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Starship Troopers Requires More than One Viewing to Get a True Understanding

Film Adaptation of Robert Heinlein Novel is a Deceptively Dystopian Movie

My first viewing of Starship Troopers definitely had me confused and led me in search of this deceptively dystopian movie. Throwing a bunch of stuff in your face like Denise Richards at her hottest and giant bugs ripping humans to pieces almost entirely overshadow the subversive subtext filmmaker Paul Verhoeven was dropping. It was almost like he was seeking an initial misunderstanding before reveling his true intentions. Maybe not so spectacular for the studio’s bottom line but just the recipe for great science fiction movies.

Of course, I first got hung up on Denise Richards. Soon enough, though, the horrifically violent nature of the film moved me off “Carmen Ibanez.” Not a fan of violence, I’m always willing to overlook if the content overshadows the gratuitousness.

First impressions removed, Troopers steps back a year from the opening dismemberment on Planet P. We see the same young people elevating adolescent politics above those of the galactic that their teacher is attempting to prioritize.   

A Real Double Take Deal

In the wake of the innocence, Mr. Rasczak’s historical interpretation gives you your first double take. “We talked about the failure of democracy and how the work of social scientists brought the world to the brink of chaos,” implores Rasczak. “That left us the veterans who took control and imposed the stability that has lasted generations.”


The resulting system offered citizenship and the vote to only those volunteering for a military service of two years. “When you vote you’re exercising political authority. You’re using force and force is violence - the supreme authority that has solved more problems than anything else.”

Even so, the students openly question the society’s main precept that citizens take responsibility for the security of the human race and non-citizens don’t. In turn, a semblance of a free society emerges and almost forces the viewer to overlook the discourse.

Football games, the school dance, future academic or military plans, and amorous in fighting thus puts us at ease and cements our complacency. The equality demonstrated among the diverse cast also makes one believe that this society is working. Might a common enemy be providing the glue?

Either way, another snippet that gives us pause. “A group of Mormon extremists were slaughtered inside the bugs’ quarantined zone.  They did not heed Federation warnings until it was too late,” lectures the interactive media personality.

Self Determination or Dystopian Movies Undercover

And you see the carnage in graphic detail, but moving right along, you don’t have enough time to ponder why these people would take such a risk. Importantly, the lack of a dictate by the government expresses the sentiment that self determination still exists and is reinforced in our main character’s next move.

Against his father’s wishes, Johnny Rico decides to become a citizen and Rasczak encapsulates the dogma for us. “Free will is the only freedom we have,” Rasczak congratulates him.

It certainly appears that way, and since boot camp on steroids is accompanied by a medical science that easily fixes injuries inflicted by Sgt. Zimm, we take comfort. The death of a recruit in a training exercise causes concern, but we are reassured when Rico learns the important lesson of never quitting.

His superiors seamlessly dismissing the death to the necessary cost of doing business, the obliteration of Buenos Aires by an asteroid launched by the bugs certainly brings the cost benefit analysis into perspective.

Now the propaganda goes into full swing.  “The only good bug is a dead bug,” a survivor seethes.

The Force is not Strong in this One

But this gets the seasoned science fiction viewer a little confused.  Princess Leia only gasped at the death of her world and Luke knows not to give into the hate. So what gives?

Well, there is no disturbance in the force here. the government pitch is reminiscent of American propaganda during World War II. So you’re torn between the enlightened approach to conflict and rightly shedding no tears for any dead Nazi.

The latter must apply to the bugs – right?  The question actually gets consideration.  

“Some say the bugs were provoked by the intrusion of humans into their habitat. That a 'live and let live' is preferable to war with,” a reporter questions the pre-invasion force.

“I’m from Buenos Aires and I say kill ‘em all,” says Rico in putting any doubt to rest for the whole of humanity.

Wait a minute Johnny, we invaded their space first? 

Fortunately, all the bravery exhibited by our young heroes is on par with any Han Solo and suspends your disbelief again – sort of.  “Someone like me is going to kill you and your whole race,” Lieutenant Zander Barcalow bravely meets his end like a xenophobe missing all the clues of the first time viewer.

That says it, and if Starship Troopers does take the customary multiple viewing for understanding, hopefully the next time your country goes to war, you get it right the first time. 

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