Nationalist, authoritarian goals for the creation of a regulated economic structure to transform social relations within a modern, self-determined culture.
          • A political aesthetic using romantic symbolism, mass mobilisation, a positive view of violence, promotion of masculinity and youth and charismatic leadership.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism [wikipedia.org]

          None of these apply to the society portrayed in the book.

          The first item: the sole means by which the government attempted to impart any point of view on the citizens was a high-school class called "History and Moral Philosophy" that was always taught by a full citizen, but which the student was not required to pass. The examples from when the protagonist took the class did debunk some of the tenets of communism, though. (Labor does not always add value. An unskilled cook can take pie dough and apples and produce a burned mess, where a skilled cook can produce a delicious dessert, so the "labor theory of value" in its simplest form is disproven by example.)

          The second item: the government did not run businesses. The society operated in a free market. The amount of regulations imposed by the government was never explicitly spelled out, but my impression is that the amount of regulation was low, as discussions of business did not tend to rants about permits or bureaucratic interference.

          The third one at first seems plausible, as the book is (in Heinlein's own words) intended to present lowly soldiers in a good light (as opposed to senior generals, Presidents, etc.). However, the government in the book did not promote such ideas. Instead, the government took steps to scare people off from becoming soldiers. For example, having a maimed military veteran sit outside the recruiting station and warn young people that they could get maimed like he had been. (Later, the protagonist meets this veteran again, and he is off-duty and wearing artificial limbs that look real and work about like the real thing, and the veteran's manner is completely changed; he congratulates the protagonist for choosing to serve in the infantry.)

          My opinion could be slanted, as I am politically a minarchist libertarian, but the society in Starship Troopers appears to be a minarchist libertarian government. The government is relatively small and does relatively little, and what it does do seems to be mostly confined to defense and police. The common attitude among most of the population is that they want nothing to do with government, which seems unlikely if government was a major force in peoples' lives. (The protagonist's father has not earned the right to vote, and proudly tells the protagonist at one point that he is a third generation non-voter; why would he want to earn a vote? No profit in that, the time is better spent building the business.)

          The described history in Starship Troopers went like this: During a time of wide-spread social upheaval, the old governments disintegrated and new ones formed. One of the new governments, mentioned as an example, used "scientific" techniques to pick who would be in charge; it failed. Eventually a bunch of military veterans banded together and began keeping some sort of peace within the area they were able to patrol, and this expanded to become a new system of government. Voting was limited to people who had served at least one term of service in the government. Service could be military but could also be anything else the government needed to have done, such as scientific research. Also, according to their laws, the government had to

        • by symbolset (646467) * on Friday November 08, 2013 @12:22AM (#45365177) Journal

          Heinlein was a master of science fiction because like Roddenberry he knew that the widgets of tech and culture in the story were just props to disassociate the reader from his JOB, to let him focus on the morality play. His stories were not really about future science or culture - that was just the setting. The stories were about people, the conflicts that arise between them and how they were resolved. If he worked some social commentary into the props that was just his masterful art.

          He tried it the other way unsuccessfully, and frankly a 2-page footnote just loses the whole thing. That was a total loss, a commercial failure.

          People care about the interplay between people. Only.

          He was more open about exploring how familial relationships impact a culture. What he got out of that was hippies camped on his lawn.

          BTW: One night over bridge (they did this regularly, with generous libations) L. Ron Hubbard and RAH made a $1 bet over who could create the better sci-fi religion. LRH gave us Battleship Earth and Scientology. RAH gave us Stranger In a Strange Land and the Universal Life Church. Eventually RAH wrote: "Here's your buck. Get these hippies off my lawn." LRH fell into the adoration of his self-created church, and RAH escaped capture from his.

      • by thomst (1640045) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @09:03PM (#45363943) Homepage

        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.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 07, 2013 @10:31PM (#45364529)

          FWIW: Paraphrasing, Chauvinism's original definition is the unwavering and unquestioning belief in an idea / cause / leader etc.

          Chauvinism was picked up by feminists, and under the variant "Male Chauvinism", as in an unquestioning belief in male superiority. Over time, this got shortened to Chauvinism again, masking the original meaning.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chauvinism

        • by grcumb (781340) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @10:35PM (#45364571) Homepage Journal

          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.

          If you look at other 'serious' films that Verhoeven has directed, you'll quickly see that he's got a major bee in his bonnet about the effects of Nazism on his birthplace, the Netherlands. Take a look at Soldier of Orange [imdb.com] or The Black Book [imdb.com]. They're brilliant, subtle and morally complex treatments of life (and death) in a time when the world was turned upside down by a sadistic totalitarian regime.

