Today on Blogcritics
Home » Heinlein: Starship Troopers—A Disastrous Film Adaptation

Heinlein: Starship Troopers—A Disastrous Film Adaptation

Please Share...Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Facebook1Share on Google+0Share on LinkedIn0Pin on Pinterest0Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

Challenged to name a movie that fell disappointingly short of its original book, my first reaction is Starship Troopers.

I was tremendously excited when I learned they would make this book into a movie, even while I doubted they would capture its flavor in full. The problem is internal dialogue. Really interesting books take us into the inner life of their main characters; in revealing those meditations and self-recriminations, they expose the soul of their actors. Without that insight, fictional characters are about as intellectually interesting as rock-em-sock-em robots.

Typically, movies substitute external dialogue and narrative for these inner debates. An example of this done well is the 1984 version of Dune. Without the narrative voiced by Gurney Halleck (Patrick Stewart) and Princess Irulan (Virginia Madsen), this story would be impenetrable. With it, and by dint of voicing much of the book’s mental dialogue, it succeeds as an adaptation.

So I knew it would be possible to capture the philosophy- and social-commentary-laden substance of Heinlein’s novel. I saw it in the theatrical release, and was sorely disappointed. This is simply not Heinlein’s story.

Oh, the bugs are there. The sneak attack by this alien hive-dwelling race that wipes out Johnny Rico’s home city is in the movie. The Mobile Infantry are there, with their armored suits complete with heads-up displays, pocket nukes and jump jets. What didn’t survive the cut? Only the reason why Johnny joins the service in the first place.

Heinlein’s novel hinges on two social differences in the world of Starship Troopers. First, only veterans&#8212those who have chosen to place their lives “between their loved home and the war’s desolation”&#8212have the right to vote. Civilians do not have that right, and neither do serving troopers. Heinlein justifies this very succinctly:

Suddenly he pointed his stump at me. “You. What is the moral difference, if any, between the soldier and the civilian?”
   ”The difference,” I answered carefully, ” lies in the field of civic virtue. A soldier accepts personal responsibility for the safety of the body politic of which he is a member, defending it, if need be, with his life. The civilian does not.”

Second, it is anyone’s choice to enlist at any time after their 18th birthday. The services will find something for the enlistee to do, to allow them to earn the franchise. But if they go AWOL, resign, or are drummed out for any reason, they never have the opportunity to try again. Politicians from dogcatcher to President must, under this system, be veterans, and there are no “reserves”.

The movie barely mentions either of these two critical concepts. Worse, the main source informing Rico’s choices, his high school “History and Moral Philosophy” teacher, Col. DuBois, is barely there in the first scenes, and not mentioned again. These ideas are presented in hit-and-miss fashion, as if they are part of the recruit training after enlistment, instead of why recruits choose to enlist.

Moving the important motivation to enlist into the recruit training has another consequence&#8212we do not get a real sense of the conflict between Rico and his father. As a result, his reaction when his home city is attacked is shallow. He’s now an orphan, okay, move on. This robs the viewer of one of the most poignant scenes Heinlein has written, when as an officer, Rico is relying on his master sergeant.

Lieutenant Rasczak (Michael Ironside) is given most of the lines that Col. DuBois has in the novel. So we get “Violence has resolved more conflicts than anything else. The contrary opinion that violence doesn’t solve anything is merely wishful thinking at its worst,” instead of

Anyone who clings to the historically untrue&#8212and thoroughly immoral&#8212doctrine that “violence never settles anything” I would advise to conjure the ghosts of Napoleon Bonaparte and the Duke of Wellington and let them debate it. The ghost of Hitler could referee, and the jury might well be the Dodo, the Great Auk and the Passenger Pigeon. Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Breeds that forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and freedom.

If this was the only shortcut, I would not complain. It is not. Sergeant Zim is another crucial character whose best lines from the book are given to Lt. Rasczak, or simply omitted. Rico’s relationship with training sergeant Zim is formative for him. Again, the movie simply ignores this part of the story.

In addition, the movie completely omits Juan Rico’s choice to go to officer training, and how this perspective changes his assessment of his life and responsibilities. I can see leaving this out to save time (and provide grist for a sequel). I suspect, however, that the movie’s creators were simply in a hurry to confront Rico with the alien bugs.

