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Starship Troopers 3 Marauders movie review

starship troopers 3 marauder movie posterMost people remember the original Starship Troopers for its combination of ruthless warfare, gore and satire doling out heavy doses of action scenes, political commentary so pointedly ironic it could cut and bloody corpses by the planetload. Starship Troopers 3 Marauders makes the effort, but despite taking place during an actual controversial war, is curiously bloodless, both on the battlefield and in its storytelling.

A decent but uneven effort from original Starship Troopers screenwriter Ed Neumeier, Starship Troopers 3 Marauders does its best to simulate its big screen ancestor with a small screen budget, but the action scenes and special effects just aren’t there, and even the satire is oddly weak and watered down. If anything marked the original Starship Troopers, it was its complete commitment to being the most ruthless embodiment of itself with officers and soldiers who showed no hesitation or mercy, with blood poured out by the buckets and satire that mocked military and political propaganda, even as the movie showed us the realization of a truly fascist government faced with a ruthless and inhuman enemy. It wasn’t Heinlein’s vision, but it stood on its own. Starship Troopers 3 Marauders does not.

Starship Troopers 3 Marauders still serves up some of the violence, nudity and satire of the original, but much of it is directionless and comes off as an attempt to compensate for the small budget, as battle at a doomed outpost on a farming planet leaves the Skymarshal, Lola, played by Jolene Blalock and the usual cast of mismatched characters, a drunken doctor, a cowardly cook, a religious aide and a tough Chief stranded on a planet inside the Arachnid quarantine zone who have to be rescued by the Marauders, a team wearing the powered armor from Heinlein’s novel, led by a court martialed Johnny Rico, fighting the bugs and a power mad Admiral’s coup.

The characters are no longer the ruthless bastards they used to be, even the Federal Network has been watered down, giving equal time to the other side running polls on whether blowing up planets is immoral. The Skymarshal sings and dances on television and sells merchandise with his picture on it. Almost half the movie focuses on Lola stumbling around the desert with a group of mismatched characters, none of whom follow orders, and who spend most of their time complaining. There’s Holly, the aide slash stewardess who sings religious hymns and insists everyone pray with her. There’s the deranged Skymarshal who never stops smiling and insists everyone pray with him, while talking about his god. There’s Jingo, the annoying frightened cook who winds up running away and right into a group of bugs. Where the recent Mutant Chronicles at least gave us a SciFi version of the Dirty Dozen, Starship Troopers 3 Marauders, give us the Whining Six. Even Lola comes off as childish and indecisive over the long trek. They’re every bit the sort of people that Michael Ironside’s Rasczak would have shot out of hand before marching on to the next objective.

Reimagined as a satirical judgment on both Heinlein’s novel and militarism, the original Starship Troopers pointed the guns at the bugs and let the satire come from the war effort. Starship Troopers 3 Marauders instead goes light on the action and seemingly borrowing from Battlestar Galactica’s religion oriented story, introduces a Lovecraftian uberbug half the size of a planet that the bugs and the Skymarshal worship as god. In a virtual regurgitation of a portion of the first film’s plot, the uberbug turns out to be the ultimate brain bug who wants to tap the Skymarshal’s knowledge of the fleet and uses his betrayal to penetrate and destroy an outpost.

Starship Troopers 3 Marauders’ one saving grace is the return of Caspar Van Dien, who isn’t much of an actor, but knows this is his one lead role and gives it everything he has, delivering ridiculous lines with the complete conviction of a man who really believes them. The movie is at its best when Johnny Rico is paying homage to the original, it’s at its weakest when it’s lost in the desert with Lola. Unfortunately the movie is more desert than anything else, and by the time the Marauders are thrown into the fight, they prove to be so ridiculously indestructible and the special effects so hopelessly bad, that there really isn’t much point to it all except to introduce a closing portion heavy on religious satire with Holly reimagined as the Virgin Mary and the Marauders as heavenly angels.