          Clearly, Verhoeven appropriated the frame that Starship Troopers provided for his own purposes: to satirise not only fascism and the incipient militarism of American society, but also the wanton war-porn that Hollywood loves so much. It is a bitter, bitter film.

        • by tibman (623933) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @10:36PM (#45364577) Homepage

          People often forget why service was pushed so hard. You could not vote in an election if you weren't a veteran. The reason why veterans were the only voting group was because they were the ones who rebuilt the government after it collapsed. No politician from that day forward could send someone to war without knowing the horrors of it.

      • by fche (36607) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @10:24PM (#45364465)

        It may be a meta-satire, expecting lefties to look for parts they think is hilarious, but at an even deeper level approving it. Like the citizenship idea - something earned by e.g. being willing to put your life on the line for your country, by taking a personal responsibility. In a way, it's just an amplification of JFK's "ask not what your country can do for you ..." line.

    • by HornWumpus (783565) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @08:20PM (#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.

      • by murdocj (543661)

        No basic? Really? The Starship Troopers I saw had a long sequence of basic, including the scene where Rico screws up, gets someone killed, and takes a bunch of lashes. I don't know that it's word for word what was in the book (haven't read it in many years) but it was pretty darned close.

        In general the movie followed the book plot, but it of course it was done as satire, because what's the alternative? What Heinlein wrote was a fun juvenile book, but pretty hard to take seriously as an adult, and if the

        • by dnavid (2842431) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @10:34PM (#45364565)

          No basic? Really? The Starship Troopers I saw had a long sequence of basic, including the scene where Rico screws up, gets someone killed, and takes a bunch of lashes. I don't know that it's word for word what was in the book (haven't read it in many years) but it was pretty darned close.

          Rico does not get anyone killed in basic training in the novel. In the novel, Rico gets lashes for conduct that, in real combat, would have caused serious injury or death to his fellow soldiers (he fires a fake nuclear rocket at a target without ordering the recruits nearby to clear the area first).

          There is technically a part of the movie in which Rico is in basic training, but its relationship to the related parts of the book is essentially in name only. The basic scenes in the novel are specifically the part of the novel where Rico's indoctrination into the MI causes him to begin to understand - for good or bad - what society had been trying to teach him about morality and public service, and how rights and responsibilities are necessarily intertwined.

          The critical difference between Starship Troopers the movie and Starship Troopers the novel is that in the novel the MI (and the Federal government in general) are a competent, moral (by some definition), integrated part of the overall government and society and the choice to serve or not serve is portrayed as a fair choice: some people want to and can serve, some people don't want to or cannot serve. Those who do not serve have nearly all the rights of those who do not: the main two rights they don't get are the right to serve in law enforcement or the federal government, and the right to vote.

          I should point out here that originally, only property owners had the right to vote in the United States under the Constitution. And the rationale for that restriction is spelled out in the Federalist papers as very similar to that espoused by the fictional government in the novel. In the Federalist papers, its stated that in effect, it did not make sense for people without any "skin in the game" to have the power to dictate what the government did by voting. If you didn't own property, you couldn't be taxed (the income tax didn't exist yet). The logic was that only people who pay taxes should decide how they were spent. That notion of suffrage evolved over time as the role of government began to affect everyone increasingly whether they were property owners or not. But in the novel, the rationale for only giving veterans the right to vote is: they've proven they are willing to give up *all* their rights to serve others, even if only temporarily. And in fact, veterans have the right to vote but *active military* does not.

          This is a vast contrast to the movie, where the MI is portrayed as cartoonish incompetent fools and jingoish lunatics. Rico never comes to the realizations he does in the novel regarding morality and responsibility. First he joins out of peer pressure (granted, he does this in the novel also). Then he stays to seek revenge for Buenos Aires (he decides to stay in the novel when he realizes he now agrees with his moral history teacher's teachings about responsibility and service). Then out of the blue he gives a weird eulogy for Dizzy that I guess is supposed to parallel his decision to join OCS in the novel, but there's absolutely no character growth leading up to that point at all.

          Rico has an actual character arc in the novel which *is* the whole story. Rico in the movie is a literal marrionette, yanked around to dance whatever dance is required in each scene, without any character arc at all. And without that character arc, there is no story. Instead, Starship Troopers the movie is a movie where Stuff Just Happens. Its often visually entertaining Stuff That Happens, but there's no real story connecting the Stuff That Happens.

