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November 1997, Week 3


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"Gareth B." <[log in to unmask]>
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Mon, 17 Nov 1997 12:17:09 -0700
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> Sorry, but I thoroughly enjoyed Verhoeven's Starship Troopers. I
> haven't read the source material so I can't comment on the adaptation,
> but who cares? I guess you either love Verhoeven's Ultraviolence or you
> don't.
I saw ST last night.  I found it engaging and forgettable, interesting
and vaguely dissatisfying.
Of course, I was also annoyed, because Blockbusters refused to carry my
movie on the grounds that it was too violent, but you can bet your sweet
bippy there will be 30 copies of ST at each company store.
> Most of the criticism I've heard on the film attacks Verhoeven's variation
> on the war propaganda films most of us were forced to watch in required
> documentary classes. I found those sequences funny and consistent
> with similar media send-up in Verhoeven's previous SciFi pictures. If
> Starship Troopers is "shallow" and Verhoeven is "bad," does that mean
> Total Recall and Robocop, films with similar themes and violent imagery,
> fall into the same categories? Furthermore, does there really need to be
> "intellectual justification" to put on screen arguably some of the most
> convincing battle sequences ever?
Well, when you're fighting a war against an infinite number of giant,
carnivorous insects, you can only expect a lot of both species getting
pulped. On screen. So what?  The entire artistic design of the movie was
about as intricate as a Marvel comic book.  And so were the
Heinlein's book is *much* more ultra-right than this movie. Heinlein's
ashes are spinning in the Pacific, too, over the politically correct
genders of officers and "men."  Heinlein explicitly announced, in many
books, that the human race should be based on "women and children
first." Men do the fighting, women fuck heartily, give attaboys, cook,
and change the bandages. The movie ST wipes all that out.
Frankly, I think Verhoeven's casting decisions were motivated less by
political correctitude and more by the shower scene.  He casts gorgeous
> > I  dont think there is any real question of  STARSHIP TROOPER
> > being set up an ironic indictment of war and fascism.
Irony? In a monochromatic display of digital pyrotechnics and babes with
machine guns?
> > Verhoeven's
> > sophomoric use of irony is so convoluted and overwhelming
> > that once again,  Verhoeven's  lack of subtility and sadistic tendencies
> > will  no doubt be applauded as parody, since it boggles the mind
> > to think that  Verhoeven could be as bad as his films indicate.
Gory, yes, but "sadistic"? There was not one hint of sadomasochism in
this movie.
> > But bad he is. And cunning.  Verhoeven's choice of  material
> >  (50s sci-f, bad-girl melodrama -Showgirls) allows him and
> > mush-headed critics the ability to justify his shoddy execution
> > as a form of  ironic commentary.
SHOWGIRLS had a crappy script and a talentless cast. Selecting them was
perhaps shoddy, but not the execution of the concept.
> > One has to wonder why
> > Verhoeven would choice to adapt a book which he obviously disdains
> > ideologically.
"Obvious"? How can anyone make any conclusion as to Verhoeven's ideology
based on this movie?? The only ideology apparent is that he likes
gorgeous girls with nice full lips.  Now, I have not read the Lipism
Manifesto, but if there is one, Veerhoeven is definitely a lipist.
> > My impression is that  STARSHIP TROOPERS is a FORMAL reaction
> > against the plastic-MEATless  S.G.I. film and  Verhoeven's
> >  main simple minded thesis is: WARS ARE REALLY BLOODY
> > Much has been made of  Verhoeven's  war  experience and his
> > exposure to carnage. Thus, he is positioned as an AUTHENTIC
> > auteur of gore. None the less, this  should'nt but the sole defining
> > aesthetic of a filmmaker,  but in Verhoeven's case it is.
If Verhoeven is an AUTHENIC auteur of gore, so is Wes Craven. And Tod
Browning, for that matter.  How can one determine the authenticity of
one's auteurhood vis-a-vis the splat quotient of his or her movie(s)?