The other changes are minor, and do not, in my opinion, ruin the story. In Heinlein’s novel, women do not serve in the Mobile Infantry; Heinlein was a product of his time and served as a Naval officer in the 40s. Juan Rico’s best friend Carl does not end up as a commanding Colonel, he dies in an assault on an R&D base. What I miss are the thoughts about why defensive war is necessary, and how best to conduct a war once one is begun. Once again, the words are those of Col. DuBois.

If you wanted to teach a baby a lesson, would you cut its head off?… Of course not. You’d paddle it. There can be circumstances when it would be just as foolish to hit an enemy city with an H-bomb as it would be to spank a baby with an axe. War is not violence and killing, pure and simple; war is controlled violence, for a purpose. The purpose of war is to support your government’s decisions by force.

Dune has been remade, and the second version has qualities that the first did not. I cling to the hope that Starship Troopers will be remade by someone with the vision to see past the great special effects opportunity to create a movie worthy of the power of Robert Heinlein’s novel.

In the meantime, skip the movie. Read the book.

Powered by

About DrPat

  • http://www.breakingwindows.com Matt Paprocki

    Ok, I have yet to read the book (it’s on my “list of things to do”), but when have you see a movie, especially a major Hollywood production, follow the book exactly? Reading over this, I can tell the book has all those different meanings and purposes the film had. Maybe not to the same extent, but they did find the right director to convey everything.

    Taken on its own, Troopers is a solid flick filled with some of the best gore sequences ever concieved. Shame they blew it with the sequel. Now there is something to complain about.

  • http://www.morethings.com/senate Al Barger

    I’m voting with DrPat. This movie constitutes some kind of war crime. Robert Heinlein got reduced to a frickin’ video game- and rather a lame bug-squashing one at that.

    Why hasn’t Heinlein ever had a real movie made from any of his work? And why has no one made films of any of his major works, ie Stranger or The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress?

  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    Matt, even if you hadn’t said you’ve not read the book, I would have known. This movie not only doesn’t score on any level with the book’s message, it’s not even in the same ballpark.

    I think I said I didn’t expect the movie to reproduce the book. Do you not see the difference between the sample quote given to Lt. Rasczak and the original from Col. DuBois? This was only one of many ways in which the script failed to capture the substance of the original.

    Worse, as I said, was the complete omission of the motivational philosophy in the novel. Instead, as Al said, they reduced the tale to video-game level: “F*ck the moral message, let’s squish some bugs!”

  • SFC SKI

    I’d blanked out how bad this movie was in comparison to the book, it was too traumatic.

    Dr. Pat, A word please?:
    “The Mobile Infantry are there, with their armored suits complete with heads-up displays, pocket nukes and jump jets” What version were you watching? There was an obvious and apalling dearth of armored suits as Heinlein described them, probably because only Japanese Sci-Fi will actually fully mask it’s stars for storyline, Hollywood never will.

    There is also lack of mention as to why only veterans were allowed to vote: Society had so broken down, and more from internal failure (a general lack of civic further fro brevity) that only mustered out vets were willing and able to band together to do what needed to be done to bring about order. It was bloody, brutal, and swift, and unpleasant. The vets said to the people, we will do this unpleasant necessary task, but from now on, the only people who can charfge us with the task will be those who were willing to take on the burden of service. Tis is a key piece of the book, and whether it reflects Heinlein’s personal worldview or is just a provocative plot twist is up for debate.

    The females in combat aspect was drawn from Joe Haldeman’s power-armored space combat novel, “Forever War” another staple of anyone’s sci-fi diet, IMO. Now, Haldeman’s and Heinlein’s wars, Vietnam and WWII respectively, definitely show their different atittudes towards war in almost every page. In fact outside of powered suits and aliens, they are 2 very different novels, though both touch on the social aspects to great lengths. You’d be better off spending time reading them than watching the travesty of title known as the movie “Starship Troopers”.

  • http://www.kalyr.com/weblog Tim Hall

    I loved the film precisely because it deliberately pisses over Heinlein’s appalling crypto-fascist tract of a book.

    ST is one of the only books I have ever thrown across the room in disgust. It was Heinlein’s spanking fetish, rather than the relentless militarism that offended the worst. It felt like being stuck in a lift with Norman Tebbit.

  • http://www.andrewiandodge.com Andrew Ian Dodge

    Um Tim? Startship Troopers cryto-fascist? I think you read the wrong book mate. You don’t really get Heinlein do you?

