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YMMV / Starship Troopers

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The Novel:

  • "Common Knowledge": Military service is not the only way to earn the right to vote (in the original novel at least; the films are another story), federal service is. In other words, you can become a full citizen by being a civil servant in certain capacities (Merchant Marine service is said not to count, but Asteroid Mining apparently does).
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  • Crosses the Line Twice: The time bomb that announces it's a time bomb and reads off its own countdown is hilarious. Even Rico winces over it, as he's dropping it. It is described as a terror weapon. It isn't intended to kill the enemy, its purpose is to scare the shit out of them.
  • Family-Unfriendly Aesop: If one assumes that Rico's fairly detailed social commentary is endorsed by the author, the book offers many lessons that at least some readers will consider to be this:
    • Corporal punishment is better than prison. Juvenile delinquents must be handled severely. Mental deficiency is no excuse for committing violent crimes.
    • Failing to maintain your population growth and allowing mass immigration of foreign "breeds" of humanity into your country will inevitably lead to the extermination of your own "breed" out of the universe.
    • Human beings are intrinsically unequal, of unequal ability and social worth; and hence, pretending that they are equal and granting the franchise without qualification to every idiot who happens to be alive and born within a particular set of borders is not only self-demonstrably absurd, but leads inevitably to the downfall of society.
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    • Honest military chaplains should take part in the fighting; how can they bless a war as just if they aren't willing to help wage it?
    • Women can be integrated into the military without major problems, and in fact, even have some positive effects on it once in place.
  • Internet Backdraft: Starship Troopers has a reputation for generating lively debate on subjects including:
    • Was Heinlein a fascist?
    • The merits and validity of the Terran Federation's political system.
    • The book versus the movie.
    • What Heinlein said in the book versus what he said about the book.
  • Mary Suetopia: The society was a sort of Mary Suetopia, based on Heinlein's later conservative ideals. Specifically, after a revolution in the twenty-first century, the corrupt technocracy that grew out of the liberal democracies was replaced with some sort of hybrid political structure that can best be described as a radical meritocracy (NOT a fascist dictatorship; "Service guarantees citizenship" would be the exact opposite of the mantra of a fascist state: "Citizenship guarantees service"). The functionality of such a state depends however on the political beliefs of the author having been proven incontrovertibly true in-universe.
  • Spiritual Licensee: Suffice to say every Space Marine Bug War franchise can claim a link to Starship Troopers.
    • Aliens is often considered to be the most faithful adaptation of Starship Troopers ever made, due to the various similarities. James Cameron even required the actors playing Colonial Marines to read Starship Troopers to better help them get in-character as members of a futuristic fighting force. Now, on the flip side, the Space Marines of Aliens themselves were the inspiration for other Space Marines, such as the ones in the film of Starship Troopers.
    • Halo owes a lot to ST, especially with the armor and ODST's drop pods. Its spinoff game Halo 3: ODST featuring those shock troopers fighting the Drones.
    • Starcraft has plenty of references to and points of inspiration from ST as well.
    • Space Marines in powered armour fighting large bugs? Warhammer 40,000.
  • Strawman Has a Point: Even readers who disagree with the book's heavy-handed political statements are likely to find the book thought-provoking based on how, exactly, they disagree. This is one reason that the book has out-lived a host of other Bug War/Space Invaders literature of that period: it may not change your opinions but it helps you decide what those opinions are.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: Johnny very nearly gets picked for the K-9 Corps rather than Mobile Infantry. The genetically altered 'neodogs' are mentioned as being capable of (rather garbled) speech, having senses that even the MI suits can't match, and being ridden into battle by their handlers. However, this particular book is about infantry. They never really appear in the book in person, and we're told the Corps was almost annihilated at Klendathu.
  • Values Dissonance: The War Is Glorious vibes and militarism date this book to the 1950s when the Cold War struggle against communism (analogous to the war against the Arachnids in the story) was more popular than it is now. After Vietnam and The War on Terror (not to mention a self-proclaimed democratic socialist running for president of the US in 2016 and coming close to winning a major party nomination), more people today might agree with Paul Verhoeven's opinion of the novel (as expressed by the film). Possible literary "answers" to this book include Joe Haldeman's The Forever War and John Steakley's Armor.
  • Values Resonance: In the book, a major gripe of Merchant Marine sailors is that they do not qualify as military veterans upon completion of their service under the Terran Federation's rules. At the time of writing, this was true for the real life US Merchant Marine as well—even though it suffered (proportionally) greater casualties in World War II than the actual military. They eventually did get veteran status in 1988.

