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For The 20th Anniversary Of ‘Starship Troopers,’ 9 Fascinating Military Facts You May Have Missed
When Starship Troopers first premiered on Nov. 7, 1997, America was in a martial slumber. Desert Storm was in the rearview mirror, the NATO intervention in Bosnia had wound down, and next to nobody had heard of Osama bin Laden. It was an era in which you could still finish an entire enlistment without earning a National Defense Service Medal. And for thousands of young, amped troops cooling their heels in garrisons around the world, the bloody, explodey, campy movie adaptation of Robert Heinlein’s legendary military science fiction epic was a collective wet dream.
And for good reason: Starship Troopers has everything! Mechanized, oversexed space soldiers fighting a totalitarian communist insect society! Badass, blood-soaked battle sequences! A society where only veterans can vote! Denise Richards! Sportsball!
Director Paul Verhoeven had intended the flick as an entertaining but self-aware warning against the dangers of militarism. But apparently, that message was too subtle: Hoighty-toighty movie reviewers initially dismissed Starship Troopers as a full-throated endorsement of military-led totalitarianism.
To which 20 years of service members have basically answered: Well, yeah. But holy shit, is it cool! From 0311 grunt recruits at Parris Island to well-heeled midshipmen at Annapolis — where Heinlein himself trained as a surface officer — fans in uniform recognized the movie for what it really is: A tribute to the everlasting glory of the trigger-pullers.
Critics may have spent last two decades arguing over Verhoeven’s message, but they’ve missed some of the more interesting military components to Starship Troopers — details that might even be news an eagle-eyed film buff. Here are nine such facts to help you win the next DFAC debate over who’s a true military Starship Troopers fan:
Starship Troopers used more ammunition than in any previous film.
Veteran weapons coordinator Robert "Rock" Galotti — whose credits include Jarhead, Face/Off, Mission: Impossible II, and a stint wielding an M16 and M34 white phosphorous grenade in 1986’s Platoon, claimed that the crew expended over 300,000 blank rounds during the course of filming — a personal record at the time. Given film studios’ current dependence on CGI, it’s unclear if that record has ever been broken.
The standard firearms used by the Mobile Infantry were based on Ruger rifles.
How do you make a Starship Troopers-style Morita assault rifle? First, according to the sci-fi weapons blog Future War Stories, you need a cool name like Morita (a nod to Akio Morita, a cofounder of Sony). Then, you need a Ruger Mini-14. Wrap it in a modified MZ14 Bullpup stock, of the sort you might recognize from Total Recall (another Verhoeven film). Don’t forget to slap a 12-gauge Ithaca 37 shotgun up underneath that baby, too.
The Morita Mk. II “Advanced Systems Rifle,” the mountain-annihilating rifle featured in federal propaganda at the end of the original film, isn’t based on any existing real-life firearm. It is, however, referred to as the "Morita Tonshi” — Japanese for “sudden death,” per Future War Stories.
Director Paul Verhoeven got his start thanks to the Dutch military.
Although the director started his life as an academic, earning degrees in math and physics, he ended up joining the Royal Netherlands Navy as a conscript after realizing that the subjects “didn't really touch me on an emotional level,” Verhoeven said in a 2010 conversation with The Hollywood Interview. During his service, he was assigned to the Navy’s documentary film unit; his 1965 documentary on the Netherlands Marine Corps ("Het Korps Mariniers,” or the Royal Dutch Marine Corps) was his first award-winning work — even if it was a French award.
The film has virtually no relationship with Heinlein’s original book …
Heinlein’s 1959 novel stands out in American science fiction for several reasons: its controversial legacy as a pro-militarism, fascism-embracing tract that one contemporary sci-fi writer called "a book-length recruiting poster”; its plodding, often preachy structure as an exercise in military philosophy punctuated by rare moments of action; and its role in introducing the idea of powered armor into the American imagination (suck it, Iron Man).
But Verhoeven’s 1997 film, praised for inverting Heinlein's post-World War II bugle-blowing into a satirical send-up of fascism, wasn’t even based on the original novel. According to a November 1997 analysis in American Cinematographer, the movie was originally based on a completely different script and dubbed Bug Hunt On Outpost 9, which was already in production when producers Jon Davison and Alan Marshall licensed the rights to Heinlein’s work and incorporated characters and other plot elements into the film.
... partially because Verhoeven never finished the original Starship Troopers.
In an August 2012 interview with Empire, director Verhoeven claimed that he attempted to digest Heinlein’s science-fiction opus, but bailed after just two chapters “because it was so boring,” primarily due to the latter’s long, winding asides on political and moral philosophy.
"It is really quite a bad book,” Verhoeven said. “I asked Ed Neumeier to tell me the story because I just couldn't read the thing.”
It wasn’t just structure that deterred Verhoeven from exploring a more faithful adaptation, but the same quasi-militaristic elements that made critics of Heinlein’s original work so queasy. “It's a very right-wing book,” he told Empire. “And with the movie we tried, and I think at least partially succeeded, in commenting on that at the same time … All the way through we were fighting with the fascism, the ultra-militarism. All the way through I wanted the audience to be asking, 'Are these people crazy?'"
Every military uniform contains references to Nazi Germany.
Born in Amsterdam, Verhoeven grew up watching German munitions destroy the city of Rotterdam; he was threatened at gunpoint by Nazi goons when he was just 6 years old, according to The Hollywood Interview.
As a result of his personal experiences with fascism, he incorporated elements of Hitler’s feared SS paramilitary squads into the setting of Starship Troopers, drawing inspiration for the Terran Federation’s flag from the Nazi Party’s Ordnungspolizei (“Orpo” flag). The movie’s famous opening sequence, featuring propaganda from the state-run Federation Network, was an explicit tribute to Leni Riefenstahl’s infamous 1935 Nazi propaganda classic Triumph of the Will.
