Paul Verhoeven’s 1997 sci-fi satire Starship Troopers is one of the most misunderstood, yet critically important, sci fi films of the last two decades. The director’s earlier, perhaps more famous, work Robocop (1987) is a well-known satire of the over-the-top sci-fi/action genres that had proliferated during the 70s and 80s in the post-Vietnam era’s growing conservative, pro-military cultural landscape. Troopers was meant to be a similar type of tongue-in-cheek critique; however, for a number of reasons it was taken at face value and either critically panned or enjoyed for precisely the wrong reasons. Only a few reviewers, Ty Burr from Entertainment Weekly in particular, really got the message of what Verhoeven was trying to do, and he shows that in his review of the film (available here: http://www.ew.com/article/1998/05/15/starship-troopers).
After watching the film and reading the review, I came to realize that not only was Verhoeven lampooning the type of pro-military mindset that took hold of our country at various points in our recent history (as well as presaging some of the events of the early 21st century regarding 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq), but he was actually criticizing it far more deeply and seriously through his subtle comparisons and allusions to an extreme and evil iteration of such patriotic devotion. Simply put, I realized that in a number of ways, stylistically, aesthetically, and narratively, Troopers is an allegory of WWII, and particularly of Nazi Germany and their perpetration of the Holocaust.
Burr sparked this thinking for me in his review when he opens it with saying: “What the hell is Starship Troopers? Is it a mindlessly violent slab of future jingoism: Melrose Place goes to war in space? Or is it a sly bit of leg pulling on the part of director Paul Verhoeven? Here’s what I think: Starship Troopers is exactly what Star Wars would have looked like if Germany had won World War II“.
Think about it: The costuming for the federation’s high-ranking officers and commanding generals/leadership is pretty much a straight-up rip off of the German High Command’s outfits (designed by Hugo Boss). Pretty much every main character in the film (prime example: NPH) is white, perfect-looking and what could be described as Aryan (hence the Melrose Place reference to flawless, white beauty). Also, the fact that the beginning of the film takes place in Buenos Aires, a common Nazi postwar hideout, as well that the “enemy” is a putird, bug-like race with plans to conquer the universe is very similar to the Nazi characterization of Jews through the publication of completely fabricated The Protocols of The Elders of Zion, points to just some of the parallels drawn in the film to one of the worst periods in human history.
So what is Verhoeven trying to tell us by making this connection to the Holocaust? It may be that, while pride of and respect for country, and having a desire to serve it, is admirable, it can prove dangerous if directed towards dehumanizing another race or nation (in this case, planet) for jingoistic needs.