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15 Years of Starship Troopers

By Bert Ehrmann

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Fort Wayne Reader


I am convinced that when I first saw the movie Starship Troopers in a theater back in 1997 I was the only one there who actually liked it. I know the two friends I went to see it with didn't care for it, and it didn't seem like the dozen or so other people in the theater with us were all that jazzed about Starship Troopers either. And I know I was the only person in the theater who liked it the second time I saw it a few days later since I was the only person in the theater.

Being a fan of the movie Starship Troopers the last 15 years has felt a lot like sitting in the theater all by myself that cold November evening. I've been convinced ever since I saw that movie that it's a great film, but I can't seem to find anyone else who shares that opinion. And, worst of all, when I can convince someone to take a chance on watching the movie, they've all unanimously HATED it.

I think most people who watch Starship Troopers view it as a literal movie, something sci-fi like Star Trek or Star Wars. But I think that where Starship Troopers works best is if it's viewed a bit differently than traditional sci-fi.

Starship Troopers opens with, and is broken up by, in-movie commercials and information of what's going on during the war with the alien bug-like Arachnids during the 24th century. There are clips about joining the military, helping out with the war, news reports about bug attacks, etc. And I think this provides a clue as do how director Paul Verhoeven meant for Starship Troopers to be seen.

It's almost like Starship Troopers is some “real” 24th century propaganda war film that just so happened to be brought back in time and shown to 20th century audiences. And, much like real propaganda war films, the war of Starship Troopers is over-saturated and hyper-real, whereas if it were to portray war realistically it would be grey and bloody.

Futuristic propaganda flick or not, expectations were high for Starship Troopers but it was ignored by audiences and failed badly at the box office. It's taken some time, but in recent years fortunes have started to turn for the movie. Recently, the influential pop-culture website The A.V. Club called Starship Troopers one of the best films of the 1990s.

And earlier this year Sony Pictures announced that they were set to reboot Starship Troopers and release a new feature film that would “be a little more faithful to the book.” Which I find a bit ironic since the bulk of the original Starship Troopers novel deals with lead character Johnnie Rico either training to become a trooper, planning for battle, training to become an officer or spending time in ships between battles. Don't get me wrong, I love the book, but I'd guesstimate that only around 15% of the book is action. And in today's Hollywood climate of all-action, all the time, a movie mostly about training or riding around in space ships isn't going to cut it.

What I'd guess “be a little more faithful to the book” really means is that, “We're planning on throwing away everything from the original Starship Troopers movie that made that film different and unique and instead focus our attention of explosions, scary bugs and lots of action. And possibly starring Johnny Depp.”

Along with the first Starship Troopers movie there are three direct-to-DVD sequels that are also available, but stay away from them since they're all terrible. Instead, if you're interested in more Starship Troopers checkout the novel from 1959 or the 1999 animated series Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers Chronicles which mixes elements from the film along with elements of the novel that didn't make it to the big screen and creates something new and interesting.

When and if a new Starship Troopers ever makes it to the theaters I'll be there to see it opening night, even if I'm there all by myself again. Visit me online at DangerousUniverse.com.

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