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According to imdb Starship Troopers is an Action adventure sci-fi where "Humans of a fascistic, militaristic future do battle with giant alien bugs in a fight for survival."

I remember going to the cinema to see it and everyone laughing for the whole film.

Was it meant to be funny or funny by accident?

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Satirical would be a better description than funny as others have pointed out. –  matt_black Jan 25 '12 at 16:42

3 Answers 3

up vote 17 down vote accepted

It was meant to be a satire.

Verhoeven - who's fairly left politically - took Heinlein's book (which was basically a philosophical and political book told with SciFi trappings - like any good SciFi book). He didn't get any of the deep philosophical ideas in it (or at least didn't exibit any evidence of getting them), took 2% of the book that was military-jingoistic SciFi action patina, and turned that into a witheringly sarcastic criticism of some strawman pseudo-fascist society of his own imagining that shared pretty much nothing except the name with the original book.

Just for reference, most of the overtly fascist stuff in the movie - the stupid propaganda, the kids stomping on the bugs, glamorization of war, etc... - is 100% Verhoeven's, NOT RAH's.

I could go into more significant detail in the answer if you add specific elements that piqued your interest as "too sarcastic to be in a SciFi movie".

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This is a great answer, although I would argue that Verhoeven definitely 'got' Heinlein's philosophical ideas, but chose to make a different film. –  Nobby Jan 25 '12 at 14:51
Who said anything about being "too sarcastic to be in a SciFi movie"? I see no reason why a SciFi Movie can't be sarcastic, or funny! I love Red Dwarf Some great uses of Sarcasm in it. –  AidanO Jan 25 '12 at 15:08
@AidanO - sorry, that was how I understood the thrust of your question. Thanks for the correction. –  DVK Jan 25 '12 at 15:09
@DVK, no problem, maybe I should have said I was one of the ones laughing too :) thought it was a great film at the time, will have to re-watch and see if it has stood the test of time, I know I wasn't impressed with the 3rd one which I saw recently. Don't think I've seen the 2nd one. –  AidanO Jan 25 '12 at 15:15
@Nobby The original bughunt movie concept was created before the studio realized they had the rights to the book Starship Troopers. As a result ST was only applied as a thin veneer on top of the movie Verhoeven had already created. I don't think Heinlein's philosophical ideas had any meaningful input in the movies creation. –  Dan Neely Jan 25 '12 at 15:55

Well it has a very satirical touch, with this extremely conformist/fascist society and its stupid citizens. And it also has many trash elements. Although it's obviously a SciFi-Action movie, you cannot oversee these elements.

It is something like a grey area between a serious movie, a satire, and a trash movie. This is IMHO typical for many of Verhoeven's movies, which often contain what I would call "high-quality trash" elements along with satirical elements. Think of Total Recall, Robocop or Showgirls.

So I think it was indeed meant to be a bit funny or parodistic in the first point, even though that's not its only intention.

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Yep - I was just writing the exact same answer :) I might even add that the violence associated with this (and his other films) is so over-the-top that it could be considered absurd - adding to the overall feel of the film. –  Nobby Jan 25 '12 at 13:07
@Nobby +1 for the " so over-the-top that it could be considered absurd" that's one of the things that really stands out to me about the film. –  AidanO Jan 25 '12 at 13:31
i don't understand what you mean by trash movie –  DForck42 Jan 25 '12 at 14:12
@DForck42 Well, something that's obviously (or sometimes even intentionally) bad-made/low-quality/exaggerated in such an extent that it's already funny. I don't say this applies in a whole to his movies, but there are certain elements or a bit of a trashy feel to certain parts of them, while still staying high-quality movies. That's why I coined the paradoxon "high-quality trash". Starship Troopers and Total Recall (and to some extent Robocop) are perfect examples for this. –  Napoleon Wilson Jan 25 '12 at 14:25
@ChristianRau So you mean a B-movie. Alternatively a 'trashy' movie would have a similar but different meaning. –  user209 Jan 25 '12 at 20:18

Robert A. Heinlein’s 1959 novel was a serious work of fiction, written by a man who had himself done military service, having graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1929. It was not a comedy. Hence, the humour in the movie does not derive from the novel.

The novel is an attack on communism, and celebrates the American dream in a manner common in the 1950s. It represents the enemy as an inspect race; by implication, this depiction of the 'bugs' as having a hive-mind instead of being individuals is a representation of the communists, as they were usually seen by Americans at that period in time.

The Earth soldiers are fighting for the right to vote. Only soldiers, in the novel, can acquire this right, which has to be earned. The bugs, in contrast, are loaded down by the author with all the worst aspects of communism, being mere slave labour.

The novel seeks to give a realistic picture of life as a boot-camp trainee soldier, and paints quite a grim picture of that. Very little of the novel involves actual combat missions. Despite the notional SF background, the storyline is nevertheless based much more on World War II than on 'The War Of The Worlds'.

Very little of all this makes it into the movie, which is a comedy broadly based on a mix of the Harry Harrison novels 'Bill the Galactic Hero' and 'The Stainless Steel Rat Saves the Universe', with merely a few character names and placenames borrowed from Heinlein's book.

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While I think that this reading is reasonable, Heinlein wrote an essay on his intent in writing the book and communism wasn't central in that report. Rather he writes that it was a paen to the sacrifice of the muddy booted foot soldier, and in particular to the volunteer soldier. –  dmckee Oct 27 '12 at 17:10

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