Reviews: Starship Troopers
A Dark Satire That Requires a lot of Attention
I finally got around to watching Starship Troopers after I had been told it was a parody and was shown the opening mini-propaganda commercial. The humour in these commercials were very sharp and if I had to pick a favourite part of the film, it would probably be them. However, where I was expecting campy satire, I got what would be a pretty decent straight war thriller in a lot of ways [ignoring the darker satirical elements, bad tactics, etc]. In this sense the movie felt like it didn't quite know what it wanted to be; a campy parody or a straight scifi warfilm and typically I'd say that a movie trying both will fail at both. However, Starship Troopers isn't a laugh outloud comedy and knows what elements it wants to target; The system of government is corrupt and filled iwth jingoism and etc but the characters are played pretty straight. In my opinion the goal of the film is to show us how the characters are reduced from being young highschoolers with nominal faith in the government to being the horrible blindly militaristic soldiers by the end. Carl still views Rico as little more than a statistic by the end, Rico is the "ballbusting" lieutenant and so on down the list, if they didn't die brutally along the way. The characters aren't reduced to idiots to highlight how bad things are, they accept it since they were raised there. There isn't a view point character to point out how messed up this world is and serve as an audience surrogate, that's our job as viewers but to someone willing to analyse as they watch, it's a pretty miserable institution they're defending. Small stuff such as the news lying about the death toll on the planet which can only be noticed if you're paying attention to something the director isn't pointing you at, adds a lot to this. It's certainly not a laugh outloud satire like some might be lead to believe from fans. Further, subtlety is over done, small details matter but are impossible to notice unless you know what you are looking for. It's very easy to miss some details and the fact that many of these darker elements aren't commented on at all by characters make them easy to miss or ignore if you don't know you should be looking for them. Over all, I think this is a very poignant satire, put together very skillfully with a lot to say, just sometimes it isn't are not willing to say it loud enough.
The movie may be satire, but it's BAD satire.
Paul Verhoeven's "Starship Troopers" is an incredibly stupid movie. It may be stupid on purpose, but it's still stupid. Done in the style of a gung-ho war movie and "Triumph of the Will"-esque military propaganda, the director claims that it was intended to criticize the attitudes it portrays. However, you can't satirize an idea by simply presenting that idea in the exact same way that its proponents do! Starship Troopers the film runs afoul of the generalized Poes Law; it won't be perceived as ironic because there are other people saying the exact same thing that actually mean it. The military's horrible failure may have been intended as a criticism of Hollywood Tactics, but the fact is that there is nothing at all to distinguish the "satirical" use from the many other stupid movies in which armies lose because they're being idiots who really, really should have known better. The "bugs", as they are portrayed, could probably have been beaten by an army using equipment from the American Civil War, and they'd be helpless in the face of machine guns and artillery pieces from World War 1. There is such a thing as bad satire, and the difference between a stupid movie and a movie that's stupid on purpose because it's "satire" is that there is no difference◊. Anyone who thinks the movie is clever is watching the movie Verhoeven wanted to make, rather than the movie he actually did make.
Movie vs Book
There is just one issue in the Starship Troopers movie that drives me crazy. Imagine a Tarzan movie without the jungle. Imagine Romeo and Juliet without Juliet. Imagine "Lassie Come Home" without the dog. Imagine "The Lord of the Rings" without Gandalf. That is "Starship Troopers" without the battle suit, which was so central to the book it never occurred to me that it would not show up in the movie.
Dark, but affectionate war movie satire
Starship Troopers, as the below review points out, is not an obvious satire all the time. For some, the satire completely evades the radar. Perhaps the cues are easy to miss, like the wise teacher's contemptuous remark about the "failure of democracy" early in the movie, or the cheerful, gratuitous torture of the beaten enemy at the end. This may be because the movie goes to great lengths to be an enjoyable display of gung-ho sentiments, which the genre-savvy viewer can endulge in while laughing at the over-the-top clichéd remarks and antics of the eponymous troopers. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable and playful movie about the sentiments of war, from genuinely gripping drama to the most hopeless narm.