Starship Troopers - the movie - is the most brilliantly conceived, expertly executed piece of satire created in recent memory. Paul Verhoeven is one of the few modern filmmakers left who has anything of import to say. Unfortunately, his message was lost upon an audience lacking the intelligence or sophistication to grasp ambiguity.
This wu is an elaboration of Quizro's wu a few wus up, and will partly be in response to DejaMorgana's well written but utterly beside the point wu, directly above. Seeing how many people seemed to agree with the above wu, I felt a more fleshed-out defense of the movie was in order. Unlike DejaMorgana, I believe that Starship Troopers was a great, incisive work, and that the "political-ethical dialogue," far from being removed, are present and perhaps even more profound in the new medium.
Starship Troopers is a great movie because it can be appreciated on a number of levels. It is an orgiastic exercise in hedonistic spasms of gratuitous special effects. It is a self-conscious work of indulgent, glorious, camp. And most importantly, it is a disturbing, shattering commentary on the society that creates such movies.
Verhoeven's previous work, rather than dismissing the interpretation of the movie as a parody/satire, actively supports such an interpretation. Verhoeven's previous work is saturated with parody and social commentary, whether explicit (the pseudo-news program in Robocop) or implicit (Robocop's son's fascination with violent TV shows.) Verhoeven himself stated before the film was released that the Dutch(Thanks to RPGeek for pointing out my error here) director was inspired in part by Nazi propaganda. While the marketing for the film did spin it as a straight adventure story, Verhoeven likely had little creative control over that particular beast. It is clear his tongue was planted firmly in cheek.
This interpretation is supported by the movie itself. DejaMorgana's particularly choice snippets from the movie are wonderful examples of the delightful camp that romps throughout the film. Verhoeven opens the film with a propaganda broadcast, our first clue that not all is what it seems in Starship Troopers. More propaganda pieces are sprinkled throughout the rest of the film, reinforcing the motif of government indoctrination.
There are less overt hints as well. The uniforms of the officers in the Federal Army, for example, are clearly inspired by Nazi uniforms. Look at Doogie Howser's outfit, then look at some old WWII photos of German officers. Heck, watch Patton. There is a clear resemblance, from the leather trench coats and boots to the visored caps. Further, the various paraphernalia of the Federal Army are reminiscent of Nazi symbols. The eagle on the green flag of the Federals, for example, is an almost exact replica of the iron eagle symbolism employed by the Third Reich.
Verhoeven is not a neo-Nazi. In fact, his family is one that was tragically affected by Nazism. Rather, the Nazi imagery is evidence of the social commentary Verhoeven has injected into his work. It is his hint to us that the ostensible heroes of the movie, Rico and his mobile infantry pals, are not heroes at all.
DejaMorgana picks up on, but completely misinterprets, the wanton bloodlust and refusal to negotiate on the part of the earthlings. Of course it is wrong, and stupid, for the characters to do so. This is precisely Verhoeven's point. Our heroes are jingoistic, warmongering barbarians who see the "bugs" as "vicious animals that need to be exterminated," when a peaceful resolution may very well be possible.
In essence, the movie adaptation is the philosophical polar opposite of the source work. Whereas Heinlein expoused a militaristic, "might makes right" world view, Verhoeven rightly exposes this self-righteous dogma for the absurdity it is, by extending Heinlein's argument to extreme lengths. (I must admit I have never read the book, though I have read some of Heinlein's other work. I'm drawing information on the book from DejaMorgana's wu.) Verhoeven reveals the insanity and utter stupidity of Heinlein's philosophy by displaying it in naked, raw form. This is why the movie seems asinine to so many people. Verhoeven's characters certainly are asinine; there are supposed to be imbeciles, worthy of our derision. Verhoeven himself is not, if anything, he is a little too smart for his own good. To put it in terms the average E2 user can understand: Verhoeven was trolling to make a point. Judging from the overwhelmingly positive response to the above critical wu (10 C!s! I am deliriously jealous. In fact, envy may be one of the motivations behind this wu.) he was successful.
Even more disturbing, however, is what Verhoeven has to say about us, the audience. What do big-budget movies that are nothing more than the fevered ejaculate of Silicon Graphics workstations say about the economy that paid for them? What does a movie, or a book, about a vast instellar xenocide say about the audience that revels in it? Verhoeven is disgusted in us. He is disgusted that we went to see his movies because we love explosions and fighting robots and laser guns and giant spaceships blowing planets apart. He is disgusted at the few of us that read Heinlein, and agreed with the book. Verhoeven is warning us, urgently and passionately, that a culture which glorifies violence and destruction, which celebrates moral absolutism and military solutions to all conflict, is a culture that could easily degenerate into imperial Nazism.
I don't own the DVD, so this particular opinion of the movie was established independent of whatever rationalizations Verhoeven may have attempted on the commentary track. I caught the movie during one of my occassional bouts of insomnia, and laughed so hard I woke up my parents. Later, I got the DIVX from a friend. Someday I'll save up enough money to buy the DVD. (Hah!)