> > Verhoeven's cynicism as a filmmaker is unrivaled even by the
> > standards of Kubrick and the Cohen brothers.  With the later,
> > one feels at least, as if their vision/misanthropist impulse
> > is informed by a keen intelligence/wit that appreciates
> > subtlety and restraint.
STARSHIP TROOPERS was restrained, all right. The Hispanic girl who
played the part of the pilot gets stuck in a cave mano-a-mano with giant
insects, shooting her machine gun, with a tiny smudge on her forehead
and her hair meticulously groomed.  Of course, the muzzle never climbs.
And she went to pilot school, not the grunt's boot camp, and didn't have
the live ammo exercizes.
This was about as convincing as a Renaissance street in an MGM movie,
with lots of horses and no horse shit.
ST wasn't cynical, or some kind of thematic reply to the Coen brothers.
It's a romp.
> > What I find most distressing is that  worthwhile films like
> >  vilified, while STARSHIP TROOPER will more than
> > likely fly under the seriouse discourse  radar. And if nothing
> > else be applauded as satire,or even worse be  rewarded with
> >  bonzo box-office returns.
> >
> > It's time that critics and scholars alike realize that the shoddy use
> > of established paradigms --be it the dime-store Freudianism that
> > informs most noir or the over-blown, ironic posturing of Veerhoven's
> > work -- should'nt be used  as a intellectual justification for shallow
> > film-making.
Well, one can read anything into anything, I suppose.
In looking at why this monumental effort left me feeling "Ah, that was
amusing. So what?" I've come up with several conclusions.
1.      The movie tries to be PC and Heinleinian-jingo at the same time. But
the story isn't enough to carry         such freight.
2.      There was ever single war movie cliche' all wrapped up in one flick.
But they were still cliche's.
3.      The cast was divided into two types of actors: the gritty character
actors who were convincing, and the     young bimbos of both sexes who
were pretty but completely unconvincing.  In particular, the gorgeous
Hispanic girl who played the pilot didn't convince me that she could
drive a car, let alone fly a    spaceship the size of a small city.  The
mouth-droppingly gorgeous babe who played the girl who gets     the cliche'
death scene at the end had all the subtlety of a "Teen Romance" comic
book heroine. Only      the buff hero displayed the capacity for depth...
but the script didn't give too much opportunity for     it.
4.      The planet of the Baddies had no plants, no prey, and an infinitude
of carnivorous denizens.  All the       thought was put into set design, none
into ecology, with the result that although lovely to look at, it       was
completely unbelievable, adding to the comic-book flavor.
5.      The spaceships were all from the Lucas universe. Another opportunity
for imagination lost.
6.      The guns are all machine guns, the hand grenades all World War II
pineapples. With all the        hypertechnology of the spacefaring age, why
are these people carrying archaic weapons?  Well, the   answer is that
Heinlein wrote it that way. Of course, in Heinlein's day, "astrogators"
were plotting   courses with slide rules.  Some of the younger members of
this list may have go to a museum to find out   what those are. Hint:
they don't even use batteries.
7.      But the most important reason this movie failed to achieve more than
a comic book for me was that I  just didn't give a damn about these
people.  It was a surprise that The Babe With The Bod And The Lips      had
a splendid cliche' death scene in the arms of her (at last!) lover.  But
in retrospect, that is  simply more political correctitude -- not within
the story, but within Hollywood, giving the Big Moment  to a bimbo babe
and not a bimbo dude.  But so what?
In fairness, I haven't a clue as to whether the actress is an airhead or
not. But with her post-Farah-Fawcett hair, full, Cosmo lips, and
Elizabeth Berkey's acting range, who can tell?  And does it matter, in a
camp work like this? And hey -- what a babe!  What 15-to-24 year old guy
wouldn't want 20 enthusiastic minutes in a high tech tent with her?
I can only conclude that BASIC INSTINCT was a success because Sharon
Stone is not only gorgeous -- the reason she got the part -- but can
act, which may have been a surprise to Verhoeven as much as to
everyone.  Surely with STARSHIP TROOPERS and SHOWGIRLS his casting
criteria are plain to see.  And look at the grosses! He must be doing
something right!
Paul E. Clinco
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