    The movie was total shite, course they topped it with the second one. Some of the dialogue in that movie is cringeworthy in extremis.

  • SFC Ski

    That is usually the charge levelled against the book by people who have trouble parsing meaning from what is written and insert their own instead.

  • http://www.booklinker.blogspot.com Deano

    Actually Heinlein quite deliberately made the society in Starship Troopers one whereby anyone can vote, but you have to earn your citizenship and right to vote first through service (military or social, although the book only focused on the military side of things). You could not vote or run for office unless you have put in your time.

    Paul Verhovan, who directed the film version deliberated took a very specific, almost satirical approach to the subject matter, in many cases trivializing Heinlein’s argument that society is best served by those who put themselves out there for society. Verhovon’s work has been greatly influenced by his childhood in WWII German occupied Holland, which has given him a interesting take on militarism and fascism.

    This might have offered an interesting take on the story except that the movie did a vey poor job of portraying the Mobile Infantry envisioned by Heinlein ie. no mobile armor, no drops, little focus on the moral questions that the book raises).

    Not to mention the low, low quality of the MI’s weaponry and tactics (hmmm…giant alien bug to destroy. Let’s stand ten feet away in a circle (in each others line of fire for gawdsake!) and all shoot at it).

    Poor and shoddy execution of great written material. Coulda been a good movie…

    Oh, and the only Heinlein-based film other than Starship troopers that I’m aware of it The Puppet Masters, which wasn’t bad for a b-movie…

  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    I’ve seen the “spanking fetish” come up before with Heinlein’s work, but ST is the only story that explicitly states Heinein’s reasons for approving corporal punishment. In a reminiscence about his History & Moral Philosophy class, Rico recalls Col. DuBois saying

    Corporal punishment in schools was forbidden by law… Flogging was lawful as sentence of crime only in one small province, Delaware, and there only for a few crimes and rarely invoked; it was regarded as “cruel and unusual punishment.”… While a judge should be benevolent in purpose, his [sentences] should cause the criminal to suffer punishment—and pain is the basic mechanism built into us by millions of years of evolution which safeguards us by warning when something threatens our survival. Why should society refuse to use such a highly perfected mechanism? However, that period was loaded with pre-scientific pseudo-psychological nonsense.
    …the tragic wrongness of what those well-meaning people did, contrasted with what they thought they were doing, goes very deep. They had no scientific theory of morals… You see, they assumed that Man has a moral instinct… [He has instead] a cultivated conscience, a most carefully trained one. We acquire moral sense, when we do, through training, experience, and hard sweat of the mind.

  • DWMF

    I agree. The film was a total travesty of the book. Absolute shite. Verhoeven (the director) is quite the leftie, and has no respect for Heinlein’s philosophy. Everything of any interest was stripped out.

  • JR

    Being a leftie is no excuse. An intellectually honest person can create (or recreate) art that challenges his own world view. Verhoeven is either an inferior talent, or he is too compromised by the stupidity of the industry in which he works.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    Excellent post and discussion, DrPat.

    Let’s back up a minute here, though: you liked the film version of Dune? Isn’t it generally regarded as one of the worst films ever made? I can’t even answer the latter question as I can only get through about 10 minutes of the movie without itching to do something/anything else.

  • SFC Ski

    I believe he is referring to the much better Sci-Fi Channel remake.

    While Lynch’s version is very poor as in relation to the book, the movie is a visual feast.

  • JR

    …you liked the film version of Dune? Isn’t it generally regarded as one of the worst films ever made? I can’t even answer the latter question as I can only get through about 10 minutes of the movie without itching to do something/anything else.

    Hell, I felt that way reading the book.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    I found Dune the book to be only so-so, which I feel nearly embarrassed about, being generally a sci fi fan.

  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    I did like the ’84 Dune movie, but it is included in this post because, despite the reliance of the book on internal dialogue, the movie succeeded in adapting the story to allow the internal voice expression via narrative and external dialogue.

    As I said, I knew ST could be adapted despite Heinlein’s usual reliance on reminiscence and rumination because David Lynch had managed to do it with Dune.

    Aside from that, Dune had serious flaws as a movie, I agree. Even so, I prefer it to the 2000 made-for-TV version starring William Hurt as Duke Leto. The mini-series squandered the advantage they should have had in adapting this huge novel into a longer format than the cinematic version, incorporating little more of the novel than was included in the original movie.

