Starship Troopers (1997)

Are you even old enough to watch Showgirls?
And i disagree with the assertation that the actors are supposed to be bad. If the director is doing a Sci-Fi version of Triumph of the Will with America in Germany’s role, why butcher it up with bad acting? The acting in Robocop can be passed off as bad because of the type of movie it is, but that fails in ST’s case because the acting is horrid! And with much of Verhoven’s films having nothing but bad performances in them, i’m beginning to think he hides his lack being able to direct actors beneath a shill of “the movie is supposed to be bad” (much like Lucas covers it up with $200 million in CGI and laser swords). This is most evident in Hollow Man.

Also, points are reducted because this is really a different film that bought the Starship Troopers name and renamed some characters, without changing anything else in the script, just to make extra money, and in turn ruined the chances of a decent Starship Troopers ever being made, and probably killed many other Heinlein projects. It most deservedly spawns scorn for that, as should any movie who’s mere existance destroys potential good films.
Now that being said, i like the movie for what it is, and it isn’t Starship Troopers. (i like it so much, i saw it in the theaters in September when it was playing here), but it does have many gaping flaws, and trying to pass many of them off as intentional is absurd.

It’s been a while since I saw Starship Troopers, but there were a couple of plot points that I never understood. The attack on Buenos Aires in which Johnny Rico’s parents died was supposed to be a meteor sent by the aliens. I thought that somewhere in the movie we were shown that the alien homeworld was basically on the other side of the galaxy. So how are they supposed to have launched basically a rock (no guidance rockets) that distance, and expect to hit Earth, let alone travel that far? Also, you’d think that Earth astronomers would have noticed this big thing headed for Earth? Of course, it was also never clear why it was necessary to fight the aliens, rather than just ignoring them. Again, it’s been a while, so these points may have been better explained in the film. On the other hand, I may be overanalyzing a really dumb film.

It wasn’t explained, but it was just an excuse to go to war with the bugs and wipe them out. The education in the future must be really lacking, though, since no one questioned it (or maybe they did, and were carted off)

Really? It was startlingly clear to me. Soldiers in space, fighting alien bugs, even the armor looked similar to me. Roughnecks, the CGI Saturday morning cartoon they based on Starship Troopers, picked up on this similarity and carried it even further, bringing in drop-ships and APCs nearly identical to the ones in Aliens, and adding battle suits that looked more like the cargo loader Ripley piloted at the end of the movie than the highly mobile suits of armor from the original Heinlein novel. Great little cartoon, although the action was somewhat nerfed for the sugar-coated cereal crowd.

I’m not sure why a perfect copy of a piece of shit is better than the original piece of shit. Bad acting is bad acting, and knowing that they’re doing it on purpose only makes it more unbearable, not less.

Yes he was, and he makes the movie almost unwatchable because of it. The fact that something is supposed to suck doesn’t make it stop sucking.

You’re likely going to get the same reaction. You’re going to have to expect that, if you start a thread to rehabilitate the reputation of a widely despised film, you’re going to get a lot of people in it telling you you’re wrong.

But I’d say go ahead and start one anyway. I’d love to read it. Probably won’t contribute much, since I’ve never actually seen it, but the debate should be interesting.

Well, gosh, I didn’t know we were in the Pit. Oh, wait, we’re not. Stow the insults, pal.

Anyway, that’s nonsense. “Amateurish acting” is not a necessary component of satirical film, a film satirizing propaganda, propaganda, or any film at all, unless the actors are actually portraying bad actors. Note that I didn’t say the character of Johnny Rico was “slackjawed” and that that was a bad thing. I said the acting was amateurish. Casper van Dien doesn’t play a convincing slackjawed numbnuts. He failed to convince me he was Johnny Rico, Slack-Jawed Nubnuts. He looked like a model trying unsuccessfully to play Johnny Rico. It didn’t work.