The Films:

  • Adaptation Displacement: For better or for worse, more people (especially young people) are familiar with the film than they are with the novel.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
  • Anvilicious: Paul Verhoeven knows of no other way to present a message, though for some people the message is still lost, and the movie appears to be a gung-ho sci-fi romp in which War is Awesome.
  • Awesome Music:
  • Best Known for the Fanservice: That's the one with the co-ed showers where everyone but Denise Richards gets naked, right?
  • Cliché Storm: A force five hurricane, especially the death scenes.
  • Critical Research Failure: In arguing for why Violence Really Is the Answer, both a student and his teacher early in the film seems to be under the impression that the city of Hiroshima ceased to exist entirely after the end of World War II. This is changed from the speech in the book, where Carthage is cited instead. The change, along with everything else about the film, is deliberate when one considers Verhoeven's beliefs about the United States.
  • Crosses the Line Twice: Once you get past the awesome battles and heroic marines and realize who the actual bad guys are, this movie is a hilariously dark satire of militarism and the book's own quasi-fascist politics. It's hard to say where exactly one stops being horrified at the nature of the Federation and starts laughing at its sheer pettiness, but a strong contender is the recruiting commercial where even children are "doing their part" - by stomping all over a bunch of regular roaches.
  • Designated Hero: A rare inversion, or perhaps an intentional example that backfired. While Verhoeven made the message - namely, that the humans are an evil fascist empire squandering their lives in the mistaken belief that War Is Glorious, and you're a bad guy for cheering them on - as screamingly obvious as he possibly could, the movie is still filmed in the style of Hollywood sci-fi action/war movies as a rather unflattering take on the intersection between Hollywood gung-ho propagandism and American imperialist behavior. In spite of that, there are still people out there who think it's just a straight-up awesome action movie, because hey, blowing up evil giant alien bugs in space with co-ed showers!
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: Played with. The exciting battle scenes seem to undermine Verhoeven's supposed message, but most of the soldiers still die agonizingly horrible deaths. But the trope itself is also a large part of the message, the unsavory elements of the war and its reasons are referenced by people trying to downplay or distract from those elements.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Carl Jenkins and Sergeant Zim, for many people, thanks in no small part to their respective actors.
  • Fan-Preferred Couple: In the DVD commentary, director Paul Verhoeven says fans wanted Carmen to die and Johnny to end up with Dizzy, proving that it isn't only fans who have preferred couples. Considering that in the original book Dizzy is male and Johnny and Carmen have at most a one-night stand together, this wouldn't have been such a bad change compared to most of the rest of the changes Verhoeven actually did make.
  • First Installment Wins: Really, the sequels were nowhere near as good as the first.
  • Follow the Leader: The original script "Bug Hunt" was an Aliens ripoff, and much of Aliens was inspired by the original Starship Troopers novel.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment:
    • In-Universe example in the first movie: the recruitment commercial with the cute, eight year old kid in uniform saying, "I'm doing my part, too!" and everyone laughs. Cut to the last battle in the movie where Johnny and Ace command a squadron of Child Soldiers, not much older than that first kid, and it's not funny anymore...
    • People who view the real-life United States as Eagleland Flavor #2 are quick to say this film mirrors the War on Terror, specifically the Iraq invasion and aftermath. From the DVD commentaries, Verhoeven made it clear that he views the United States as no different than Nazi Germany—a view he held of America in 1997, well before the events of 2003 popularized it.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: NFL wideout Jerome Simpson actually pulled off the Flip 6-3 hole. In the same uniform, no less!
    • Carl's failed attempts to flirt with Dizzy are especially funny ever since Neil Patrick Harris came out as gay in 2006.
    • Humans are technically invading arachnids' homeplanet. And one of prominent characters, in fact, one that won a major victory for the invasion by capturing the Brain Bug, is called Zim.
