With this episode of the famed Stinker Madness Podcast we prepare for 1997's Starship Troopers from master of stuff, Paul Verhoeven. Despite having a solid IMDB user rating, the critics panned it. Does Johnny Rico get better with age? Can Denise Richards be more than just walking boobs? IS the only good bug a dead bug?
My confused relationship with this film begins in 1997 when I saw it at the theater. It was as any of my confused relationships have gone. I take a girl out to tacos and then afterwards there is that “should I ask her to ice cream even though I am not that into her” moment. I don’t ask and two years later I find out she was allergic to tacos and she just wanted to tug me off in her Camaro. That is when I realize, holy shit, I didn’t get what was going on there, I would have totally got my wiener pulled in the back of an American classic, alas that ship had sailed and the tug boat headed down the stream to tow a different load into the bay of soiled upholstery. That is about what happened with me and this movie. When it came out I thought it was okay but kind of weird, totally didn’t get it. I read the novel about 5 months after seeing the film and would, for the next five years or so, hold Starship Troopers as the gold standard for how to fuck up a novel.
Edward Neumeier wrote a script that was called Bug Hunt on Outpost Nine. After the similarities between it and the Heinlein novel were noticed it was then adjusted to be an adaptation of sorts. Verhoeven admittedly was unable to read more than a couple of chapters of the book, as it made him bored and depressed, his opinion being that it was far to right wing. Wherever Neumeier started and however close he was pushed to the novel, Verhoeven had his own plan on the movie he wanted to make. I find it odd as I think he is arguing the same points as Heinlein, just overtly and in a satirical voice, where as Heinlein told the story with such a subversive matter of fact tone that some have called the novel fascist intellectual pornography. I thought it was a real page turner.
Verhoeven was a child in Nazi-Occupied Netherlands. He wanted to make a film about fascism but thought that if he was seriously critical no one would care so he made a film that is a caricature of a perfect fascist world. This movie is basically Springtime for Hitler in space, Beach Party Vietnam the movie, if you will. Many of the in story propaganda pieces are shot for shot copies of Riefenstahl’s Nazi Propaganda films.
Verhoeven’s commentary on the DVD may be my favorite commentary of any movie. He built large fake bugs for the cast to focus on during shooting, and would stand in front of them and make strange noises to illicit responses of terror. He was able to get the whole cast to do the co-ed showering scene by directing it naked.
Who is in this movie you ask? Who isn’t in this movie? Rue McClanahan is in this movie. The cast if fairly stupendous in scope. I will briefly mention Denise Richards, and here is why; I recently read that she underwent breast implants when she was 19. Apparently the procedure was rushed and they just jammed in some that were a lot bigger than they were supposed to be. Later in life she decided to get them fixed and apparently they just threw in some even bigger ones. Oops, oh well.
KEAOF: What is wrong with this movie. As previously mentioned I didn’t get this thing, or Verhoeven until I was 27 or 28. I don’t know if this is his best but in watching the commentary it seems that this is exactly what he was going for. Does it work is what we will be watching for.