The CineGuerrillas Episode 1: Starship Troopers
Welcome to Furious Cinema’s movie commentary with Sebastian and Peter – your resident CineGuerillas. This will be an ongoing series of conversations we have about movies we love. They will have a funny title and include a favorite quote from a movie at the end that you can guess in the comments. They are virtual “beer and nachos” sit-downs, so you will have to imagine the smell of alcohol, the crunching of teeth biting on chips and the closing credits of the movie still rolling.
EPISODE ONE, OR HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING ABOUT SMALL CALIBER RIFLES AND LOVE CAPTAIN IBANEZ
Sebastian: I recently rewatched it. I am a total Starship Troopers fan, I admit it, and it does get better with each viewing. It is such an underrated epic. Now, the next level I wanna take it to is watch it on a huge screen from a BluRay disc, with some good speakers. Just to scare the other tenants in the building. When was the last time you watched it?
Peter: The last time I watched Starship was about six months ago. It’s one of those movies I can revisit every now and then and just enjoy it as much as I did the first time. I think that is due of course to Paul Verhoeven, who brought his trademark off-beat aesthetic to the project. I actually saw this at the movies when it first came out and I really wasn’t expecting what I got from it. I was taken at just how much fun and strange it was as a film going experience and ever since its been one of my favorite films.
Sebastian: It really grows on you, too. Most people’s expectations are in fact very low. It does have a certain trash aspect to it, but that’s because they did not go full-on high budget, so a few things come across slightly cheesy, and then again a lot of people just don’t get that it is a satire at first, they look at it as sci-fi action film with bugs – which it is – but it is so much more. Only when you grasp the hilarity of how they are mocking militarism, it unfolds its true potential.
Peter: That’s the great thing about it, when I bought my ticket and sat down I expected a more traditional sci-fi action adventure film but it takes you someplace else entirely. It has the classic teenage romance aspect mixed in with the satirical gung-ho military adventure storyline, add to that the bug armies that gave it the room for the over the top, gory action sequences.
Sebastian: What makes it so much fun to watch is this blend between hilariously satirical (if you get it) propaganda bits, then the shooting of millions of huge bugs with rifles that are super small caliber and have small clips, and the fact that it is really a buddy movie. Sort of like the old buddy movies where a bunch of kids join the army and march into WW1, grow up, lose their friends – only this time it is in space, and there are aliens, and they get to nuke holes, have mixed-gender showers and you get to root for the dumbass with the horrible math scores.
Peter: I really got a kick out of the running WANT TO KNOW MORE? propaganda bits. As you were noting, you expect to see these futuristic soldiers using laser guns, but no! They use automatic weapons with thousands of rounds of regular bullets to take on these unrelenting hordes of space arachnids. They just unload massive amounts of ammunition on these things and barely stop them until they’re about to come into contact. The film combines the primitive with the modern in a very interesting way as well. Look at the whipping scene with Johnny for example, its like something out of the Civil War era but placed in a futuristic sci-fi setting.
Sebastian: As I wrote in a previous blog post on Paul Verhoeven, I just totally dig his furious approach to filmmaking. He is a modern exploitation filmmaker, but not in terms of budgets and improvisation, but in terms of really exploiting everything he can in terms of material. He is over the top, he is daring, he is R-rated, he is funny. I watched some of his old stuff, highly controversial youth dramas and war movies. One of my absolute favorites now is Black Book, which goes on and on, and he just throws everything in it you would expect from a movie. It is a feast. And so is Starship Troopers. Everything is big in this movie, and epic, and extreme. It keeps you at the edge of your seat, entertains the hell out of you, while remaining smart about its story and it has great writing.
Peter: Verhoeven has always been a very visceral and sensual filmmaker. He brings a free European sensibility in regards to sex and action into all his films. To me, he is perfect example of a modern director who still has the classic Hollywood mentality in that he wants to creates larger than life situations for us to enjoy and do it in a very operatic way. The scope of the stories he tells are almost as big as his characters. Whether its his sci-fi movies, historical works or his erotic thrillers, they just pulse with an energy that you don’t get from the majority of today’s filmmakers.
Sebastian: Energy is right. They aren’t boring, not any of them, they’re all very fresh and alive movies.
Peter: One thing we haven’t touched on is the computer FX in this film. I have to say out of the many movies I’ve seen that use that kind of modern technology this has to be one of the best in terms of the overall visual quality. We are notorious for ranting about how we dislike a lot of CGI, 3-D etc but in this film’s case I thought they just did an exceptional job bringing the world to life.
Sebastian: Yes, even though some FX were a bit trashy, but maybe on purpose. But to change the subject – can we forgive him for Hollow Man? The premise was great – and the exploitative aspects were there – but the movie just fell flat on its face. Maybe because it was not daring enough?
Peter: I think he tried to to do his own update of the Invisible Man but it didn’t quite work. That said, it still has the usual charm and audaciousness he brings to his projects but overall it felt sort of misguided and didn’t reach its full potential.
Sebastian: Aside from Starship Troopers, what’s your favorite of his?
Peter: I think Robocop would be at the top of my list. It was the first film I ever saw by him and introduced me to his style of which I’ve come to really enjoy over the years. I loved the Frankenstein aspect of the story, of taking a dead human being and re-animating them and turning them into something else without their say so. Even way back then I knew I was watching something by a filmmaker with a distinct, exciting voice.
Sebastian: I was never a huge fan of that. I am curious where Jose Padilha will take it with his reboot. Oh man, now I am in the mood for more movies. Where did the time go? We didn’t touch the Total Recall remake, but neither of us has seen it yet.
Peter: Of course I’m curious to see what Padilha does but I think Verhoeven’s film is a classic of its time and can’t really be improved on. Although the cast does seem very solid so that’s one important thing it has going for it.
Peter: I’d love to talk about Casino next, I’ve seen it many times over the years and really enjoy it.
Sebastian: Alright let’s wrap it up here and we will be back soon with episode two. As promised: our movie quote, please guess the movie, post the answer in the comments. Also let us know what you think about this format!
“I ain’t lying. You’re a hot dog. A regular rodeo rider. And this was the monster fuck of my young life.”
The CineGuerrillas will return with a discussion of CASINO next week.