Upon waking up this morning, ingesting my usual dose of caffeine that can kill a lesser man, and absorbing all the new knowledge the internet has in store for the day…all I can hear is Michael Ironside bellowing “COME ON YOU APES, YOU WANNA LIVE FOREVER!?!?!”
That’s right, fellow nerds, 1997’s Starship Troopers is getting a reboot and I don’t think it could come at a better time. Find out why after the jump!
Blood, bullets, breasts, and BUGS was how I describe the late nineties, for once my fifth-grade-self discovered Starship Troopers I couldn’t be bothered with anything else… like schoolwork, for instance, which I probably should have thought a little smarter about. As much as my juvenile-self adored this movie, my father found it disgusting and sought to introduce me to Aliens, The Terminator, Predator, and his personal favorite, Forbidden Planet in an attempt to educate me on science fiction that inspired brain development and conversation via controversial issues, compelling characters, and actual plot lines. Needless to say, he was successful in his efforts. However, over time and maturity Starship Troopers made its way back into my mind and heart, and not just to share with my little brother his first glimpse of the female anatomy.
Talks of this reboot claim to be taking much more inspiration from the original Robert A. Heinlein novel than its predecessor, which legend tells us original director Paul Verhoeven found too depressing to even see through to the end and created a satire on militarism instead. I’d like to take a minute to talk about what elements from the book and the movie that can be utilized to create not only a good franchise, but a movie appropriate for the times. The original novel written shortly after World War II, opens the reader up to a world in our (still) not too distant future where humanity has become so soft the first encounters with a hostile alien force left us near decimated and inspired a kick-in-the-ass change to our way of life. For instance, all branches of the military have become one; all of said branches have one boot camp in the northernmost piece of frozen Canada for a year, and the drill instructors can break the recruits bones as much as their spirit. This may sound counterproductive, but coming from the viewpoint of someone who went through boot camp less than five years ago where instructors have restrictions on how much they can yell at one recruit in one day and punishments for failing to do very simple tasks are softer than being hit with a feather, maybe this is something we need. I read the novel shortly after my training and felt cheated, for that was what I signed up for! Going in I expected to be doing push-ups while snow was shoveled onto me or drilled to point of exhaustion and sweat condensing on the ceiling into raindrops. Instead I got two months of spineless p*ssyfooting… and the flu, from a bunch of kids too dumb to know how to clean themselves without their mommy. It amazes me how accurately Mr. Heinlein predicted this would go, and how this was the only aspect the movie depicted accurately from the book. If you ask me, our military needs to break people just enough to know what they could be facing out in the theatre of combat, even while I dream of a world were violence and killing is non-existent, we sadly don’t live in such a world. Instead, we get a bunch of soft brats who bitch and moan when their MRE’s don’t have a pop tart in them and cry out the movie cliché’ “I DIDN’T SIGN UP FOR THIS SH*T!” False, putting yourself into life threatening situations is EXACTLY what you signed up for.
Let’s talk about what aspects from the original movie would be ideal for modern audiences. In the small amount of maturity I’ve accomplished since 1997, I can say there’s a few good bits to take a look at with an open mind. For instance, co-ed showers. I know what you’re thinking, “Real mature, Steve, can you give it a rest on the boob talk!” The answer to that is, and forever will be, a hard no. I love all anatomy, especially the female anatomy. Such beauty pleases me, and such beauty should be praised by all. What better way to show characters proud of their gender, transgender, or chosen sexuality by walking into a shower room with everyone they train and fight with in the mud and blood and not give a rat’s ass what they think. Even better, a trans person walks in to take a shower with their unit, perhaps one asshole makes a snide comment and has a slippery accident at the hands of the rest of the unit, or better yet, no one says a damn thing or cares. Such a simple scene could demonstrate pride in ones gender and/or sexuality and a lesson in not being a dipshit about it.