But of course, I have a sinking feeling your reply will say that it was Verhoeven’s plan all along that van Dien was supposed to look not like a slack-jawed numbnuts at all, but like a model-turned-actor doing a terrible job of playing a slack-jawed numbnuts. I suppose there’s also some Verhoeven purpose behind the fact that Denise Richards put on a brutal performance, Dina Meyer was pretty good, and Doogie Howser was dreadful, but Michael Ironside wasn’t bad. There’s some hidden heirarchy of suckitude, perhaps. When you start out with the premise “it’s okay for a film to be terrible if only you can claim it’s satire,” you can justify anything. “For my next act, I will demonstrate why `I Am Sam’ was not cloying, sickening crap.” Since when was satire supposed to be bad, anyway?

I think Miller pretty much summed it up; you can’t change the fact that the movie sucked by saying “it was supposed to suck.”

Oh, please; such convoluted rationalizations. The notion that propaganda films are with one exception “amateurish in the extreme” is rather obviously false, and even if it weren’t false, just how does copying crap produce anything but copied crap?

Just to chime in…I understood what the film’s makers were trying to say and do with the movie the first time I saw it. Understood it perfectly well. I still thought it sucked.

Um, first, no one ever said it was a “necessary component.” However, like many other respected directors–John Waters, Alfred Hitchcock, Douglas Sirk, Paul Morrissey–Verhoeven often uses bad actors very intentionally. And despite your bizarre rule that bad actors can only play “bad actors,” these directors often have much more subtle reasons. Hitchcock liked archetypes–the steely blonde; Sirk used bad actors like Robert Stack and Dorothy Malone because he was working on several different layers at once, and cartoonish performances helped to emphasize the artificiality he was examining. Verhoeven uses bad actors like Casper Van Dien, Denise Richards, and Elizabeth Berkely for very similar reasons: because the characters he puts on the screen are not “characters,” not real people, but cardboard cutouts; artificial constructs that exist only in the mind of the type of Hollywood screenwriters and propagandists whose dishonest product he’s commenting on. People forgive John Waters for using bad actors, I think, because ultimately he’s very affectionate toward his actors. Verhoeven uses his actors to accuse the audience of such things as selfishness and greed, which is harder for most of us to swallow.

And the fact remains, RickJay, that–as evidenced by many of the things you’ve said here–that you do NOT get it. So what? As I’ve said before, Verhoeven is not for everyone. If you don’t identify with his postmodern,vitriolic satire–and even I admit that his overwhelmin misanthropy is problematic–then it’s not your thing. You have to be willing to see it from Verhoeven’s POV to get it, and you’re not, so you don’t. Quit being such a jerk about it and go watch a movie you DO get.

Verhoeven seems to have forgotten the true meaning of the word fascism.

It is my contention that the supporters of Starship Troopers tend to be far more profound and subtle thinkers than the people who actually made the movie. Take that as a compeliment. My own opinion is, if you tack on political satire to a dumb action movie, all you get is a dumb action movie with some political satire tacked on. The only way to make a dumb action movie less dumb is to not make it dumb in the first place. YMMV.

Actually, the thing that bothered me the most about the movie was this: there were two actresses with major roles in the film. One of them got naked; the other one didn’t. One of them died; the other one didn’t. In both cases it was the wrong actress.

Ilsa, can you wrap your head around the fact that people might disagree with you, without disliking you? If not, people will start disliking you.

Also, I think you’re confusing the first Alien by Ridley Scott, with the sequel Aliens by Cameron. It’s pretty clear to me what Miller is refering to.

Verhoevens intentions are really not the point. People and critics got Robocop. If the reaction to ST was the expected, then the filmmaker failed. Everybody saw the political references, they just didn’t see it as valid criticism.

Sounds like the basis of a really bad holiday movie.

To start, let me say, I for one highly enjoy the movie threads and discussions to which Ilsa, Cervaise, lissener and several others contribute. They provide intelligent debate which, even while you may not agree, at least force you to think more thoroughly about the movie-viewing experience.