  • http://www.mondoirlando.com Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    DrPat, i haven’t read the book, and so will concede that perhaps had i done so, the film may have impressed me less. An example of this is American Psycho, the novel of which i found to be among the most incisive, visceral, funny and utterly despicable (and all at one time) tome to have crossed mine eye-blobs. In light of this, the flick could only dissapoint.

    However, in my humble opinion, Starship Troopers is a brilliant, brilliant, wickedly funny slab of satire, which, whilst not as wickedly funny nor as politically sharp as his earlier Robocop, is still something Voerhoeven should be proud as hell of. Certainly a lot prouder than he may be of Showgirls…

    Starship Troopers was one of the most intelligent, subversive, blackly-comic mainstream movies i had seen in a long time, and i think if folks just see it as a CGI-filled action flick, they’re missing about 90% of what was going on. It’s a brilliant film; funny, smart, and dripping with an ironic wit that only becomes funnier when one realises most of the cast-members didn’t get it.

  • http://www.mondoirlando.com Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    and to the comments regarding the cringe-inducing dialogue and so on, i’m just stumped as to how the joke passed you by? As Tim states, it’s a lampooning of militaristic fascist sci-fi, which i can’t claim the book to be part of, since i never read it. Sci-Fi as a filmic genre, though, is a notoriously reactionairy one (technological advances being something to fear, for example. not in all cases, but the majority) and Starship Troopers ruthlessly mocks it. Saying it’s jsut a “stomp giant bugs” flick is just baffling to me. the bugs are, honest to god, the last thing that comes to my mind when i think of it. Again, it’s a brilliantly ironic slab of satire. It’s gleefully pissing on action movie conventions and ideas, and with a lot more suss than the recent Team America.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    Duke – I think the bug-squashing critique is accurate due to the fact there’s scene after scene of bug attacks and bug/human massacres. I can see if over-the-top was done for effect, but it felt like hours of bug guts piled on top of bug guts, with the occasional trooper dude spiraling and contorting in agony. For most people, it becomes the movie and squashes (ha ha) anything else the film was trying to say.

  • http://www.mondoirlando.com Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    granted, there is a lot of it, and the second half of the film is a tad less interesting than the first, but i think the comedy is still the overriding element.

  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    Obviously, if satire was what the director aimed for, he might have chosen a less well-loved novel to lampoon, or created an overt pastiche of Heinlein’s and Haldeman’s stories (maybe titling it Forever Starship Troopers). I don’t believe satire was the goal, though. I think it more likely that the lure of those gory SFX simply overwhelmed the story.

    And that brings me back to my original contention, which was not that ST was a bad movie, and not that Heinlein’s novel was a masterpiece, but that the creators of the movie failed abysmally in the task of adapting the book to the screenplay.

    The result may share a title and some character names with the novel, but it shares nothing else.

  • http://www.mondoirlando.com Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    DrPat, i don’t think there’s any question that satire was the goal. However, i am sympathetic with the points you make, that maybe fans of the book were hoping for something other than a springboard for Voerhoeven’s mischevious antics. I imagine it’s a bit like the Starsky And Hutch flick. Some folks see it as a fantastic, very funny film, others see it as a horrible blight on thier memories of the source work.

    But you’re right, the point wasn’t whether or not it was a good film, but if it was a good adaptation, which you say it wasn’t, and i’m guessing you’re right. That’s why i brought up American Psycho couple comments back. Fantastic novel, and probably a good film, but very underwhelming as an adaptation.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    To me, the film didn’t work as comedy, satire, or action flick, which makes it kind of an interesting (in some ways) oddity, but nowhere near a good film.

  • Polymath5

    I agree with DrPat. Being a huge Heinlein fan, ST was always a favorite of mine. I love his philosophy on what is needed to be a citizen, not just a consumer at the public trough. I particularly liked that the service would find something for someone to do, even if they were physically disabled or had a medical condition that would prevent actual combat service.

    I did enjoy the movie as I can readily go into a state of ‘willing suspension of disbelief’. So as an action film I enjoyed, as being anything close to the book… The only movie in recent years that does a worse job of following a book is I, Robot.

    However, there is lot to be said for Diz’s shower and romp with Rico. (sorry couldn’t resist)

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    There’s a reason why this movie didn’t get made until after Heinlein was dead. While he was alive he had not only script approval, but also on-set approval of everything that was shot. He took the concepts of the book so seriously that he gave up money from his movie deal to get creative control. This fact actually shut down an earlier production of the movie before it got beyond the script stage. The story is that a production was assembled starring Martin Sheen and Charlie Sheen which never actually got to filming because Heinlein wouldn’t approve the script and then died.

