Starship Troopers

The long-promised (or oft-threatened, depending on your point of view) Starship Troopers reboot is finally gearing up to take a big step forward. Columbia Pictures is set to reboot Paul Verhoeven‘s 1997 classic, with Fast and Furious producer Neal H. Moritz and Baywatch reboot writers Mark Swift and Damian Shannon. I’m not going to say this is an bad idea, but I will say that the original film is as close to perfect as movies can get and is, quite literally, my thirteenth favorite movie of all time

The news comes our way via The Hollywood Reporter, who report that the studio is hoping that Swift and Shannon’s screenplay will (of course) create the foundation for a future franchise. Although the original Starship Troopers film inspired a handful of sequels, there were all direct-to-video and they all lacked the magic touch of the original movie, which blended science fiction, action, comedy, melodrama, and blistering satire into a cocktail that has never been replicated.

Nobody from the original film is involved in the reboot and the goal is to hew closer to Robert Heinlein‘s 1959 novel. While the book retains an ardent fan base who consider it a classic, Paul Verhoeven famously hated it, choosing to make his 1997 adaptation a straight-faced satire that undermined the ideas present in Heinlein’s work. He didn’t even finish the novel, famously saying:

I stopped after two chapters because it was so boring. It is really quite a bad book. I asked [screenwriter] Ed Neumeier to tell me the story because I just couldn’t read the thing. It’s a very right-wing book.

Turned off by Heinlein’s militarism, which Verhoeven viewed as glorifying fascism, the always subversive filmmaker made an ultra-violent B-movie that feels like a propaganda movie for a dystopia that doesn’t actually exist. It stars former child actors and soap opera stars. It’s knowingly campy and disgustingly brutal. It’s genuinely exciting while also rubbing your nose in the story’s politics. It’s a masterwork of subversion and one of the most thrilling movies to ever be produced by a major studio.

And it’s quotable, too: I still mutter “We can ill afford another Klendathu” when I reference a past mistake.

So here’s the thing: a new Starship Troopers, a proper adaptation of Heinlein’s novel, could be a good movie. Verhoeven’s version only features a few superficial plot similarities, so they’ll essentially be different movies with the same title. And while the politics of Heinlein’s work do not reflect my own, I think his ideas are worthy of examination and could lead to a movie that could inspire genuine conversation. Even if his ideas are stripped out entirely, there are enough unique action set pieces and concepts in the novel to make for an exciting action movie.

But no matter what happens here, a new Starship Troopers won’t be Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers. It won’t. It can’t. And that’s probably for the best. Why try to top perfection?

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