If I get the point Ilsa c.s. are making, it is that you shouldn’t judge ST by the use of bad actors or by the fact that it is based on Heinlein’s novel. Both of these points I can appreciate. The mere use of bad actors doesn’t therefore make a movie bad, it depends how they are handled and to what use. That ST was presented as an adaption of a novel may be false advertising and can explain a lot of the hatred the movie seems to inspire, however we don’t judge Ulyssess to be a bad movie just because it doesn’t have the hero roaming around Greece like in the original Odyssee. I think it is pretty obvious Verhoeven never wanted to do a pure Heinlein filming, so you can’t accuse him of doing a botched-up job in that respect.

So if we accept that the movie does not desire to be a faithful rendition of Heinlein’s novel, we should judge it to whether it accomplishes what it strives for, or succeeds in a different, unintended way.

With respect to seeing it as an action-movie, I think ST is not excruciatingly bad, but not very good, either. Bear in mind that it never wants to be a cutting-edge CGI’d action movie.

With respect to it being a subversive criticism, the fact that the movie critics didn’t get it, is of no significance. The more trenchant the criticism, the more likely it is that it will be rejected as missing the point, because it touches sensitive nerves of the audience. A residual subconscious adverse reaction might be a factor in the negative judgement ST received.

Furthermore, if ST would have put criticism up front, the studio probably would never have allowed Verhoeven to make the movie: they wanted an action movie, to make money. So the criticism had to be veiled, like in former communist countries a lot of art was secretly subversive, and despite censorship managed to reach it’s target audience. I’m not equating studio economics to political censorship; I’m only saying that the use of layers of meaning is nothing new and exists in various contexts for various reasons.

It may well be that Verhoeven’s talk is just for the critics and may not correspond with his actual intentions, but I find that hardly relevant. Art may succeed in spite of the author’s intentions or lack thereof.

So I agree with the reading of Ilsa c.s. Do I think ST is a good movie? No.

It did manage to make me think about the parallels with fascist society (and bear in mind the very strong influence of WW II and the Nazi occupation of The Netherlands in Verhoeven’s oeuvre) and tendencies in modern Western societies. But the best art work manages to make the point either more forcefully or more nuanced, and provide something that stands as an admirable work on its own. The subtext doesn’t communicate well, it is too blatant and heavy-handed to work on a different level than pure cognition.

For a movie such as this to work, it would have to interest the viewer on an emotional level as well. It would have to get us to care for the fact that the society is slowly becoming like its enemy: an egalitarian society of interchangeable soldiers, with a complete lack of individuality (as I remember it being the point of ST, anyway). The actors present people with a modicum of ‘individuality’, but there is no real personality present, so nothing is lost. Anything of value was already gone before the beginning of the movie. That may be caused by bad acting, but I think the storyline is also to blame: Verhoeven would have had to add elements to make his point.

Then we might have appreciated the movie for its craftsmanship. That, too, is sadly lacking. At least, that is as I recall it. Like a lot of more recent action movies it presented the sparsest of story lines clothed in battles of special effects. The rightly panned Matrix Reloaded and the overpraised X-Men II may serve as examples. When the awe over the pretty pictures is gone, you are left with no real content.

While ST is clearly the product of an accomplished moviemaker, it is also clear that he produced it quickly and without any love for what he was doing. That reflects the content of the movie, and in that respect would seem to strengthen his point. Alas, the converse is the case. If the director doesn’t care sufficiently for his work, why should we?

Well lets discuss a specific example from the film… how about the aspect of the what I will call “Citizen Soldier” ? The idea that voting requires military service first and that give a real value to the vote. In the film they even say why give votes to people who have no idea of things. (Which is very current… with populism on the rise and some silly voting by the “common” people.)

You could it say it relates to Israel and its Army. Everyone serves. Or maybe the Greeks where hoplites came from the citizens. Doesn’t seem SO fascist to me.

Overall the society depicted in the film is interesting and thought provoking though I venture less than the book of course.