Light on action and stuck with some really poor special effects and unable to even produce blood that looks like blood instead of Heinz 57, Starship Troopers 3 Marauders loses out on the action and its satirical jabs are weak and all over the place, at once mocking the Federation and the anti-war protesters and religion, and mostly failing to deliver. There are understated references to everything from Stalin’s introduction of religion after Hitler’s invasion to the JFK assassination and 9/11, but none of them manage to connect to anything larger. Marauders’ plot is even weaker, compensating for the low budget with an extended desert scene with some of the most annoying characters you’re likely to find in any movie. Aside from the introduction of religion into the Federation most of the plot developments in the movie go nowhere. General Hauser and Rico become friends then enemies and then friends again. The Admiral’s coup against the Skymarshal turns out to be completely justified. The Uberbug has apparently been destroyed and yet the war shows no sign of ending. A seeming love triangle between Rico, Lola and Dix never goes anywhere either.

Overly ambitious, Starship Troopers 3 Marauders never really manages to get anything right. Considering the budget and that Ed Neumeier is a first time director, Starship Troopers 3 Marauders can be excused for a lot of this, but that doesn’t make it worth watching.

starship troopers vs the forever war

In some ways it would seem as if Robert Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers” and Joe Haldeman’s “The Forever War” should be very similar novels. Both after all are novels about humanity’s war against an alien race fought by infantrymen on planetary surfaces, with the use of powered armor. Both were written by military veterans and go into great detail into infantry tactics and the process of fighting an interstellar war. Yet both served as mirror opposites dealing with similar subjects and similar settings, written by somewhat similar authors, from dramatically perspectives.

The debate went on as the years passed and sections of Science Fiction fandom split down over their views of “Starship Troopers”. For many of the more military minded and conservative readers and writers, “Starship Troopers” represented a powerful and timely message about the importance of defending the patria, the homeland, and how wars needed to be fought and what it took to become a soldier and a responsible citizen of a human society. By contrast for the more progressive and liberal minded writers and fans, “Starship Troopers” represented the triumphant celebration of war, ruthless brutality, territorial expansionism, military dictatorship and armed conquest of every race which could be represented or misrepresented as “Other”.

Starship Troopers and the Forever War

War Against the Chtorr and Starship Troopers

“The “War Against the Chtorr” series however is nowhere near the simplistic paean to the military or the virtues of the totalitarian state. Though the novels come with stock Heinlein characters including the Reverend Foreman, Lizard and of course the alter ego of Solomon Short, Jim McCarthy does not neatly fall into line, but often resents and struggles against the authority figures. In the first novel, “A Matter for Men”, they set up Jim to be killed by a Chtorran worm as part of a plan to demonstrate the Chtorran threat by allowing the worm to kill hundreds of Fourth World delegates who have been skeptical about the dangers of the Chtorran invasion.

The “War Against the Chtorr” series remains unfinished with three more books yet to go. It is unknown exactly how these three remaining volumes will shape the overall framework of the series. However for the moment “War Against the Chtorr” seems rooted in fundamentally Heinleinsque traditions from the explorations of alternate human sexuality to a militaristic centralized authority as the best defense against an alien invasion and the awakening of humanity from its “zombiefied” state to actively participate in the struggle for its own survival. ”

David Gerrold’s War Against the Chtorr

Starship Troopers, Robert Heinlein, Libertarianism and Fascism

Ed Neumeier ‘s and Paul Verhoeven ‘s rendering of Starship Troopers is resented so much precisely, because with a little gilding of satire, it renders Starship Troopers for what it is, a fascist text.

Robert Heinlein’s defenders are typically insulted by having their grandmaster called a fascist. They’ll point out that he was a libertarian who believed in human freedom. But this is the same Robert Heinlein who initially called for a one world state in order to avoid nuclear war. A profoundly liberal position that would have done a whole lot more to destroy American sovereignty and individual rights as any tyranny.

Robert Heinlein also proposed forcible relocations of millions of people from areas that might be targeted in a nuclear war and assigning them to jobs they’re not fit for. Heinlein even sneeringly imagines an exchange between an accountant and a soldier who throws him out of his home and tells him he’ll have to learn how to be a lumberjack now.