    • Recruits Breckinridge and Djana'D are introduced together, and leave it around the same time when Djana'D slips up during a live-fire training exercise and accidentally shoots Breckinridge in the head. In real life, they got married, and have been together ever since.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • "Would you like to know more?"
    • "They sucked his brains out."
    • "The [X] cannot do [Y], IF YOU DISABLE HIS HAND!"
    • "It's afraid. IT'S AFRAID!" This one is especially popular for photo edits, with Neil Patrick Harris' character standing in front of something else entirely while saying the line.
  • Misaimed Fandom: Despite the fact that Paul Verhoeven is anti-war and anti-fascism (he came mighty close to becoming 'collateral damage' when he was a child), people will accuse him from now until judgment day of making a movie that glorifies war, fascism, and blind, jingoistic patriotism. To think Paul Verhoeven made the mistake of being too subtle.
    • This Misaimed Fandom gets an In-Universe example in Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay. The paranoid, racist, warmongering Homeland Security agent tells Neil Patrick Harris that Starship Troopers inspired him to get into his line of work.
    • This expands to the creators of the sequel as well, who clearly missed out the implication that the Arachnids were the real good guys who were being provoked by the xenophobic and jingoistic humans, and portrayed the humans as the lesser evil.
    • Critics lambasted the fact that the characters were flat and uninteresting. According to Paul Verhoeven, he was aiming for 90210 IN SPACE! because the entire film was a propaganda film.
    • Somehow even The Daily Show (which did movie reviews back then — one of many instances of Early Installment Weirdness) missed the satire, picking up on Neil Patrick Harris' SS-like uniform but not the fact that the audience wasn't meant to be rooting for the humans.
  • Misaimed Marketing: A toyline was released by Galoob in 1997. Yes, a toyline based on an R-rated film that has lots of blood, gore, political satire, and nudity. Funnily enough, this is exactly the kind of thing the film would satirize.
  • Nightmare Fuel: Face it, the bugs are just fucking terrifying.
    • The sheer scale of the death and destruction is horrifying.
    • After the Rodger Young gets carved in half by the bug plasma, several crewmen are seen sucked out by explosive decompression.
      • Even worse? Look very closely at the scenes outside the ship as it burns. You can see kicking human bodies floating in space.
      • You don't even have to look closely. One of them lands on Carmen's windshield.
  • Propaganda Piece: Where to start? The In-Universe propaganda went so far as to convince many in the audience that the bugs were bad.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
    • Who woulda thought Barney Stinson was a great Military Strategist that gets promoted to Colonel.
    • Hank Schrader is the commander of the Mobile Infantry boot camp.
    • Amy Smart is one of Carmen's fellow pilots.
    • Lassie works for the government's psychic program.
  • Rooting for the Empire: A lot of people were rooting for the Bugs. In the first movie this might have been the filmmakers' intention, but in the sequels the Federation were supposed to be the good guys (or at least the lesser evil) and audiences still found a bunch of giant cockroaches to be more sympathetic. If you're reading the subtext that the Federation are Villain Protagonists, it becomes Rooting For The Empire regardless of which side you're rooting for.
  • The Scrappy: Carmen, so much so that in the DVD Commentary, the director recalls that after test screenings, the survey cards were filled with comments like "kill the bitch!" and "kill the slut!"
  • Spiritual Adaptation: In its portrayal of a xenophobic evil space-empire pointlessly expending thousands if not millions of human lives in a genocidal war against marauding aliens, this is basically the best movie about the Imperial Guard we're ever going to get.
  • Sequelitis: All of them except Invasion.
  • So Bad, It's Good: Badass of the explains best:
    "Luckily, the script writers realized what they were working with and wrote some of the cheesiest, most badass dialogue in any movie ever. I don't know how they did it, but every single line in the movie is completely corny but awesome at the same time. This results in the audience getting a good laugh in the fifteen minutes of the movie when people aren't getting their arms ripped off or aliens aren't being exploded into pieces and spewing green fluid all over the place."