          • by steveha (103154) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @11:02PM (#45364763) Homepage

            I agree with almost everything you wrote here. I'll just pick one nit.

            He got in trouble for not taking his training seriously enough. The formal charges were "taking actions that could have resulted in death in real combat" but what he actually did was:

            They were training in "simulated darkness" using infra-red "snooper scopes" which were a bit of a pain. He got frustrated and flipped the cope up and used unaided vision to check to see if anyone was in the area; because there was actually plenty of light he was able to see that it was safe. Indeed, he felt smug for being clever enough to do it that way... for avery brief time. However, the training suits had sensors that recorded the fact that he had flipped the scope up, and that is why he got in trouble.

    • by Evil Pete (73279) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @10:56PM (#45364737) Homepage

      When I first saw it my brain was a bit fried from an intense work day. I wanted a dumb as crap movie that I could tune out to. Fellow devs at the time said, "it's just mindless action." OK, good enough for me. But when I watched it it was a deep critique of society as a nascent fascist state. I actually liked it, a lot. If you have ever seen the propaganda movies of WW2, and enough footage from the Third Reich then "Starship Troopers" is a brilliant movie. Not much to do with the book though. I liked how you were suckered into thinking you were on the good side until it slowly became obvious that you were on the wrong, very wrong, side. The intelligence guy, whats-is-name, dressed like a gestapo officer, executing prisoners, conducting experiments on prisoners. Even the uniforms, nice versions of German WW2 military uniforms.

      Most frightening part was that most people I knew who saw it didn't even realise that it was about a fascist state. Oh crap that was creepy. Not one of the great movies, but underrated I think.

  • You what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lisaparratt (752068) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @08:05PM (#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? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @08:16PM (#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? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Zumbs (1241138) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @08:31PM (#45363609) Homepage
        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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        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? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by M. Baranczak (726671) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @08:18PM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by 0123456 (636235)

        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? (Score:5, Informative)

          by roc97007 (608802) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @08:31PM (#45363601) Journal

          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? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Fluffeh (1273756) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @08:36PM (#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.

            • Interesting. Please explain how you can satirize a source which you have not read.

              • Re:You what? (Score:5, Insightful)

                by 0123456 (636235) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @10:02PM (#45364347)

                Interesting. Please explain how you can satirize a source which you have not read.

                It's a satire on American militarism, not Heinlein.

                Americans just don't like to think of themselves as the most militaristic nation on Earth, which is why they either can't see it, or keep denying it.

    • Re:You what? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @08:42PM (#45363763) Homepage Journal

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

    • Re:You what? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Charliemopps (1157495) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @08:44PM (#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.

    • by dhaines (323241)

      Not exactly. It took us 16 years to work out what was being satirized.

      As stoned kids, we thought it satirized militarism. As drunk adults, we think it satirizes Heinlein.

  • by pecosdave (536896) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @08:09PM (#45363335) Homepage Journal

    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.

    • by Quakeulf (2650167) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @08:13PM (#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.
  • Sorry, no. (Score:4, Informative)

    by roc97007 (608802) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @08:14PM (#45363395) Journal

    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. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Libertarian001 (453712) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @10:10PM (#45364383)

      About a year after the movie came out I was in the book store and found a book about the making of the SST movie. In it they talk about the guys who originally wrote the script wanting to make a movie about WW1 soldiers fighting bugs. They couldn't find any takers. Someone said they should look at SST because it was about soldiers fighting bugs. They did, liked it, convinced Virginia Heinlein to option the movie rights to them, and they managed to get Verhoeven involved. He wanted to make a movie that satirized his experiences with fascist states and took it in that direction, and repeatedly admitted that he never bothered reading the book. When the budget cuts came and it was a choice between power armor and bugs, bugs won out because that was the point of the movie. Total hatchet job.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @08:19PM (#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.

  • by mi (197448) <slashdot-2014@virtual-estates.net> on Thursday November 07, 2013 @08:20PM (#45363477) Homepage

    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.

    • by Deadstick (535032)

      At least somebody here RTFB...

  • by Daetrin (576516) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @08:21PM (#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]
  • by Krishnoid (984597) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @08:24PM (#45363535) Journal
    One of the best 'reviews' [chicagoreader.com] I've read of it from Dan Savage (adult content, no pictures).
  • by Kjella (173770) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @08:27PM (#45363557) Homepage

    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.

  • 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.
  • by jinchoung (629691) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @09:00PM (#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.

    • Well, I disagree. Starship Troopers was better than either robocop or esepcially total recall.

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