    I think the best hope for a good remake would be to get the folks who do Stargate SG-1 for Sci Fi channel to do a full remake as a mini-series – Sci Fi could use the money they save on all their crappy movies to fund it. N. John Smith is a Heinlein disciple and would do the script properly.

    Dave

  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    Dave, that’s good news. I can keep hope alive with that!

    What a movie that might have been – with Heinlein riding herd on the script, and a real father-son pair to play either Juan Rico and his father or “Johnny” and his spiritual father Zim.

  • Maurice

    Great commentary DrPat.

    I would love to see ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ as a movie.

    M

  • htom

    Stranger in a Strange Land would be better as a series, I would think. There’s just too much story there for a movie. You could do a movie that covered his escape from the hospital as the pilot.

    The Moon is a Harsh Mistress might be long movie.

    Voerhoeven supposedly started to read the book and quit after the first chapter or two, saying something like “This is a coming-of-age story and I don’t want to do that; I want to kill bugs.”

    I thought the movie was somewhat enjoyable, once I figured out that I was supposed to be cheering for the bugs.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    A not-having-read-the-book question: are the bugs supposed to represent socialism/communism, and the “good guys” the forces of rugged individualism… or some such?

  • http://www.iamrighturpie.blogspot.com/ jadester

    from what i’ve heard of people who’ve read the book AND seen the movie, it does a pretty good job considering the time limit. Also,
    Suddenly he pointed his stump at me. “You. What is the moral difference, if any, between the soldier and the civilian?”
    “The difference,” I answered carefully, ” lies in the field of civic virtue. A soldier accepts personal responsibility for the safety of the body politic of which he is a member, defending it, if need be, with his life. The civilian does not.”

    this EXACT bit is in the film. How is that not including it?
    If you want ot complain, go watch the sequel. I heard that it’s a brainless action flick simply using the vaguely similar setting as the first film. Which is also why i won’t bring myself to watch it.

  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    There’s a new post about books that never made it onto the big screen.

    Voerhoeven supposedly started to read the book and quit after the first chapter or two, saying something like “This is a coming-of-age story and I don’t want to do that; I want to kill bugs.”

    Thank you, htom! That is exactly the sense I got from the movie. “F*ck the moral message, let’s squish some bugs!”

    jadester, every quote has a context. It isn’t enough to ensure that the words get into the film – the screen-writers hacked away bits of Heinlein’s dialogue and re-assigned them to other characters, rearranged them chronologically, and even flipped the sense of them by juxtaposing other hacked-up quotes.

    What Verhoeven did was exactly like assembling a jigsaw puzzle by selecting only the pieces with blue on them, snipping the edges to fit or hammering them into place with a sledge, then proudly displaying the result as original art.

  • SFC Ski

    “this EXACT bit is in the film. How is that not including it?” Because you miss the next bit where Dubois (paraphrase) tells him not to give the book answer, but Rico’s own. Rico can’t IIRC, and that is part of the reason Rico enlists, to find out what the real answer is. DuBois is more a father figure than Rico’s real father.

  • http://www.iamrighturpie.blogspot.com/ jadester

    IMHO, there is still more to the first movie than simple “bug-smashing”, and i think it’s intentional.
    As for butchering a book, that doesn’t of itself make a film bad. Look at Blade Runner; it changed the city it was set in, made the lead single/divorced instead of married, completely left out the mood organ and the new religion, left out the replicant police HQ (and Deckard’s rival), amongst other things. And whilst Starship Troopers is hardly on a par with Blade Runner, you seem to have missed the underlying air of…irony? i’m not sure that’s the word i mean but it’s the word i keep thinking of…

  • http://adamantsun.blogspot.com Steve S

    Starship Troopers was intentionally cheesy. If you know that going into it, and are willing to make allowances for it, it’s a great bug-smashing movie. I loved it.

    Of course Casper and Denise and Dina, while not being the greatest actors around certainly make for beautiful bug squishers.

    It was a fun popcorn movie.

  • http://www.walloworld.com Bill Wallo

    I have to say I loved Starship Troopers (the book) as a kid. I haven’t read it in a few years, and I probably should take a look at it again. Thanks for reminding me. ;)

    Oh, and yeah – the way I think of movies is whether I care to see it again sometime. The movie version of Starship Troopers was a definite one-timer for me.

