starship troopers

I used to think about Starship Troopers every single day because it’s one of my favorite movies and I quote it often and I find its satiric look at a fascist future society both hilarious and chilling. It put a babyfaced Neil Patrick Harris in a Nazi SS uniform. It’s director Paul Verhoeven‘s scathing masterpiece.

But now I think about it every hour or so, not just because it’s being remade as version that will be more faithful to Robert Heinlein‘s original novel, but because the current state of American politics has me pondering Verhoeven’s cynical, authoritarian vision of the future (see: his other genre masterpiece, RoboCop). And it turns out that Verhoeven is inviting comparison himself, explaining that Starship Troopers without the satire “would fit very much in a Trump Presidency.”

Verhoeven (who’s been earning some of the best reviews of his career with his new film, Elleshared his thoughts at a New York screening of Starship Troopers and he did not pull his punches. The 77-year-old filmmaker has explained in the past that Heinlein’s original novel left him bored and depressed and that his film adaptation was intended as a response to the book’s politics. Naturally, the news of a book-accurate adaptation has him perturbed:

It said in the article [that] the production team of that movie of the remake, that they would go back more and more towards the novel. And of course, we really, really tried to get away from the novel, because we felt that the novel was fascistic and militaristic. You feel that going back to the novel would fit very much in a Trump Presidency.

Verhoeven also spoke about masking the satire in an action/adventure movie, keeping the politics just under the surface without allowing any of the characters to acknowledge the evil of the system they were fighting to preserve:

Our philosophy was really different [from Heinlein’s book], we wanted to do a double story, a really wonderful adventure story about these young boys and girls fighting, but we also wanted to show that these people are really, in their heart, without knowing it, are on their way to fascism.

As history has shown us, fascism slips in unnoticed, earning ground piece by piece until it has become the new normal. Starship Troopers knew this, making everything look so attractive and exciting, masking the politics with giant action scenes, special effects, and “stirring” speeches about patriotic duty. It’s like you’re watching the latest blockbuster produced by a film industry operating out of an actual future dystopia.

Of course, a politically-minded satire caked in gore starring former child actors, models, and soap opera stars would never get made today. Verhoeven explained that he barely got away with it twenty years ago:

We succeeded to do this movie, that is so subversive, and politically incorrect [because] Sony changed [leadership] every three, four months. Nobody looked at the rushes [dailies] because they had no time because they were fired every three, four months.  So we got away with it because nobody saw it.

The rest of Verhoeven’s comments, which are insightful, funny, and often disquieting, can be read at the link above.

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