The planned reboot of Starship Troopers by the writing team who tackled the Baywatch movie script sounds like it’s going to completely miss the mark, as far as director Paul Verhoeven is concerned. His 1997 adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein‘s Hugo Award-winning 1959 sci-fi novel skewered the source material in the satirical fashion that Verhoeven is known for, but the reboot looks like it’s hewing back towards the pro-military and fascistic stance of the book. And while Verhoeven thinks that’s clearly a misstep, he also thinks that take fits perfectly with the current political climate.
IndieWire has an account of Verhoeven’s comments during his visit to the Film Society of Lincoln Center for a screening of Starship Troopers. It’s no surprise that another of the 78-year-old filmmaker’s features are getting a do-over; Hollywood has already done ill-advised remakes or sequels to Total Recall, Robocop, and Basic Instinct. It’s also no surprise that those films failed because, in Verhoeven’s words, “the studios always wanted not to have a layer of lightness, a layer of irony, sarcasm, satire.”
One wonders whether or not the Starship Troopers reboot is bound for the same sort of critical and box office failure. Verhoeven didn’t delve into those sorts of predictions, but he did have a strong take on the thematic nature of their original version vs the reboot:
“Our philosophy was really different [from Heinlein’s book], we wanted to do a double story, a really wonderful adventure story about these young boys and girls fighting, but we also wanted to show that these people are really, in their heart, without knowing it, are on their way to fascism.
“We succeeded to do this movie, that is so subversive, and politically incorrect [because] Sony changed [leadership] every three, four months,” said Verhoeven. “Nobody looked at the rushes [dailies] because they had no time because they were fired every three, four months. So we got away with it because nobody saw it.
“It said in the article [that] the production team of that movie of the remake, that they would go back more and more towards the novel. And of course, we really, really tried to get away from the novel, because we felt that the novel was fascistic and militaristic. You feel that going back to the novel would fit very much in a Trump Presidency.”
It remains to be seen just what the Trump Presidency and its legacy will ultimately be; we’re only a week into its infancy. Verhoeven made no claims about being prescient with his futuristic vision of the film. It fact, he and screenwriter Edward Neumeier were inspired but what they were observing in the political climate in Texas during the 1990s under then-Governor George W. Bush. However, he had no issues making another historical connection:
“We are living in a very interesting, or you can call it scary times, and of course you would like to do something about it, too. But I think if you go to directly into the now you have no distance… you need to have a certain distance as an artist to the project and not be in the middle of it. So [with] all [that] started to happen lately, I started to read about Hitler and studying 1933 and 1934 in Germany, [which] could be a metaphor that you could use to talk about now.”
Apparently this comment, unsurprisingly, sent a chill around the room.
“I said something terrible I think. Of course, nothing is the same. Nothing will happen in the United States like what happened in Germany in 1933, 1934, clearly not.”
As satirical as Verhoeven is known to be, it’s hard to say whether this last statement was in earnest or tongue-in-cheek. Time will tell. Time will also tell whether or not the planned Starship Troopers reboot will be as pro-military and fascistic as Verhoeven thinks it may be, and how moviegoers of varying demographics will receive it.