Starship Troopers Reboot Cuts Down on Violence, Anti-Fascism

Sony's attempt to restart the sci-fi franchise is going to be very, very different from Paul Verhoeven's version...

William Bibbianiby William Bibbiani

 

Last December we caught wind of a Sony's plan to reboot Starship Troopers, the sci-fi film franchise based on Robert Heinlein's classic novel about man vs. alien bugs. The first film in the series, directed by ultra-violent sci-fi director Paul Verhoeven (Robocop, Total Recall), was a major box office disappointment: a $105 million potential blockbuster that only managed to rake in $121 million internationally, with less than half of that take coming from American audiences. Although the film eventually gained cult popularity (and in some cases critical acclaim), and was good enough to spawn two straight-to-video sequels and a well-remembered cartoon series "Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles," it's easy to understand why the underwhelming figures are making Sony rethink their approach to the upcoming reboot. For starters, they're cutting down the violence. A lot. But that's not what really disturbs us.

Producer Toby Jaffe, who is also producing this summer's remake of Paul Verhoeven's Total Recall, told Empire Online"The more expensive a film is, the harder it is now to make it that violent […] With Recall in particular, we made a conscious choice to keep it tonally closer to something like Minority Report. It gives the studio, and us as producers, the opportunity to reintroduce it in a new way."

Granted, the failure of films like Starship Troopers paved the way for an era in which studios are scared of R-rated movie franchises, and it is conceivably possible to make a perfectly decent sci-fi action movie about fighting giant bugs without resorting to over the top gore. Moreover, it's entirely reasonable that the Starship Troopers reboot will want to differentiate itself from the original film, in more ways than one. Jaffe was quick to say that they're including the jump suits that Verhoeven omitted from his version of Starship Troopers – something that the book's fans were clamoring for since the beginning – and that this new version will intends to "be a little more faithful to the book."

But…

Toby Jaffe also notes in the interview that the new Starship Troopers will do away with the message of Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers. You know, the one that said that fascism was bad? "Verhoeven made his movie a critique of fascism […] whereas Heinlein was writing from the perspective of someone who had served in World War II. Y'know, one man's fascism is another man's patriotism…"

Does that statement give anyone else a Team America vibe?

NSFW.

You'll recall that Verhoeven's Starship Troopers masqueraded as a pro-war film, but called into question the very nature of patriotic action filmmaking and equated war movies of almost any stripe with Nazi propaganda. It was a message audiences were unprepared for, and the marketing campaign for the film – which promoted Starship Troopers as the very kind of brainless spectacle that Verhoeven was satirizing – didn't help one bit. So sure, we can imagine toning it down for a more straightforward, marketable take on the material.

My brother (if I may step out of the royal "we" for a moment) was a United States Marine and a fan of Robert Heinlein's original novel, which is on the Marine Corps' official reading list, and was deeply disappointed in the critical tone of Verhoeven's adaptation. But the novel has also received accusations of pro-militarism and even pro-fascism, depicting and aggrandizing as it does a futuristic society in which military service is required for citizenship, and in which opponents to the status quo are depicted as monstrous, mindless insects worthy of annihilation. It's obvious which side of that debate Verhoeven was on, but while there are arguments on both sides, it seems clear that Jaffe intends this new version to embrace the novel's message as opposed to Verhoeven's. Some folks might consider that a positive development. Fans of Verhoeven's film, however, are likely to disapprove.

It might still be a kick-ass movie, but for better or worse that one statement from Jaffe seems to speak volumes more about the differences between the rebooted Starship Troopers franchise and Paul Verhoeven's version than a simple reduction of violence does.

What do you think? Is this a positive or negative development for the reboot of Starship Troopers?

CraveOnline will be back with more Starship Troopers news after WAR!!! WE'RE GOING TO WAR!!!