Friday, November 28, 1997

Starship Troopers

"No! I don't want to live forever! Not in this f***ing movie!"
Caught Starship Troopers with my cousin -- CJ's belated birthday present to moi. (Thanks man, not your fault the movie sucked.) That said ... What a fucking travesty.

Here's why ...

A) Robert A. Heinlein's novel was a novel of cool tech. Director Paul Verhoeven threw all that hard SF brilliance away in his filmed adaptation.

No powersuits.

No fucking powersuits????

Some nice CGI, some kewl action sequences. But no power suits. Basically, that's the core technological game-changer of Heinlein's book. These cats and kittens were the Mobile Infantry. Based on his postulated tech -- the power suits -- they combined the functions of air force, infantry and a tank battalion. Based on such capability, how would battle tactics change? Great question. Heinlein's book answered it with some great extrapolations -- which Verhoeven shitcanned in exchange for a conventional, dumbass monster fight in space that we've already seen in a thousand other movies. A cheap idea rendered with ridiculously expensive CGI is still a cheap idea.

On top of that, Heinlein's concept of the powersuit spawned every Japanese anime wetdream from Mobile Suit Gundam to Patlabor to Neon Genesis Evangelion. Heinlein's vision was the granddaddy of them all -- and this was the chance to realize it.

B) Heinlein's novel was a novel of ideas. Verhoeven didn't simply throw out those ideas; he attacks them. Starship Troopers the movie is a dishonest, ugly, strawman caricature of Starship Troopers the book.

Verhoeven shoehorned Heinlein's novel into his own leftist worldview. In Verhoeven's movie, the world of Starship Troopers is a fascist society. That's NOT what Heinlein was saying, goddamnit. Heinlein's novel was a thought experiment postulating a society in which citizenship, in addition to offering benefits, came with obligations. In said society, you couldn't be a free rider and vote. If you wanted to be a citizen, you had to put your ass on the line -- which, occasionally, meant going to war. What would such a society look like? How would its ethics change? Smart questions. Verhoeven ignored them, and made a ham-handed anti-fascist parable instead. Hey, I'm sorry the Nazis invaded your fucking country, but that's not Heinlein's fault.

Verhoeven once said that fascism is a society organized according to military principles. I think that's wrong. Will try to figure out what fascism is in another post.

For now, all I can say is: SF is literature for smart people. SF in film is a different story.

Hollywood keeps grinding out shitty adaptations of great books -- mostly shitty adaptations of Philip K. Dick books, but he's not alone.

Why do directors like Verhoeven keep making stupid movies out of smart books?

Make your own stupid movie, man.

Nobody's stopping you.

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