Where No Movie Has Gone Before
A ridiculous article in The Hollywood Reporter about a potential remake of Starship Troopers. I thought the original movie by Paul Verhoeven, released almost 20 years ago, wasn't bad. It didn't do that well, actually, but the title is still well known so I guess the film industry figures there's money to be mined. But the Reporter's Graeme McMillan warns the book has political problems that can make it a tricky adaptation:
This is stupid for a number of reasons. First, McMillan suggests that times have changed since the 90s, but, if I recall, promoting fascism and racism was highly unpopular back in the unenlightened days of the late 20th century as well. (McMillan takes great pains to remind us he's in favor of greater sensitivity to such things--don't worry, Graeme, we don't think you're a bad guy, just a little dull.) In fact, the Verhoeven movie, as even McMillan seems to understand, was a subversion of Heinlein's original novel, not so subtly making the "good guys" look like Nazis.
Then there's the fascism charge. This has been raised against Starship Troopers since it came out in 1959. In fact, Heinlein had to change publishers, even though he was a highly successful author of juveniles, because of this book. But this shouldn't be seen as a problem with a new film, it should be seen as a reason to make it. I consider the charge absurd, but the point is, the book isn't just another adventure novel, its an exploration of ideas. That's what gives the story, and potentially the movie, a depth that much sci-fi is missing.
Heinlein's "fascist" idea is no one gets to vote in this society until they've performed public service. The point is you shouldn't get the full rights of citizenship just because you're 18 and have a pulse--you have to earn it. While I find this system unworkable--it works in the book, of course, but books are the only places where utopian visions work--it's hardly fascist. It's Heinlein trying to challenge conventional views. (In fact, I would think it sounds pretty good to a lot of people--there are plenty who want to make public service a requirement in high school). But even if it sounds hateful, the idea is to make you think about the meaning of citizenship, and how a civilization should function.
What's actually controversial, I suppose, is public service in the book mostly amounts to military service, though Heinlein claimed (outside the book) that would only be a small part of what people would do. It's just that in the book Earth is fighting a war and that's where the story is set.
So make the movie, and don't be afraid of the ideas. If they seem challenging, so much the better. And this time, don't leave out the power armor.
The real question is why is Hollywood doing another Starship Troopers while it's never been able to get Stranger In A Strange Land off the ground?