Starship Troopers, sorry: we didn't realize you were beautiful

Starship Troopers, sorry: we didn't realize you were beautiful

Starship Troopers, sorry

Starship Troopers is one of those films that over time has earned the right to be completely re-evaluated, proving to have been something very different from how it was judged at the time of its theatrical release. Paul Verhoeven's film is perhaps one of the most iconic examples of how an unconventional, intelligent and above all prophetic work has been underestimated, misinterpreted and even misunderstood for a very long time.

Today, 25 years later , the very violent, spectacular sci-fi, enriched with the classic black humor dear to the Dutch filmmaker, remains one of the most significant works of the science fiction genre of the 90s. This is by virtue of a prodigious ability to talk to us about what society was like at the time and above all about what the society of the 21st century would have been like: intolerant, violent, classist and incredibly sterile from a cultural point of view.

The umpteenth misunderstood masterpiece of a great master

Starship Troopers was based on the beautiful science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein, which in 1959 marked an absolutely watershed moment within the fiction of the sci-fi genre, in particular for its ability to carry on an idea of ​​society that generated contradictory and violent reactions in the public and critics. Heinlein in an absolutely brilliant way had foreseen the apparently progressive, egalitarian and inclusive turn of the future, but at the same time he knew perfectly well how militarism, aggression and intolerance to every discordant voice would be back in fashion. Many did not understand how much he actually hated the totalitarian ideologies that had produced the two world wars, as well as the militarism and muscular vision of post-war American society and beyond. All elements that Paul Verhoeven was able to convey in an original, personal and imaginative way in a film which, however, at the time was indicated as a soulless marketer.

Verhoeven in any case was substantially crucified by critics, who accused his film of being pro-fascist, reactionary, macho and slave to a rhetorical and bellicose vision of society and the world. It wasn't true. Indeed Starship Troopers was a political and social film in disguise, as had happened to other films by the Dutch master, just think of Act of Force, Robocop, Soldier d'Orange, Specters, Elle and the Man Without Shadows.

But unfortunately, as often happens, the most brilliant works are condemned to be analyzed in a very superficial way, to see means and ends placed on the same level and not as part of a single creative intent. At the same time, Paul Verhoeven was able to talk to us about how the society of the future would be for what concerned the reference cultural models, technocracy as a new resource of power, which changes language, narrative, but always remains fiercely dictatorial towards the individual. , the different, the nonconformist.

This is a very current reality, which spoke to us of the economic, social and above all cultural essence of our reality, in which power has destroyed the very concept of social elevator and which has stopped that possibility of changing one's life that in those 90s, with Tony Blair and Bill Clinton's Third Way, seemed to be an established fact. Of course, as very often happens, we stopped at its appearance, its mere aesthetics: that of a film in many ways shattering, excessive, with stylized characters and hatched with a hatchet, who knew they had already seen and heard by one. better away, moving like robots without identity. Even in this case, however, the Dutch director had simply connected himself to the pop youth imagery of that decade, that of the MTV Generation, to how adolescence had been deformed by television, by new superficial cultural idols dedicated to the cult of appearance. .

The horror hidden behind the soap opera patina

Starship Troopers revolved around a group of young people, belonging to this apparently perfect, cosmopolitan future, in which the very concept of nationality is has been substantially cast aside, and in which humanity has managed to push itself towards other planets thanks to an incredible technological development. Of course, there were several changes from the original novel, starting with the protagonist, Johnny Rico (the then unknown Casper Van Dien), who from Filipino became a very unlikely Argentine of the 23rd century.

Johnny, like girlfriend Carmen (Denise Richards), genius friend Carl (ever-beloved Neil Patrick Harris), Dizzy Flores (Dina Meyer) and his future love rival Zander (Patrick Muldoon), lives in a world where citizenship is the exclusive prerogative of those who have carried out military service. The enemy? An extremely ferocious alien insect species called Arachnid I, which lives in the desert and inhospitable planet Klendathu and which contended for supremacy in the universe to humans, literally shooting asteroids at our planet and sowing space with its troops.

