Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Starship Troopers

When it was released, Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers was accused of promoting fascism and militarism. Today, it is seen as a relentless satire of war and one of the greatest post-9/11 allegories ever filmed, a feat made all the more impressive by the fact it was released four years prior to 9/11. So which is it, a stirring panegyric to fascism or a biting satire? The nanobots understand that you want to know more…

  • The Federation knows that wars are won with precocious child soldiers. = +3pts 
  • These special effects wouldn’t look out of place in Windows 98. Seeing as how the film was released in 1997, this is our highest compliment? = +5pts 
  • In a world where genocide is a moral imperative… = +4pts(For clearly stated goals for our protagonists.) 
  • “Battlefield reporter” has to be the worst job in the military. = -2pts 
  • Rico draws and sends a digital love letter to his girlfriend on a government-issued tablet, meaning digital privacy is no longer a concern. Most likely because these lunkheads have no conception of privacy. = -6pts 
  • Today’s lesson: violence is the supreme authority from which all other authority is derived. Welcome to the only school where lunch money theft is encouraged. = +4pts(For creating a society free of crybabies.) 
  • One benefit of a hyper-militaristic society: no one has any hang-ups about being touched by arm stumps. = +5pts 
  • The cheerfulness of Carmen’s response about Hiroshima being destroyed is downright chilling… but maybe that’s the point. = +4pts 
  • The late ‘90s were intent on making us think Denise Richards could play a scientist. Unlike The World Is Not Enough, implausibility is probably the point here. = 0pts (-5pts for setting a trend; +5pts for execution) 
  • And Neil Patrick Harris as: The Ferret Whisperer. = +4pts 
  • Things high schoolers of future Argentina do: play American football, go to “the dance.” +7pts (For reassuring us that American will eventually take over Argentina. Finally!) 
  • Diz, Rico’s stalker, is the quarterback. Liz Lemon really was a trailblazer. = +6pts, and +1 extra point for allowing a 30 Rock reference, net +7pts 
  • Most unbelievable thing in this film: Rico’s pacifist civilian parents are rich and have a great house. HOW COULD THE FEDERATION ALLOW SUCH A THING?! = -8pts 
  • How does NPH make playing creepy horndogs so sexy? = +4pts 
  • Carmen is being wooed by a sexy Chris Kattan. = -8pts 
  • When a one-armed, no-legged recruitment officer refers to you as “fresh meat for the grinder,” continuing to smile like a dumbass is of course the polite response. = +3pts 
  • Carmen makes a vow that, no matter what, she, Rico, and NPH will always be friends. I bet she said the same thing to Charlie Sheen and his skeezy drug dealer. = +5pts 
  • “The Federation will give me everything I need for the next two years.” Damn commies. = -3pts 
  • “Mormon extremists.” = +9pts, (One for each Tony Award won by The Book of Mormon.) 
  • Gary Busey had a son and he looks just as weird as you’d expect. = -6pts 
  • The dialogue could be lifted directly from an after-school special… but maybe that’s the point. = +4pts 
  • GRATUITOUS BOOBS! …but maybe the gratuity is the point. = +2pts 
  • Judging by the fact that our society allows the Duggars to have 19 kids, maybe requiring reproduction licenses isn’t such a bad idea. = +2pts 
  • Li’l Busey falls into the very narrow overlap in the Venn Diagram of “borderline crazy soldiers” and “classically trained violinists.” = -4pts 
  • Zander admits to Carmen that he is stalking her. She’s totally into it. = +3pts (For stalking with post hoc approval.) 
  • Carmen thinks Zander is flirting with her when he says that her flight status could be revoked. Talk regulation to me! = +3pts 
  • The Mobile Infantry uses live ammo during training exercises. Do we even need to say “what could go wrong”? = -4pts 
  • Death is so much more dramatic when framed with a crane shot. = +5pts 
  • HANK SCHRADER! = +15pts 
  • Goddammit Marie, you gave Hank the David Byrne-sized uniform today. -5pts(For making Hank look silly.) 
  • Bureaucracy doesn’t stand a chance against dramatic and violent gestures. = +7pts 
  • Do your part against the alien bug menace by viciously stomping unrelated Earth bugs. = +6pts 
  • Rico and Carmen’s attitudes swing wildly and without reason… BUT MAYBE THAT’S THE POINT. = +3pts 
  • Ok, the dude on that recruitment poster has a Hitler mustache. How did audiences and critics not get this is a satire? = +10pts 
  • It may sound simplistic, but in the heat of battle, “KILL THEM! KILL THEM ALL!” are actually pretty solid orders. = +3pts 
  • The military cameraman keeps filming as a bug devours his friend. Now that is job dedication. = +3pts 
  • Pundit finds the idea of a bug that can think offensive, most likely because that’s one more thing bugs can do that he can’t. = -5pts(For reminding us that FOX News will still exist in the future.) 
  • Carmen thinking Rico is dead does nothing but create forced drama… but maybe that’s the point. = -4pts 
  • ELLIS CARVER! = +9pts (You know, from The Wire? It ran for five seasons on HBO. …Philistines, all of you.) 
  • Carver keeps shooting the bug after it’s dead, so we’re definitely dealing with Season 1 hothead Carver. This could be a problem for Rico. = -3pts 
  • “You got a bug problem, ma’am?” Even in the face of overwhelming odds, there’s always time for a little levity. = +4pts 
  • There is an enormous beetle that sprays fiery acid out of its forehead. Is it too late to declare allegiance to our new insect overlords? = -10pts 
  • Let’s all drink beer while stranded on a hostile planet! = +5pts (For beer!) 
  • Casper Van Dien can’t act his way out of a paper bag. And yes, that’s definitely the point. = +5pts 
  • Having your romantic dance scored by a violin playing Li’l Busey is as terrifying as anything else in this film. = -9pts 
  • Nothing is too urgent that it can preempt sex. NOTHING. = +4pts 
  • Diz forgot to put her plot armor back on after boning Rico. = +5pts (For that goofy smile on her face as she got impaled.) 
  • Rico tells NPH that dying is what Mobile Infantry is good at and we honestly can’t tell if he’s bitter or proud. = +7pts 
  • Nope, he’s totally proud of his squad’s excellent death proficiency. = +10pts 
  • Rico’s newest troopers barely look old enough for the Hunger Games. Which is pretty much what they’re in for, so may the odds be ever in their favor. = +5pts 
  • When someone’s dying words are a declaration of genocide, it’s hard to feel bad for him... BUT MAYBE THAT'S THE POINT. = +10pts 

Total Score = +122pts
Available: Amazon Instant Video, Netflix DVD

Starship Troopers is nearly scorecard-proof. So much of this film is calculated to be a certain kind of bad, meant to play up the mindless jingoism of certain other science fiction films. Casper Van Dien and Denise Richards play their roles without a hint of self-awareness, and the film is all the better for it. They say their cheesy dialogue and try their hardest to sell banal romance plots. The horrific themes would surely earn demerits in other films, but Verhoeven presents them in a way that both hilariously and damningly skewers them. In short, this film is brilliant because it has the appearance of awfulness, and as a result, the nanobots’ calibration needs to be reset.

Score Technician: Andrew Daar

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