In my country soldiers can’t vote… so, that part was ironic for me, i don’t know how it works in other countries… but there is something that works in every army around the world, and that is brain washing… to be ready to kill or die for an ideal, country or anything you must accept it and believe in it. In a military system that is acomplished by obeying your leaders, so why are you going to vote against them.
The society in ST is not thinking by itself is been guided to think like their leaders, what else could be more fascist? You can compare it to Israel, but also you can compare it to Cuba… and everybody knows how life works there.

Tusculan, that was very articulate. Moreso than I typically am at midnight when I start these threads. :smiley:

I am of course old enough to watch anything that persons in charge are willing to let me watch. I am not old enough to rent Showgirls, but after forcing my mother to watch Bergman films, and having her tell me to turn off Greed and get some sleep, a film’s content or MPAA “rating” become superfluous in my choice of viewing decisions and the approval thereof.

Yes, I indeed was confusing Alien with Aliens, and I do see the resemblance. I would posit, however, that Verhoeven used it more as a baseline in creating his universe, rather than simply ripping it off.

I am not frustrated with differing opinions. I only became exasperated after dealing with *RickJay, to whom tact apears to be something that he hangs posters on the wall with.

This is an interesting statement. I believe that Starship Troopers worked at more levels than this.

There was the summer blockbuster.

There was the political satire, which many people got but thought was hamfisted and poorly delivered.

Then comes the meat; the realization that the point of the hamfisted delivery and bad acting was really designed to make the film not a satire of propaganda, but a propaganda film for the satire of propaganda.

Basically, Verhoeven made a propaganda film, replete with bad acting and dopey premises, that shows not how ridiculous the political systems he is satirizing are, but how stupid people are for falling for his propaganda against propaganda for those political systems.

He made audiences watch propaganda that gave them the message “Propaganda is BAD!”

Those that “got” the message were the ones that fell for the film.

First- they had giant bugs that could shoot deadly glowing plasma-type stuff out of their behinds and hit ships parked in orbit with it, so I don’t think that shooting off an asteroid is beyond their capabilities.

In discussions with Fairguy we speculated that they seed other planets via asteroid, ala a War of the Worlds type of thing. So, depending on how numerous their seedings are, it’s possible that more than one asteroid would head in the same direction. Also, as they seed other planets, asteroids could be coming into the same area of space from different directions.

As far as why they wouldn’t be able to see it, my guess is that it would be like the polar bear in the snow. A dark mass travelling through dark space isn’t very noticable. And space is REALLY, REALLY BIG. (Also, the asteroid wouldn’t have to be that big to do considerable damage.)

Second- some of it was a dispute over territory (the Arachnid Zone is mentioned, as well as the massacre of Ft. Joseph Smith, and later the loss of Zegema Beach), and some of it was revenge (the Buenos Aries “attack”), but with all wars, the war itself became the cause for fighting, and all the other reasons take a backseat to winning the conflict. I think also that there were other territorial disputes as part of the background of the story that were never fleshed out. Why have an already established Arachnid Zone otherwise?
Ilsa_Lund, I think you’ve been called enough on your statement that nobody “got it” at the time to realize you’re wrong, but I still want to chime in anyway. I saw this movie five times at the theater when it came out, and Fairguy saw it seven times. (I had to miss out twice, sadly.) We have it on VHS and DVD and we have seen it so many times we know the whole thing by heart. I’ve never tried to argue about it’s brilliance, so you’ve never seen me post in a Starship Troopers thread before, but I can say we definitely “got it” from the start.

I can’t say though, that we have been able to define it in the way that you, Cervaise, and the others have. I just know that when my dad complained about them using bullets instead of some fancy laser gear I said, “Well, nobody ever said they were smart.” And at the end of the movie when they proudly proclaim “We’ll fight! And we’ll win!” I like to turn to Fairguy and say, “Man, we are so screwed.” and we laugh, because it’s true. The misguidedness, the brutality, the bad acting, the noble sacrifices, and the humor are all things we got and still love about the movie. We just don’t analyze it in depth, so we don’t speak up.

Just two more things to add- Cervaise, I was impressed by you admitting that you were wrong about your first take on Starship Troopers. Not because you agree with me now, but because it takes a lot of guts and muturity to admit you believe now you were wrong then. Especially in such a public way.

