Satire is not a shield for bad quality. It does not give a film’s dried-out “comedy,” a term I use loosely since the film seems mostly derived of the laughs it tries to harvest, an automatic pass.
So I went to a Rifftrax (recorded in 2013) screening event of the 1997 “Starship Trooper.” It has been years since I vaguely caught Starship Trooper on television. Now I see this as an adult with an understanding of its intentions.
I get it, director Paul Verhoeven wanted to satire Heinlein’s militaristic book, but good satire subverts, not play straight. The only really funny satire this film has the offer are those propaganda segments because they veer into the clear territory of absurd with children happily joining the military. The rest of the film seems to go entirely straight despite having something already absurd to work with. I need a feature-film of propaganda segments rather than a 2-hour sit-through of extreme archetypes (again, they are caricatures) shouting and shooting. It’s saying something that the idea of a cameraman close to the fatal danger on the battlefield and slaughtered by a bug is closer to Verhoeven’s satirical calculation but still didn’t get a laugh out of me.
Honestly, despite being an intentionally bastardized Heinlein’s adaptation that should have been fun and smart in its own right, I’m convinced that the director read the 1985 Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game” and decided that intelligent and complex themes about the consequences of military and psychological warfare and dehumanizing the alien bug-enemy and decided to botch that up.
There is something so infuriating about Starship Trooper that I wrote paragraphs about it and talked little of Rifftrax (they did great) itself.