The trick of it is that Heinlein’s libertarianism did not stem from a belief that individuals were better qualified to make decisions for themselves than governments. It was a purely egotistical belief that he Robert Heinlein and some of those he considered worthy, were better qualified to make decisions for themselves than the idiots in government or the weak minded sheeple of society. Heinlein did not believe in human freedom. He believed in his freedom. For the rest he had no problem prescribing a totalitarian society run by people like himself who were smart enough to force the sheeple down the right path.

His libertarianism was the libertarianism of his disciplines, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s Oath of Fealty in which the superior elite form a society within a society that resists the corrupt liberal decay of the masses around them and strives for excellence and defends itself against the inferior outsiders with lethal force. This formed the kind of survivalism that the Heinlein school thrived on. The deserving rising up to test their will against a corrupt society. Whether it’s the marching black cannibal hordes in Thor’s Hammer, it’s the same premise and it was the same premise at the heart of the rise of fascism. Dedicated people who resist social corruption by force and build a society embracing the true path and defeat the forces of the old society.

Neither Oath of Fealty or Thor’s Hammer extend far enough to show us the people actually taking power over wider areas, but they are also an inevitable part of the story. Starship Troopers goes whole hog by actually taking it just that far. The Mote in God’s Eye, gives us an Empire of nobles fighting evil democracies. The nobles are of course superior.

The very premise of survivalism is closely interlinked with the kind of libertarian fascism Heinlein was peddling all along. So many of these narratives follow the same track, the old worthless society is destroyed and isn’t mourned so much as seen as an opportunity to rebuild the proper kind of worthwhile society. A chance to get back to basics, to a world where men are in charge and shoot anyone who opposes them and women know their place and black people… well black people are marching cannibal hordes and anyone in government is dead.

The gap between this and armed compounds in Idaho is only that these kinds of books are usually written by middle to upper class aging keyboard jockeys like Jerry Pournelle and S.M. Stirling, who don’t actually want to live off the land. They just want to glory in the fantasies of doing it. S.M. Stirling’s widely praised post-Nantucket Emberverse series is yet another rehash of the same survivalist material, with Wiccans substituted for Christians, and without even the merit of having any logic behind it. Steam power and guns no longer work, because the author decided real men should fight with swords and bows and arrows.

But that is the whole logic of survivalism in the first place. Robert Heinlein’s postwar essays claimed that if only a few urban centers were hit, American society would instantly collapse into crazed cannibalistic mobs killing and eating everything and everyone in sight. Thirst crazed cannibals, his words not mine, would overrun Los Angeles. (If they’re thirsty, they probably would be looking for something to drink, instead of consuming more salty human flesh.)

Now this was a vision of a nuclear war when nuclear weapons were just getting started. The kind of nuclear war Heinlein was envisioning was not a planetary armageddon, but the deaths of maybe 10 or 20 million Americans in major urban centers. Yet Heinlein believed that without this sort of centralized control, the average American would within minutes be trying to beat your brains for your can of stewed peas. Despite the fact that Americans had for most of our history managed to live in towns and villages without constant centralized government supervision, Heinlein like the survivalist writers who would come after him, believed that without constant government control, Americans would quickly become murderous homicidal mobs.

This delusion is rooted in his contempt for the average person and his belief that only totalitarianism could keep them in check. That was Heinlein’s fascism. That is the fascism reflected in Starship Troopers, which says that fascism is the only way to meet a crisis. It’s the fascism that burbles to the surface in the novels of his acolytes like Jerry Pournelle, it’s the belief in the slavish inferiority of the average man, and a limited libertarianism applied to the Heinlein Man, the superior rugged individual who can lead and build up a new society under his own iron rule.

Underneath the survivalist narrative is the inappropriate eagerness by the writer to overthrow society, nuke those corrupt urban centers full of minorities and uppity college going women and rebuild a society based on the stockade and the rifle and knife. It was not a libertarian belief based on the individual value of man, but an egotistical limited libertarianism based on the belief of the value of the chosen elite. The men who should lead. Fascism.

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