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What would a real Starship Troopers movie look like? 
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PITA Bred
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Post Re: What would a real Starship Troopers movie look like?
I don't know, off hand. I think there's an entire missing element - maybe in real terms it's Heinlein himself; he's standing at the center of all the parts but then rendered himself invisible. It's possible you'd have to create the real protagonist, about whom the government and political issues, and Johnny Rico's family and personal issues, and the military issues, and the war issues all coalesce.

Maybe that's it: Heinlein wrote so hastily that he failed to distance himself from any of those elements, so his imprint is on all of them and his deliberate erasure leaves the void that makes the novel both enduring (it's a mirror of the reader's thoughts) and frustratingly elusive.

The movie would have to position Rico as the buddy to a protagonist who has deeper ties into the major elements. The protagonist would not necessarily be a very likeable figure; it's Johnny who would give us the audience viewpoint of naivete and honesty, as he does in the book.


Tue May 21, 2013 5:31 am
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Post Re: What would a real Starship Troopers movie look like?
Yes, I quite agree that ST is "both enduring (it's a mirror of the reader's thoughts) and frustratingly elusive" to the extent that because Johnnie is such a void, it's easier for the reader to imagine himself (herself? maybe not so much) living that kind of life.

But against that aspect of the book is the instructional content - actual classroom lecture & discussion plus "laboratory," all of which our narrator relates to us - as well as the chapter epigraphs. An earlier Heinlein, or one less in a hurry, might have more subtly integrated such lessons into the narrative, I suppose; at least he had done so in earlier novels. But as it stands, none of this material can be considered story.

And yet the book wouldn't be worth reading without it - we learn what Johnnie considers to be important; he goes on and on about it. Of course, his beliefs are indistinguishable, virtually by definition, from those of everyone else in his unit, or so we're given to understand. But this is just enough, I guess, to prevent Johnnie from being a total stick figure of a narrator.

All of this I construe as ST being unfilmable as written, but I'd be interested in other opinions.


Tue May 21, 2013 6:36 am
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Heinlein Nexus
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Post Re: What would a real Starship Troopers movie look like?
The standard line is that Troopers glorifies war, but that's too superficial an analysis. As besotted with the virtues of the serviceman as Heinlein was, ST carries a more subtle message of what it's like to be on the receiving end of military indoctrination. For a soldier to be effective he must not have the luxury of critical thinking. He can't afford to question his orders, wonder about the deeper meaning of his actions, or feel concern for the enemy. Indoctrination warps his mind so that these things don't happen (or weeds him out first), not merely to create a predictable and efficient soldier but to save his own life in the clinch.

Heinlein simply depicts a society where this indoctrination is carried out everywhere; at least through high school, and in the laws of society. The people who don't go for it appear few and their arguments weak, because we see them through Johnny's eyes and he can't afford to see them any other way.

So I see this as Heinlein's story about, what is it like behind the eyeballs of someone who has swallowed that pill, and his answer is: Pretty good. There are compensating emotional rewards that can uplift a man and sustain him for a lifetime. As long as he keeps that pill swallowed, which is why Johnny's story ends the only way it can: in media res.

More than half the story is pure didactic or Socratic dialogue, though. Heinlein could make that incredibly readable, just as he could do with exposition. (Tom Clancy inherited that gift.) And that's what engenders the glorification charge. There are numerous strawman arguments stood up and only faintly swatted at. How the same author could write this and SIASL would be beyond belief if you thought he was only doing it to glorify war. So I choose to believe that he had a deeper agenda of showing military life from the inside out, and that he didn't challenge the strawman arguments in the story not because he couldn't but because Johnny simply wouldn't have been able to hear them. Or if he had, and understood them, he'd have quit, and then the story would have picked a different protagonist. This is one reason for starting the book with the drop. Aside from the main purpose of dumping us into action, the adrenalin rush ensures that when we get to Johnny's parents' arguments against his serving, they appear utterly risible. We already know how exciting Johnny's life is going to turn out when he decides to sign up.