Jumping off from there, the book and movie(s) do a fine job of portraying strong female characters. Much like the ideas I describe in the former paragraph, a good portrayal of such would be to not make a huge deal about it. Nothing infuriates me more than hearing “She’s such a strong female character” or “the first African American female to win a gold medal in such and such” or maybe just shut up and congratulate them on winning a gold medal! The fact that she’s a female or black of the first is bunch of bull. The female lead in both the movie and the book, Lt Carmen Ibanez, grabs her career by the horns and no one gives two shits that she’s a she, they give a shit because she’s the damn fine pilot, excels at her job, and looks damn fine doing it! Sorry, that last bit was for me. The same can be said about the Captain of Lt. Ibanez’s ship, who knows when to be a hard ass with her crew, when to reward her crew, and has a death scene usually reserved for the stereotypical tough-as-nails male protagonist. Once again, nobody makes a big deal about her being a great female leader, she’s just a great leader and that’s the cultural norm.
Let’s get into some elements about the militarism of this particular future. Jumping right into it, I agree wholeheartedly with the stance on “Service Guarantees Citizenship!” However, I don’t agree at all that such service is limited to the fascist military depicted in Troopers. Yes, I’m currently in the military. Yes, I agree that those who serve to the best of their ability deserve respect and the benefits from taking a job that puts them in harm’s way. However, I lean more towards the philosophy of Robert Redford’s Lambs for Lions, in which public service for two-years are required to earn a college scholarship. Said philosophy ranged from joining the armed forces to serving in the Peace Corps. The characters portrayed by Michael Pena and Derek Luke are chastised for proposing this philosophy after their time in college is at an end, but charmingly wipe the smiles from the faces of their peers by putting their enlistment paperwork on the table. I would like to see the characters in Troopers begin in a world where serving in the military is the only current way to guarantee the benefits of citizenship and find themselves fighting for the rights of others to serve in ways other than combat, as missionaries or scientists. Fascism can be just as menacing a villain as 12-foot-tall carnivorous bugs.
Leading to my last point to make, being the antagonist of the book and movies: The Arachnids. While predominant in the films, the Bug adversary takes a backseat so the novel can focus on the protagonist Juan Rico as he works his ass off to ascend the ranks and exceed the expectations of his status in society. However, the Bugs make a powerful statement as a society where the individual is not praised, much like Star Trek’s The Borg, and a slave-like hive-mind is employed. The movies delved into this idea with the brain-bugs controlling all the drones via a psychic connection, never quite delving into whether or not it was voluntary, but let’s face the facts, it wasn’t. My understanding of Mr. Heinlein’s idea about the bugs was a metaphor for communism, where the individual is disregarded; leaving a soulless dehumanized enemy swarm.
Those unfamiliar with my work may start to say, “Damn Steve, you lay down some heavy shit for a nerd blog. Chill out.” Nay, I say unto you, for the nerd in all of us is what keeps us from becoming like the Arachnids. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again, the creative minds and souls of the nerd community is what keeps us from waking up in the fascist society depicted in 2002’s Equilibrium, which to me is the scariest and most likely dystopian society to possibly come true. You can bet, dollars to donuts, if the sun ever rises on that world, I’ll be the dude putting the needle to my favorite vinyl right before I bleed out all over the battlefield, not torching works of art for The Man.
In conclusion, I don’t expect an academy award winning epic from the writers of the upcoming Baywatch remake, but a guy can dream. At the very least, we can get a look at a science fiction war that’s just as bloody and nightmarish as Black Hawk Down or Fury. Lead us off with a world that polishes life and the news media (SOUND F*CKING FAMILIAR?!?!) to look good but underneath is truly going to sh*t unless something changes. I can still be happy with a good old fashioned summer blockbuster chock full of “NUKE ‘EM RICO!” and maybe the Halo-esqe power armor depicted in the books and animated Roughneck series. Speaking of that, anybody remember what Rico looked like on that show? I’ll start the campaign now to see New Girl’s Schmidt get all war-torn and grizzled in the lead role. News thus far states none of the original cast are returning, but Neil Patrick Harris hasn’t aged a day and could easily slip into his old role as psychic Carl Jenkins, and why not a grey-beaded Casper Van Dien to hardass his way into our hearts and minds as Lt Razak!