Lastly- Starship Troopers 2. Different writer/director, same universe, but WHY, WHY, WHY!!! BAH!! Screw you Hollywood!!! Ugh. From what I have read it sounds like an Alien knockoff. A platoon trapped in an isolated outpost, but the real danger is not the Bugs, but something within, or some such garbage.

That’s me out then, good day. :slight_smile:

You misunderstand me. No mainstream collective got it. Hardly any critics got it. The movie was never discussed as a satirical anti fascist film (Not that it is, but that’s what it looks like).

Read lissener’s post again.

heh I called the fascism in ST ‘chirpy fascism’ and it nearly made that horrible movie work for me. I love how they are all in a hyper violent world/time yet everyone has these huge grins on their faces (especially at the end of the movie where they all link arms and walk away in spite of the fact that her boyfriend just had gotten his brains eaten I 1/2 expected them to start talking about there’s no place like home and click their heels together) However that doesn’t stop how head slappingly bad the rest of the movie is.

ps, they shot large parts of the movie around here and even someone from my town stars in it (I don’t even remember what part) I remember how they were deliberately hiring ‘bland’ looking people so maybe some of the bad acting was indeed on purpose…

I really liked this film, the criticisms levelled at the film in this thread are perfectly bad. The acting did suck, and it many parts were ripped off from Alien.

But not just Alien, I performed a critical analysis of Starship Troopers last year, as part of my degree course. I’ve seen the film lots of times, and the conclusion I reached was that the film didn’t fit easily into any single genre. It slips from satire (of the propegand films, for example) to Wild West (Saddle up, lock and load (John Wayne, anyone?) and the battle scene in the fort) through Horror to Star Wars esq Space Opera, with a healthy dose of high school romance (Beverly Hills 90210 style).

It’s a roller coaster of a film, operating on many levels, I think the posts here demonstrate that it doesn’t fit easily into a single category. Witness the critical arguments on the films release, does this support war? fascism? or not? People try and label this film, but it defies labelling. and it needs a sophisticated audience to switch between the different levels, from the propaganda messages to the romantic thread throughout the film.

It’s a roller coaster of a film, a pastiche of almost every genre you can think of (Horror, Sci-Fi, Soap Opera?). It defies traditional analysis and I love it.

As I predicted, this was the next claim to be made. I guess it should be noted that a lot of the actors who turn in awful performances in his films actually AREN’T that bad. Elizabeth Berkeley has demonstrated some competent acting in other films, and Casper van Dien has never been nearly that awful in anything else I’ve seen him in. But, I’ll bet dollars to donuts that can be explained away, too.

Ah, I see. It’s not just a crappy movie with a half-assed attempt at satirical commentary; it’s postmodern, vitriolic satire! And anyone who doesn’t agree with you doesn’t “get” it! You must be Leo Strauss.

Of course, the Strauss bit isn’t 100% accurate, because we both agree Verhoeven was trying to make a satirical movie. The thing is, it’s not a very good movie anyway.

Criticism of art must start with performance, not intent. A surly third-year art student who smears shit on a canvas and says it’s an ironic, satiricial commentary on corporate dominance of modern culture is still just standing there with a lousy poop painting. Verhoeven’s not quite that awful, but the fact still remains that what’s on the screen isn’t a very good movie. He’s to be praised for trying to do something other than just the standard heroic sci-fi fare, but it was an unsuccessful effort all the same. If anything, I feel he simply didn’t try hard enough (or was thwarted) - it’s not satirical enough to succeed on that basis.

Boy oh boy, that’s very convincing.

If you want to convince anyone that “Starship Troopers” is not a bad movie, why don’t you explain why it’s not a bad movie - with specific references to the movie, please, not Straussian misdirection - rather than simply repeating the tired mantra “It’s great and if you don’t agree you’re stupid”? An explanation for the necessity of the utterly awful and pointless love triangle would be a good place to start.

But to be honest, Alessan and Tusculan have made the point far better than I.