Detail quibble while I'm here: Right at the beginning it says that the surgeon isn't making the drop. A few sentences later it says that everyone drops, including the chaplain, and only the invalided are left behind. It makes sense for the surgeon to drop so why does it claim he doesn't?

So is it filmable? If you concede that the nugget is the viewpoint of the guy born to soldier and turned into a great one, then you can certainly show that through more deeds than words.


Wed May 22, 2013 6:26 am
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Post Re: What would a real Starship Troopers movie look like?
regarding your quibble about the surgeon not dropping (when all except the invalid did drop), simply, he that can save lives isn't exposed to possibly being a casualty himself ! common sense and military procedure places him out of harm's way- medics would initially evaluate and treat the wounded- after triage and being stabilized, the casualties would be transported back to the surgeon and facilities better suited to saving lives- you would have doctors in a MASH type ground unit but the "boss" would stay upstairs either supervising or treating the most desperate cases in an environment which would offer them greater hope

just a veteran's perspective !


Wed May 22, 2013 6:48 am
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Heinlein Nexus
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Post Re: What would a real Starship Troopers movie look like?
Your reasoning makes sense (although I could argue that the surgeon should drop in order to provide battlefield medical support), but the story is self-inconsistent - at one point he says "everyone drops but the surgeon" and another he says "everyone drops but the sick," after making a big deal about the chaplain dropping.


Wed May 22, 2013 9:36 am
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PITA Bred
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Post Re: What would a real Starship Troopers movie look like?
PeterScott wrote:
...the story is self-inconsistent...

Should be a big blurb on every copy sold. ST is like the ACD Holmes stories - it's the gaps and inconsistencies that make both endlessly fascinating.


Wed May 22, 2013 10:04 am
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Post Re: What would a real Starship Troopers movie look like?
peter if you put the 3 inconsistencies you broached, together in one sentence, they could be a part of a single shipwide announcement, from the commander to his troops, which would've made snese and nuanced the entire story of their combat drop. here's my take on these 3 inconsistent statements- RAH says "everyone drops but the sick"<interpetated by me as "we need every body possible- only the invalid stay behind-this one is gonna be tough boys">, then add "everyone drops but the surgeon" <in other words "it's too dangerous down there- we'll need him shipboard and alive to save the lives of you that make it back> plus add "after making a big deal about the 'chaplain dropping' " <interpeted as "many of you are going to die- rest assured the chaplain will be there to pray you on your way"> or their religion may even allow for a 'fighting' chaplain/holyman- something not unheard of in human history>

essentially the CO was forewarning his troops they'd be engaging in a dire fight-am i making sense or am i contriving here ? LOL !! could RAH have made it simpler by combining these 3 thoughts into one sentence ? perhaps by speaking of them 3 times, the CO was simply repeating his warning (and RAH further nuancing the upcoming battle) of "hang tough boys and show em what we're made of" - he was rallying his troops



again as interpeted by a "non-combat" vet :)


Wed May 22, 2013 11:16 am
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Post Re: What would a real Starship Troopers movie look like?
JamesGifford wrote:
PeterScott wrote:
...the story is self-inconsistent...

Should be a big blurb on every copy sold. ST is like the ACD Holmes stories - it's the gaps and inconsistencies that make both endlessly fascinating.


If you'd enjoy posting some of those inconsistencies, I'd enjoy reading and reacting to them.


Wed May 22, 2013 2:57 pm
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Heinlein Nexus
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Post Re: What would a real Starship Troopers movie look like?
Before we get thoroughly sidetracked by two tangential sentences of mine, I'd welcome reactions to my broader analysis above.


Wed May 22, 2013 2:59 pm
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Post Re: What would a real Starship Troopers movie look like?
I agree that the novel could only begin and end in medias res - and it's even arguable that the existing, one-day-to-be-superseded ST movie does likewise, with its "service guarantees citizenship" bookend segments. I'm not sure that any hypothetical "proper" ST movie could get away with it, however.


Wed May 22, 2013 5:17 pm
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