After spending a couple of days to mull it over in my head, it seems almost foolish to suggest Starship Troopers for a movie club. I think the primary purpose for this weekly feature is to introduce readers to films you might not have seen yet are available for viewing, for free, online. Thinking back on it, who hasn't seen Starship Troopers? The film is near-iconic among genre fans as being a movie that's "so bad it's good," so assuming people haven't seen it is akin to assuming people haven't seen Alien yet. But for those who haven't seen it, this past weekend was a perfect opportunity to do so, as this week's discussion will touch on a variety of topics, from the theme of the film to just how God awful Casper Van Dien is at acting like anything other than a priss with a chiseled jaw.
Also: brain bug - does it look like a giant vagina? Spoilers and the answers to these questions dwell within.
I think a major factor in appreciating Starship Troopers is determining whether or not Paul Verhoeven gave a damn about the supposed underlying militaristic, fascistic and other themes that many critics feel populate the source material. I'll be the first to admit I have never read the book, but a conversation with Peter Hall revealed that many important aspects of the novel's plot were left out of the movie (Verhoeven admitted he didn't finish reading the novel due to it boring him), presumably in favor of a ridiculous love interest and Dina Meyer's breasts. After a little bit of research, it appears the myriad of themes seemingly present in the novel were condensed into the message "war = fascism," which doesn't seem to be that big of a stretch considering much of the film's central points (i.e. must serve to become a citizen, etc).
This is seen heavily in the first half of the film, specifically in the classroom scenes and those where protagonist Johnny Rico engages in bitch sessions with his father that are the exact antithesis of those I would have with my dad when I graduated high school. Citizenship rests solely on military service, which affords those who serve the opportunity to vote. The idea that Verhoeven was shooting for brilliant subtext can be shot down based solely on the fact that all of the BS Rico goes through is ostensibly for the affections of his paramour Carmen, who ends up dumping him for a douchebag with a goofy haircut cleverly disguised as the desire to be a career pilot. In the end, I think the film's ability to be anything more than violent fun far outshines any subtext it may contain, however blatant or subtle it may be.
That aside, Starship Troopers is widely considered to be a guilty pleasure among fans, though I don't really see why anyone would be ashamed of liking this money. It's pure B-grade cinema with an A-grade coating; Verhoeven is responsible for some beloved science fiction films such as Total Recall and Robocop as well as introducing to the world the, *ahem*, assets of Sharon Stone, and the film even went on to be nominated for an Academy Award for visual effects in 1998. The acting is utterly atrocious, of course, with the dialogue faring no better with such gems as "Johnny, I'm dyin'. It's alright, 'cause I got to have you." And to think, Dina Meyer went on to star in the Saw series. How can you not love it?
But let's talk more about our main man, Johnny Rico, whose attempts at showing emotion, specifically anger, are absolutely hilarious. Clancy Brown, who plays the drill sergeant during boot camp, and Michael Ironside, who plays Rico's former teacher and eventual leader of the Roughnecks, manage to offset Van Dien's utterly unbelievable performance as a soldier by being total ass-kicking badasses. Let's not forget NPH himself, playing a psychic who uses his abilities at the end of the film to "guide" Rico in his quest to...not die, I guess. Find Carmen?
Now the real reason why you're all here: does the brain bug look like a giant vagina? The answer is a resounding yes. I mean, look at it. Giant, undulating vagina. Also, it extends a giant proboscis from what is presumably its slobbering maw and thrusts into the skulls of its victims, sucking out the brain matter. I don't think that really has anything to do with vaginas, I just wanted to write the words "slobbering maw."