"The first shot is taken from Triumph of the Will,” Verhoeven told Entertainment Weekly in 1997. ”When the soldiers look at the camera and say, ‘I’m doing my part!’ that’s from Riefenstahl. We copied it. It’s wink-wink Riefenstahl.”
The tribute was, of course, in the service of Verhoeven’s larger inversion of Heinlein’s militarism. ”I wanted to do something more than just a movie about giant bugs,” he told Entertainment Weekly. ”What I tried to do is use subversive imagery to make a point about society. I tried to seduce the audience to join [the Troopers‘] society, but then ask, ‘What are you really joining up for?'"
A U.S. president’s son plays a small role.
Steven Ford — the actor son of President Gerald Ford whose credits include Grease, Black Hawk Down, and When Harry Met Sally — has a minor role in the film as Lt. Willy, the commander of Willy's Wildcats who bites the dust during the Battle of Klendathu. Ford has minimal dialogue, but his instructions to Johnny Rico and the rest of the mobile infantry before dropping into enemy territory are infamous among superfans: “You kill anything that has more than two legs, you get me?!”
The bug invasion on Planet P is a tribute to epic 1964 war film Zulu.
The fortress defense sequence in the film’s third act contains multiple references to the epic British war film that depicts the 1879 Battle of Rorke’s Drift, in which a company of British and colonial soldiers held off a prolonged assault by Zulu warriors for more than a day. Some of the dialogue — "We're all gonna die!" "Fire at will!" and "Fall back into the compound!” in particular — are cribbed directly from the war drama.
Bonus: Verhoeven and cinematographer Jost Vacano shot that infamous shower scene in the nude themselves.
This doesn’t have much to do with the military, but it’s too hilarious not to include. The movie’s infamous coed shower sequence — not an unexpected addition, considering Verhoeven introduced Americans to a three-breasted alien prostitute in Total Recall — nearly didn’t make it into the final film. Not because of censors, but because of an actor’s cold feet (or other extremities).
"One cast member said they would only get naked if we did," recalled Verhoeven in his conversation with Empire. "Well, my cinematographer was born in a nudist colony and I have no problem with taking my clothes off, so we did.”
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico has deployed almost 15,000 soldiers and National Guard in the north of the country to stem the flow of illegal immigration across the border into the United States, the head of the Mexican Army said on Monday.
Mexico has not traditionally used security forces to stop undocumented foreign citizens leaving the country for the United States, and photographs of militarized police catching Central American and Cuban women at the border in recent days have met with criticism.
Mexico is trying to curb a surge of migrants from third countries crossing its territory in order to reach the United States, under the threat of tariffs on its exports by U.S. President Donald Trump, who has made tightening border security a priority.
Packages containing suspected heroin were found in the home of the driver charged with killing seven motorcyclists Friday in the North Country, authorities said Monday.
Massachusetts State Police said the packages were discovered when its Violent Fugitive Apprehension Section and New Hampshire State police arrested Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 23, at his West Springfield home. The packages will be tested for heroin, they said.
Zhukovskyy faces seven counts of negligent homicide in connection with the North Country crash on Friday evening that killed seven riders associated with Jarhead Motorcycle Club, a club for Marines and select Navy corpsmen.
'It just happened' — the Iraq War’s first living Medal of Honor recipient recalls his harrowing fight against 5 insurgents
On Nov, 10, 2004, Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia knew that he stood a good chance of dying as he tried to save his squad.
Bellavia survived the intense enemy fire and went on to single-handedly kill five insurgents as he cleared a three-story house in Fallujah during the iconic battle for the city. For his bravery that day, President Trump will present Bellavia with the Medal of Honor on Tuesday, making him the first living Iraq war veteran to receive the award.
In an interview with Task & Purpose, Bellavia recalled that the house where he fought insurgents was dark and filled with putrid water that flowed from broken pipes. The battle itself was an assault on his senses: The stench from the water, the darkness inside the home, and the sounds of footsteps that seemed to envelope him.
With the Imperial Japanese Army hot on his heels, Oscar Leonard says he barely slipped away from getting caught in the grueling Bataan Death March in 1942 by jumping into a choppy bay in the dark of the night, clinging to a log and paddling to the Allied-fortified island of Corregidor.
After many weeks of fighting there and at Mindanao, he was finally captured by the Japanese and spent the next several years languishing under brutal conditions in Filipino and Japanese World War II POW camps.
Now, having just turned 100 years old, the Antioch resident has been recognized for his 42-month ordeal as a prisoner of war, thanks to the efforts of his friends at the Brentwood VFW Post #10789 and Congressman Jerry McNerney.
McNerney, Brentwood VFW Commander Steve Todd and Junior Vice Commander John Bradley helped obtain a POW award after doing research and requesting records to surprise Leonard during a birthday party last month.
Hundreds of Marines will join their British counterparts at a massive urban training center this summer that will test the leathernecks' ability to fight a tech-savvy enemy in a crowded city filled with innocent civilians.
The North Carolina-based Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, will test drones, robots and other high-tech equipment at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center near Butlerville, Indiana, in August.
They'll spend weeks weaving through underground tunnels and simulating fires in a mock packed downtown city center. They'll also face off against their peers, who will be equipped with off-the-shelf drones and other gadgets the enemy is now easily able to bring to the fight.
It's the start of a four-year effort, known as Project Metropolis, that leaders say will transform the way Marines train for urban battles. The effort is being led by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, based in Quantico, Virginia. It comes after service leaders identified a troubling problem following nearly two decades of war in the Middle East: adversaries have been studying their tactics and weaknesses, and now they know how to exploit them.