Inverse - The Peripheral seduces even in its imperfection The cyberpunk science fiction series from October 21 on Prime Video has all the credentials to shine - it is based on a William Gibson novel and is made by the producers of Westworld - even if it is so confusing Paul Verhoeven showed us a disturbing futuristic society, in which every social aspect was substantially connected to a prevailing militarism, to a classism in which whoever wore the uniform was the only depositary of political rights and of a whole series of privileges denied to anyone who was a common and simple "civilian". Of this rigid and ruthless mentality, of incessant propaganda, was the bearer of the professor and later commander of Rico, Jean Rasczack (a great Michael Ironside), as well as the telluric instructor sergeant Zim (the legendary Clancy Brown).

Starship Troopers showed us the transformation of the youth of that hypothetical tomorrow, which resembled, as Stephen Hunter rightly noted from the "Washington Post", what Erich Maria Remarque had described in his immortal Nothing New about Western Front.

Here there was another youth lost and immolated by a totalitarian, nationalist, rhetorical society that strangled in the bud every pacifist will and every objection to a sadomasochistic-mortuary creed that was also reflected in the aesthetics and morality, not surprisingly similar both to that of the Nazi regime and to the American militarist creed. | the teenagers of the time. In those 90s, TV series such as Beverly Hills 90210, Baywatch reigned on the small screen in which young people were represented by boys and girls with sparkling beauty, with shaved and gymnastic bodies, fashionable looks, pin-up breasts and smiles like commercial. And guess what, watching the television series and the big screen of our days, even valuable products such as Euphoria or Cobra Kai, beyond the themes or purposes, absolutely nothing has changed. All this with all due respect to the desire to be more representative of that age group and its issues related to inclusiveness, sexuality and bullying on the agenda today. How old are the interpreters? What kind of aesthetics and attractiveness should they always have? The cult of the image has won, it is useless to deny it.

Violence as an instrument of the state against the people

Starship Troopers in a certain sense also anticipated what would have been the tragedy of an entire American generation and not only that, following modalities and imperatives not so different from those of Rico, it would have ended up in other deserts to fight other "aliens". Only four years later, with the collapse of the twin towers, an armed conflict would have arisen in Afghanistan and Iraq, the watchwords would have been not so different from those with which inept and rhetorical officers, absolutely shortsighted and dishonest politicians, had sent those guys Verhoeven imagined dying in the sand. The same enemy of the West would have been portrayed not as belonging to the human race, but as a monster, something different from our world, a sort of entity to be eradicated because it is different. An attitude that the same media, the same fictional narrative would then carry forward in a univocal and generalized way. It was something that had already happened in Hollywood in the past, with the Japanese and with the Native Americans.

Twenty years ago, Minority Report had already understood why the predictive police would have failed In 2002, Spielberg's film based on the story by Philip K. Dick was released in Italy: many of those intuitions explain why even today “ precog ”based on artificial intelligence are a useless and wrong solution.

But we probably weren't ready for all of this, we weren't ready in that optimistic 1997 for the cynical sneer with which Starship Troopers warned us of everything that was happening, of the total collapse of Western civilization as it achieved the same apex that the Wachowskis with the Matrix would talk about in two years. Only today, 25 years later, watching Rico who alone tears up gigantic cockroaches, the last stand in a sort of Fort Alamo besieged by horrendous creatures (a splendid tribute to the western that was) we can understand how much this film showed us the stupidity, the uselessness of militarism. At the same time, it appears clear to us that only a minority part of the public and critics of the time understood the intention of the Nordic filmmaker to talk to us about how in modern society, violence is an integral part of the modus operandi of the state to crush any opposition.

Yesterday like today, the American public has never liked being criticized, which also explains why the proceeds, however very high, came mainly from the rest of the world and not from the US market. The truth is that in addition to being a courageous entertainment film, original because dark, violent but not without meaning, Starship Troopers is and remains one of the most underrated science fiction films ever, one of those prophecies that we have stupidly ignored. And to look at how at the time Rico, Carmen and Carl went to meet a different lifestyle and a different destiny according to their being performing and productive, without any possibility of choice, an icy shiver runs down the spine. Because it is our reality, especially of those who were adolescents at the time and were told that the future would be in his hands, and instead discovered that he can only try to adapt to what others have already decided for him.

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