I watched this film, based on a novel by Robert A. Heinlein, a few months ago but did not bother to write a review about it because I thought it was a gore-filled silly film with lousy acting that I could not recommend or thought was even worth writing about. But then I came across this article that describes it as some kind of powerful satire of militarism.
Over the years, early critical opinion that Starship Troopers was simply a knuckle-headed space flick has largely been reversed. It’s remarkable that it took this long: Verhoeven is clearly satirising the rightwing militarism of his source material, the 1959 novel by Robert A Heinlein, with propaganda sequences that are straight out of the Leni Riefenstahl playbook.
Yet it is Verhoeven’s razor-sharp mockery of the hawkish rightwing military mindset – that the enemy is always inhuman, that its destruction has no moral fallout, and that the only thing that ever really matters is endless, relentless, crushing victory – that makes Starship Troopers worth watching in the first place. Otherwise, Hollywood really might as well just be remaking Triumph of the Will with space bugs.
Although I am a fan of satirical films, the danger of satire is always that people might take it at face value and that is what happened with me in this case. The satire in this film must have been too subtle because I have to admit that I did not get this film at all. I just saw it as a particularly silly science-fiction action film with plenty of blood and gore. And I was clearly not alone because the film failed at the box office, failing to even recoup the cost of production.
Here’s the trailer.
After I read this review, I can understand watching it again with a different perspective but in the first viewing the only satirical element I got was when a TV news crew is filming a battle scene with the bugs and the cameraman keeps filming the live action shot even as the reporter is captured and dismembered.
The above-linked article by Ben Child says that there are rumors of a remake of the film and he thinks it is a bad idea, not because the original was a bad film but because he thinks it was so good as a satire of militarism. If the new proposed director Joseph Kosinski sticks close to the book, then it would be just a violent and militaristic space film.