  • Frank Ney

    My personal theory is that ST The Movie Disaster was the direct cause of El Nino.

    I knew it was going to be bad when I saw Verhoven stand up in front of a bunch of SF fans and start spouting off about “Heimlein’s Fascist Vision of the future.”

  • Ken V.

    The screen play was written by Edward Neumier, and I found it interesting to note the relationships of the major characters.

    1. Johnny is in love with Carmen.

    2. Carmen (a brunette) is in love with the preppy guy whose name escapes me at the moment.

    3. Dizzy (a blonde) is in love with Johnny.

    4. Carl (sort of a dullard) is Johnny’s best friend.

    Now, note the relationships, but change the names.

    1. Change Johnny to Archie.

    2. Change Carmen to Veronica.

    3. Change Dizzy to Betty.

    4. Change Carl to Jughead.

    There ya go. The characters come right out of the ARCHIE comic books of the ’50’s and ’60’s.

    Maybe we should change the teachers name to Mrs. Grundy. D’ ya think? (^_-)

  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    Gawd, Ken V! LOL to wake the dead! You’ve got it – it wasn’t a self-consciously satirical pastiche of Heinlein and Haldeman, it was an homage to 50s teen comics, with giant alien bugs.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    This book review has been selected for Advance.net. You’ll be able to find this and other Blog Critics reviews at such places at Cleveland.com’s Book Reviews column.

  • Leon Hardy

    I thought the movie was alright, until I read the book. The movie was way offbase. I think the book is great. I would go for a remake of the book as a mini series on Sci Fi by the people that have redone Battlestar Galatica. I hope they would keep the same theme, it does not have to be exactly like the book, but anything is better than that garbage called Starship Troopes, oh the sequal sucked even more. I did buy the complete set of Starship Troopers: The Roughneck Chronicles. That was a halfway point of the book and the movie and was pretty good.

  • http://none.com Bob A. Booey

    Let me start by saying I don’t care about the integrity of the book since I have no use for Heinlein.

    Aaron is completely right.

    Paul Verhoeven is known for making scripts into live-action comic books. The look, the futuristic parodies of media and news, the self-referential cinematography, and the cartoonish, satirical characters are his trademark ever since Robocop. His films are almost a spoof of the genre even as he clearly enjoys the excesses and violence of action/sci-fi films.

    I love the quotes for him about not being able to get through a couple of chapters of the book and how Heinlen has a fascist vision of the future. Sci-fi, by its very nature, is largely obsessed with an asexual, fetishistic vision of a future defined by technological fascism and a complete loss of any sense of humanity. Yes, sci-fi started as a criticism of technology and concern with human values in the Industrial Age. It’s clearly sort of unknowingly turned that ethos on its head and come to embrace the absence of human emotion, society, and responsibility in favor of childish dreams of irrational order and machine-like, impersonal organizations of life (the very definition of fascism).

    I will throw you sci-fi geeks a bone, however: I saw two episodes of Battlestar (Battleship?) Galactica, and I thought it was really pretty good. I won’t go out of my way to watch it, but I thought it was way more grounded, well-acted, and more relatable to adults than most science fiction.

    That is all.

  • Magnety

    Re the comment just before this:

    SF (Sci-fi, Science Fiction, etc.) is hardly the monoblock of “fascism” you seem to think.

    It runs the range from promoting right wing feminism (kill the males) to the softest of pacifism (better every human dies than hurt another race). Individualism, collectivism, anti (and pro) establishmentism… Pick a work, get a different viewpoint.

    As to the movie:

    My major problem with it is that the main “fan base” would be those who liked the book, and the director set out to make a movie that hated / ridiculed the book. This is rather like marketing slavery to African Americans or gun control to the NRA.

    Essentially if you want to make a anti military (or whatever) movie don’t base it on a popular pro military (or whatever) book.

    Oh, and just to clarify:

    One did not have to be a veteran (as in military veteran) to vote in Heinlein’s book. You had to volunteer, and serve, in public (government) service… You might end up a crossing guard, clerk, or garbage hauler… But you had no say on what job once you volunteered, but you could quit, and give up your future voting rights at any time (other than being in battle, or one assumes things like half way through your watch at the power plant).

    It was also made very clear that a majority of people did not serve, and felt no need of it, or the vote.