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!: The opinion of the novel's fans. There's some overlap with WTH, Casting Agency? at the directorial level, since you don't hand Paul Verhoeven a novel that states that War Is Glorious and say, "Adapt this into a movie! Change whatever you like."
  • Took the Bad Film Seriously: It's not necessarily a bad movie, but most of the main cast doesn't seem to realize that it is actually a parodic take on military jingoism. In fact, Michael Ironside and Clancy Brown seem to be the only people who know what kind of movie they're in. Neil Patrick Harris also definitely did; in one of the tie-in magazines, he actively states that his character was becoming this 'dark little fascist' by the time the film ends.
  • Vindicated by History: The film was quite controversial upon its release, with criticisms reared towards its lack of faithfulness to the source material and others misinterpreting its intended messages about war, nationalism, and radical militarism. Nowadays, the film is widely praised as a spot-on political satire and an enjoyable film in its own right.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: The script is a deliberate affront to Heinlein. But every single Bug is Crazy Awesomely cool.
  • What an Idiot!: In the infamous live-fire exercise, Breckinridge's helmet begins slanting and obstructing his view, leading to him running into someone else's line of fire. Rico stops what he's doing and runs over.
    • You'd Expect: Rico to get him off the field and into the hands of someone who can repair the helmet, out of the way of the lasers and bullets flying everywhere.
    • Instead: Rico takes Breckinridge's helmet off on the field right away. An alien statue rises up out of of the ground and zaps another soldier, causing her to fall over and fire, and one of the bullets blows the top of Breckinridge's skull clear off his head. The exercise ends immediately along with Rico's command over the unit, and he earns himself ten lashes from a whip in view of the whole camp; he nearly resigns before the meteor that destroys his hometown convinces him to stick around as a lowly private.
  • Woolseyism: The German dub changed much of the dialogue in the classroom scene, shifting the focus from Rasczak praising the fascist ways of the Federation to emphasizing the need to defend against the bugs. Likewise, the reference to Hiroshima is replaced with a reference to Washington being destroyed in the First Bug War.
  • Word of God: The use of Argentina was quite deliberate, since its Nazi ties are documented.
  • WTH, Casting Agency?: Casper Van Dien, Denise Richards, and Neil Patrick Harris playing Argentinean high schoolers... Verhoeven aimed for a Do Not Do This Cool Thing-baiting feel with the casting, going for stupidly beautiful people who would be far more at home in a soap opera—and then not telling them the film was a satire, leaving them to play their roles deadly serious.
    • This is an example of Reality Is Unrealistic: Argentina is a multiethnic nation settled by a wide variety of ethnicities, including multiple European countries, and has a higher population of Scandinavian immigrants or descendants than any other Latin American country. A number of native Argentinians could easily be mistaken for European, especially given American assumptions about what a person from Latin America should look like. However, underneath the Federation's fascist trappings, Buenos Ares has a strong Everytown, America feel. This juxtaposition, casting included, was almost certainly intended by Verhoeven, who made it clear in DVD commentaries that he views the United States is exactly the same as Nazi Germany: a genocidal fascist empire.
    • Fans of the novel balk at the casting for other reasons. In the novel, Rico is also of an ethnicity one would not expect to be common in Argentina—Filipino.

The Video Game:

The Pinball Machine:

  • Visual Effects of Awesome: One of the jackpot animations features a carpet bombing that appears to be lifted from the movie itself. Sure its on a pixelated DMD display, but for 1997 standards, where most movie licensed machines recreate scenes from their source material, it looks amazing.

The OVA:

  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Some of the Marauder designs were reused in MADOX-01, which was directed by Shinji Aramaki. Guess what happens 26 years later?
    • This OVA is produced by (in case you haven't read the main page) Sunrise. In the one Gundam movie that almost no one liked, G-Saviour, the CONSENT troops reused the Mobile Infantry armor from the first movie.


Example of: