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Book Buzz: Starship Troopers Nostalgia

The upcoming DTV debut of ST3 prompts a look at the glory days of theatrical release.

By Pat Ferrara     May 26, 2008


Casper Van Dien as Johnny Rico against the "Tanker Bug" in STARSHIP TROOPERS
© TriStar Pictures

First there was the CGI-animated television spin-off ROUGHNECKS, then the financially crippled DVD sequel STARSHIP TROOPERS 2: HERO OF THE FEDERATION. A smattering of comic and game adaptations, including Markosia’s steady stream of graphic novelizations, have since propelled Heinlein’s mythos from the initial film’s debut. This week sees the stateside release of Markosia’s 100-page graphic novel Starship Troopers: Damaged Justice, but to say the fledgling military SF franchise is on firm ground would be a gross overstatement.

Paul Verhoeven’s brilliant adaptation of STARSHIP TROOPERS back in 1997 seems like a lifetime ago, especially when every other installment in the Trooper franchise has been a pale comparison of this worthy original. ST2’s horrendously low budget rendered the direct-to-video sequel almost unwatchable and unfortunately the second sequel isn’t looking all that much better.

Set for a July 29th video release, STARSHIP TROOPERS 3: MAURADER looks like a noticeable improvement upon the last chapter but is obviously nowhere near the blockbuster quality of the first. Edward Neumeier, the screenwriter for the past two installments, has taken over the directorial reigns on MAURADER.

From the official trailer it’s clear that ST3 is, like its predecessor, still suffering from poor visual effects and unoriginal storytelling. The Arachnids look stilted and clumsy while the story itself seems to be a tired rehashing of the first, replacing the brain bug with a new “scorpion” bug. The new Trooper film does look interesting, but it’s a far cry from the A-list execution of Verhoeven’s product.

Are the glory days of the Starship Trooper franchise over for good? Will the Heinlein-inspired sci-fi adventure ever grace the big screen again as something more than just a Coca-Cola freeze frame? In all likelihood probably not, but here are some damn good reasons why it should:
 
You Can Never Have Enough Swarming Aliens…or Co-Ed Shower Scenes
 

Most science fiction fans don’t want to wait until Starcraft 2’s release to see more beautifully rendered shots of undulating, alien bug hordes. Campy scenes like the wacky high school sports match or the infamous co-ed shower sequence from the 1997 original were always balanced by kickass action set pieces and delightfully gruesome battles involving massive groups of Arachnid warriors. Mixing cheesy one-liners and memorable camp with loads of destructive man vs. bug action is what made the first STARSHIP TROOPERS not just great, but arguably fantastic.

 
Verhoeven’s Visual Effects Rocked
 

You sink $105 million into a futuristic sci-fi action movie and it’ll show. A combination of phenomenal model-building and powerful CGI rendering (fueled by Pixar’s RenderMan), Verhoeven’s STARSHIP TROOPERS was a feast for the eyes and a wet dream for every male action fan in the 13 to 35 age range. But in an Oscar year dominated by Cameron’s juggernaut TITANIC, STARSHIP TROOPERS was effectively swept under the “Best VFX” rug.

After more than a decade, however, Verhoeven’s spectacularly violent slaughter fest still trumps the visuals of most current SF entries. Where are the Mobile Infantry’s new assault rifles and nuclear grenades? Or how about the Fleet’s newly renovated Roger Young-class warships? Even if budget constraints prevented the first film from going out with an intended climactic bang, promises were made in that final bit of military propaganda and this amateur VFX filth the sequels are touting just isn’t up to snuff.
 
 

Denise Richards is Probably Crazy Enough to do Another One

 After the bizarre allegations from ex Charlie Sheen came to a very public and awkward head last week, Denise Richards may come out the worse for wear of all the TROOPER originals. Crazy, down-on-their-luck actresses will take what they can get, even if it’s a sequel to a project they instantly regretted doing in the first place.

Get Neil Patrick Harris back into his German trench coat, sign up Richards and her ta tas for one of those co-ed shower scenes and pen Jake Busey back into the script if you seriously want to jumpstart this franchise.
 

Casper Van Dien is Johnny Rico

Leaden in Tim Burton’s SLEEPY HOLLOW and utterly forgettable in TARZAN AND THE LOST CITY, Casper Van Dien may not be the most talented thespian out there, but he is Johnny Rico: a no-bullshit, wise-ahead-of-his-years Mobile Infantrymen who’ll kill you himself if you don’t hold weight.

A staunch supporter of the Trooper franchise since the first film launched him to B-actor status, Casper’s limited emotive range makes him the perfect fit for Johnny Rico…and probably nothing else.
  

The Book

Whatever you think of its translation to the screen, Robert A. Heinlein’s politically charged SF masterpiece is the best hope for the franchise’s future. Within the pages of this Hugo Award-winning novel are the blueprints for a smart, crowd-pleasing military SF epic. As topical and controversial now as it was during its initial publication in 1959, Heinlein took a polarizing stance on the necessity of militarism, the merits of civil virtue, and the boundaries of Fascist and Communist satire.
 
 
New in Hardcover:
 
Eyes of a King, Catherine Banner (Doubleday Canada)
 
What the Mouse Found and Other Stories, Charles De Lint (Subterranean Press)
 
DarkGlass Mountain: The Twisted Citadel, Sara Douglass (Eos)
 
Doctor Who Short Trips: Defining Patterns, Ian Farrington (Big Finish)
 
Classic Dan Dare: The Reign of the Robots, Frank Hampson (Titan Books)
Illustrated by Don Harley.

Doctor Who Short Trips: Snapshots
, Joseph Lidster (Big Finish)
 
Haggopian and Other Stories, Brian Lumley (Subterranean Press)
Signed edition illustrated by Bob Eggleton.
 
Doctor Who Short Trips: Destination Prague, Steven Savile (Big Finish)
 
Bring Down the Sun, Judith Tarr (Tor)
 
New in Paperback:
 
The Clouded World: The Fledging of Az Gabrielson, Jay Amory (Gollancz)
 
Saga of the Seven Suns: Metal Swarm, Kevin J. Anderson (Orbit)
 
Night Child, Jes Battis (Ace)
 
The Lost World, Arthur Conan Doyle (Penguin)
 
Daemonomania, John Crowley (Overlook TP)

Jennifer Scales: The Silver Moon Elm, MaryJanice Davidson & Anthony Alongi (Ace)
 
DarkGlass Mountain: The Serpent Bride, Sara Douglass (Eos)
 
Quid Pro Quo, Manna Francis (Casperian Books)
 
Starship Troopers: Damaged Justice, Tony S. Lee (Markosia Enterprises LLC)
Illustrated by Sam Hart & Shanth Enjeti.
 
Icarus, Roger Levy (Gollancz)
 
Ravirn: Codespell, Kelly McCullough (Ace)
 
Moonworlds Saga: Voyage of the Shadowmoon, Sean McMullen (Tor)
 
Percheron Saga: Goddess, Fiona Mcintosh (Eos)
 
Stargate SG-1: Do No Harm, Karen Miller (Fandemonium Books)
 
Butterfly Wishes, Ladonna Paulette (Tiger Publications Inc.)
 
Sign of the Zodiac: The Touch of Twilight, Vicki Pettersson (Eos)
 
Galactic North, Alaistair Reynolds (Ace)
Eight short stories and novellas by one of SF’s best contemporary writers.
 
New in Audiobook:
 
Landover: The Tangle Box, Terry Brooks (Brilliance Audio Unabridged)
Narrated by Dick Hill.
 
The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick (Blackstone Audiobooks Unabridged)
 
The Dreaming Void, Peter F. Hamilton (Tantor Media Unabridged)
The phenomenal series opener to The Void Trilogy. Narrated by John Lee.
 
The White Plague, Frank Herbert (Tantor Media Unabridged)
Narrated by Scott Brick.
 
Check back next Monday for all the latest info on current sci-fi, fantasy, and horror book releases. Questions or comments? Hit me up at Pferrara.mania@gmail.com.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

Showing items 1 - 10 of 11
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sportwarrior 5/26/2008 3:48:23 AM
Loved Starship Troopers... Still pop it into the DVD player once in a while. And while I never saw the sequel, I will say that I do own and enjoy Roughnecks: Starship Trooper Chronicles... That series was pretty darned good for a weekday morning cartoon and it was a shame they never got to finish it.
chirop1 5/26/2008 4:53:22 AM
Glad you mentioned StarCraft up there... everything about that game was fantastic and I felt like the human campaign of the Brood War expansion really used some of the same propaganda type themes. If some producer had decided to make a Starship Troopers game, they could have just spliced different names into the cutscenes and would have had essentially their story with a great game! Denise Richards as Kerrigan! Casper Van Diem as Jim Raynor! In addition to the fantastic co-ed shower scene that was mentioned, my most vivid memory from that movie is when they take the helmet off that guy during training and he promptly gets his head blown off.
kaybar 5/26/2008 8:24:35 AM
Hell yes chirop you and I are on the same page regarding the similarities between Starcraft and Starship Troopers. They were both in production around the same time (Starcraft came out a year after the theatrical release of Verhoeven's Troopers) and the zerglings look suspiciously like Arachnid warrior bugs...just bigger.<BR /><BR />I think it's interesting that one of the concepts Heinlein was praised for with Starship Troopers was his idea of powered combat suits, something that never made it to the screen (but is definitely utilized in Blizzard's game). Heinlein's thorough and descriptive writing really put life into the powered combat suit idea, something the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency would later dump a lot of money into (under the Exoskeletons for Human Performance Augmentation program).<BR /><BR />Verhoeven definiely brought that intense sci-fi action feel that he attained in both ROBOCOP and TOTAL RECALL to the Starship Troopers project; I think that's why there are so many damn memorable scenes in the movie.<BR /><BR />The dude getting killed in training bootcamp, Dizzy & Rasczak's death, even the classrooms in Buenos Aires (which was a nice consistency with the book) were all extremely memorable. Man what a great film.
jedi4sshield 5/26/2008 11:42:14 AM
Starship Troopers - Great special effects with acting like pure cheese scratched right off the grater.
jppintar326 5/26/2008 2:02:14 PM
I hated Starship Troopers. This movie was so bad, I wanted to throw out my VCR and not watch another movie ever again. Why people are now considering this unpleasant, poorly acted, unfunny piece of garbage as some kind of classic is something I never understood. The fact that this started the career of Denise Richards, probably the worst Bond girl ever, proves my point.
mckracken 5/26/2008 9:56:39 PM
SportWarrior, you have to check out the Roughnecks complete series box set, in the end they managed to return to Earth and have an all out end all against the bugs, it certainly LOOKED like the series was finished to me although if I remember correctly there WAS a cliffhanger ending after all was said and done. the Roughnecks complete series DVD box set is a must for anyone that was upset with the direct to DVD sequel. and speaking of the sequel, the original cost $105 million dollars to produce, the sequel cost... a whooping $9 million. Yup you hear the numbers. Why there seems to be no middle ground for a Starship Troopers movie in the 30-50 million range is beyond me, why was the sequel budget slashed so dramatically? I thought it was gonig to suck more than it did because with a budget of $9 million you cant even afford big name actors to star, let alone do your quality CGI special effects. you're basically reduced to stop motion, latex robotics, green screen effects and actors that just graduated (or didnt graduate) from acting academy.
shadow1701 5/27/2008 5:52:33 AM
Realizing that I am in the middle ground about this movie, and also realizing that it's hard to make a movie based on a book, this movie was one of the worst book to movie renditions I've ever seen. I am a die-hard Heinlein fan, owning almost all of his books, and this was a ridicules adaptation of his book. This and Puppet Masters were terrible, in my opinion. The CGI looked good, no argument there, but the story action was only loosely based on the book; and could have been so much better. I do not agree with the reviewer's appraisal that it was a brilliant adaptation in the following: The principle idea of the troopers were they were "Cap Troopers"; ie. being fired out of the spaceships in capsules, in battle armor. The bugs didn't "crap" anti-ship weapontr. Missed a whole section on the "skinnies", didn't portray Rico's career very well. Played up a romance triangle that just wasn't in the book. And on, and on. Again, I've seen directors get hammered for trying to be "faithful" to the source material, and not "holleywooding" it more; but this could have been done better. Again, just my own humble opinion.
biffbolt 5/27/2008 9:37:34 AM
I'm with you, Shadow. As an adaptation, _Starship Troopers_ could hardly have been worse. It twisted the very message of the book and did away with the coolest concepts invented in it - the powered armor, tactical nuclear weapons, 30 second bombs, etc. Instead the film revelled in idiotic tactics and equipment, turned Raczak into a brute, and turned the elite Mobile Infantry into brainlessly ineffective groundpounders. The only defense I've seen for the film is that Verhoeven was "parodying" Heinlein, and even that is a massive stretch.<br /> Independant of its lack of value as an adaptation, as a SF film, Troopers was a forgettable and moronic POS that proved that the director of _Robocop_ had long since lost it (I mean - dodging FTL asteroids in spacecraft? Come on!). Even remembering it puts a bad taste in my mouth. This film merits only scorn and oblivion, not nostalgia.
jonniej1017 5/27/2008 4:33:05 PM
I enjoyed ST very much. I guess not reading the book sometimes makes the movie better because ur not comparing it to something that was written with great detail. It was entertaining. Unfortunately, the second was very poor and unwatchable, IMO. The 3rd I'm sure will be the same. Dont kno why they would even make another.
spence34 6/1/2008 7:38:54 PM
@Shadow1701 & biffbolt, you give me new hope that people aren't all abject idiots. The movie was a average adventure bug hunt with very very good CGI. But as an adaptation of the book, it didn't even come close. Utter garbage. The only real difference between 1 and 2 was 2 didn't have the glitzy CGI we saw in 1.
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