    So volunteer ex mail carriers, ex soldiers, ex firemen, ex G-3 file clerks could vote.

  • Andrew

    The movie was ghastly. The book’s idea that only persons who care enough about society to serve it has great merit. Democracy fails to the degee that the
    citizens do not take responsibility for themselves, and succeeds to the extent that they do. I think there’s plenty of evidence to support that.

    A sci fi channel remake a la Battlestar Galactica would be fabulous. SFC took the BG from a bad joke to a great dramatic series. Do it again, please.

  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    Andrew, Battlestar Galactica was a good SFC remake because it didn’t have any ugly bugs to overdo. Look at other less-sublime SFC “original movie” efforts, and you get an idea of how much bad TV they are capable of achieving, given a demand for special effects. [No subtle “bacon frying”, no – we have to have explosions and third-rate knockoffs of audio-animatronic aliens.]

    But, yes, the book’s fans knew the point Heinlein was making. And the movie not only missed that point, but studiously avoided it.

  • Sigmatica

    It seems that everyone here is severely butthurt over nothing.

    The film exists, and that’s that. Match point to Verhoeven.

    So keep crying and criticizing all you want – fact is, you lose, and it won’t change a thing. Haha! Complete laugh of satisfaction on my part.

  • Truthteller

    Heinlein and his novel will be remembered far longer than Verhoeven and his lightweight cartoon of a movie. Heinlein wins.

    Only children think otherwise and I laugh at their simpleton ways. Haha!

  • http://www.randombrandon.com brandon adamson

    Have to agree that this is a terrible adaptation. The director admits he never even finished reading the novel, and only read a few chapters, which he claimed made him “bored and depressed.” Shouldn’t someone who wishes to do a film adaptation of a novel at least be someone who appreciates it, or at the very least someone who has at least read it in it’s entirety? If in fact the goal was to simply parody Heinlein’s ideas, then he would at least have a responsibility to be familiar with them. The ironic thing is that though the film tries to make fun of Heinlein’s world, it actually does make you want to join up with the troopers and kill some bugs.

  • Walter R. Johnson

    TO: DrPat

    RE: “Once again, the words are those of Col. DuBois.

    If you wanted to teach a baby a lesson, would you cut its head off?… Of course not. You’d paddle it. There can be circumstances when it would be just as foolish to hit an enemy city with an H-bomb as it would be to spank a baby with an axe. War is not violence and killing, pure and simple; war is controlled violence, for a purpose. The purpose of war is to support your government’s decisions by force.”

    The above is actually a statement made by Sgt. Zim during Rico’s recruit training. The recruits were practicing throwing knives when one recruit questions the usefulness of knife-throwing. The above quote was part of Sgt. Zim’s answer.

  • Walter R. Johnson

    TO: DrPat

    RE: “The sneak attack by this alien hive-dwelling race that wipes out Johnny Rico’s home city is in the movie.”

    The city was Buenos Aires. While it was Rico’s home town in the movie, it was NOT his home town in the book. Juan (Johnny) Rico was from the Philippines. The reason that Rico’s mother was killed in the Bug attack was that she had gone to visit her sister, who lived in Buenos Aires.

    RE: “The Mobile Infantry are there, with their armored suits complete with heads-up displays, pocket nukes and jump jets.”

    While you are correct in saying that the MI were depicted in the movie, their equipment [from the book] was only noticeable by its absence. The excuse that I’ve read was that they couldn’t do the powered armor, drop capsules, etc. because of budgetary constraints. To me, that lacks credibility; they could’ve CGIed that stuff like they did did the spaceships and those ridiculous “landing craft” that were obviously supposed to be reminiscent of World War II landing craft.

  • mugasofer

    What?

    “Service guarantees citizenship” is repeated constantly throughout the film. Rico parrots variations on “A soldier accepts personal responsibility for the safety of the body politic of which he is a member, defending it, if need be, with his life. The civilian does not.” several times.

    His teacher is actually much more important to the plot, since he reenlists and serves as Rico’s commanding officer, living out the values he once pounded into children on the battlefield; and Rico eventually *becomes* him when he mercy-kills him in parrallel to the earlier “I would expect any of you to do the same for me”, living out those same values and saying the same things to the men now under his command.

    No, the difference between book and adaptation is that the film deliberately satirizes the fascistic, monstrous and propagandist elements that were played straight in the book.