Starship troopers

I am pedantic, especially when it comes to films. I mention this as a fair warning to anyone reading this: Your urge to strangle me for taking umbrage at events completely unrelated to plot or character is pointless. My family has tried (usually around the 80-minute mark) and it turns out I am strangle-proof. I blame both qualities (pedantry and stout frame) on my father’s side of the family; engineers all.

Anyway, I was watching the film adaptation of Starship Troopers again today and had a few complaints:

  • The plot bore only a passing resemblance to that of the book
  • The acting was appalling
  • The mobile suits were completely missing (a mayor feat since most of the book’s action took place in them).
  • The training was completely different (also a feat considering that the training took up half of both the book and film)

These are known issues, old hat for anyone who had ever read the book and watched the movie (and god knows how many of us there are). However, there are some other issues not so generally covered that I feel deserve mention.

Firstly, tactics. Given the makeover of the film into a faux propaganda piece (a neat inversion of the book’s tone), the mass-infantry charge into enemy lines fits perfectly. However, given the setting of the universe it really smacks of creative laziness (spaceships with FTL drives vs. troopers with basic body armour and assault rifles anyone?). Having re-imagined Heinlein’s Spartan utopia as a tech-rich police state, how did the directer (Verhoven, if I remember right) think that world-war I equipment would be the obvious choice? Wouldn’t some actual mechanised equipment have been in order to ensure that Mr. and Mrs. future-citizen could survive for more than 15 seconds after landing?

I gets worse, though. Having now put under-armoured, under-equipped soldiers down on bug soil, why in gods name have them blaze away at the bugs (who mostly kill at close range, another departure from the book) from within spitting distance. The overall effect is of the director ordering the writers to find a way to show as many mangled corpses as possible while hoping wildly that the whole ‘suspension-of-disbelief’ thing would keep us all in our seats.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved the overbearing cheesiness of the film. But I loved the thought-out completeness of the book more. Given the stylistic choice between a grim future in which well-trained (and disturbingly sexless) men and woman fight a truly alien foe vs. an overacted gore-fest in which sexed-up jocks shoot blanks at big bad bugs, I’d take the former any day.

But only if it came with a copy of The Forever War.

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