Reviews of Starship Troopers (1959) and related work

Starship Troopers (1959Text)

Robert A. Heinlein (writer).

A variety of social and civic themes but mostly humanoid exoskeletal armour.

Heinlein brought his A game to the derivative subject of a man-on-alien war in this military SF classic. It was hugely influential, particularly in the Japanese robotto genre (cf. mecha) and in the US military: Not just its technological ambitions but even its politics. The 2008 MAVNI program provided US citizenship in exchange for military service.

References here: 2023-07-04, Starship Troopers på Yodobashi, The Forever War (1974), Old Man’s War (2005).

text fiction

Starship Troopers (1988Moving picture, 150 minutes)

Against his parents’ wishes, a young man enlists. He does it to follow the woman he loves, but after 18 months of training, he finds himself facing the pink non-humans who, in a video the military apparently leaked in a panic, were shown turning the federate army to mush.

An OVA, cheaply drawn and with extraordinarily poor musical choices. Its attraction lies in its partly faithful depiction of the mecha, apparently based on Studio Nue’s design for the awesome frontispiece of the Japanese 1977 edition of the novel, in an admittedly bland war-movie setting. Unfortunately, this design does not come into its own until the final episode, and lacks several key features (nukes, shattering coffins etc.).

References here: 2023-07-04, Starship Troopers på Yodobashi, “Cassette Girl” (2015).

moving picture adaptation Japanese production animation mecha fiction

Starship Troopers (1997Moving picture, 129 minutes) – previously

Anti-fascist satire in the form of mainstream fiction with a fascist undercurrent, like The Iron Dream (1972) but not so chaste. Where the Japanese adaptation was fairly faithful in its technological aspects, the Hollywood adaptation is closer to the novel in its depiction of the enemy and of paranormal powers. The focus, however, is on the politics.

You may sometimes hear The Forever War (1974) referred to as the antithesis of Starship Troopers, the novel. That position properly belongs to this movie. Starship Troopers, the film, is the antithesis of the novel. It is so crafty that I thought it was just a typical action flick at its theatrical release. I was 14.

Observe the daytime TV lighting on SS uniforms, the social centrality of violent sports and the implication that humans started the war by colonizing an inhabited world. When the humans realize that the brain bug is afraid, they cheer, not because they now know negotiation would be possible but because they want fear. Their goal is Lebensraum, not peace.

As stated in the Red Letter Media review, the plot is essentially “Arena” (1967) without the mediation and without the crucial realization of basic compatibility and culpability between the two sapient species. Love is destroyed in the deaths of Zander and Dizzy, the heroes will be replaced by the younger people they recruit and train, the war will go on for the foreseeable future, and human society will remain locked in the grip of fascism. Cui bono? We never learn.

References here: Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse (2012), Edge of Tomorrow (2014), Story of Science Fiction (2018), “Suits” (2019).

moving picture adaptation fiction

‣‣ Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation (2004Moving picture, 88 minutes)

Species (1995) meets the original movie with a bit of zombie flair and RTS pollution; very little quality. Given the glaring anti-Fed message, the use of the same type of music in serious scenes is particularly bad. If it hadn’t been for Poledouris’ great score for the first film one might have thought the franchise was haunted.

moving picture sequel fiction