Jul 24, 2010

Book Reviews @ The Temple

Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein – So I had never read this one (again, I listened). It is a freaking weird book. The story is in broad strokes like the movie, but the book isn’t really about the story. It’s a first person narrative of what it’s like to be in boot and in the MI. It’s much more about the details than the fighting. That’s all well and good, I liked it. I thought it was a good story, told well. But the book is REALLY about Heinlein’s (presumably) political beliefs. It is virtually a treatise. Political discussions, debates, and lectures loosely strewn together with a story about a war between two interstellar species. It’s actually kind of shocking how extreme his views are. I was convinced for at least half the book that he was setting up these ideas to be knocked down by “real” life once Rico got out of boot and into real war. But, nope! Heinlein is militaristic, extremely conservative on crime, borderline facist on a “citizen’s” role in society. He argues that violence is the only viable force in the world, and that everything that has ever come has come from it. He argues that criminals, the mentally handicapped, and juveniles are equally guilty and equally deserving of death. He argues that a true citizen puts himself between his society and its threats. That in itself isn’t so bad a statement, but combined with the utter and fanboyish glorification of the military, it’s actually hard to take in. Wiki tells me this book is required reading for the marines, which makes a hell of a lot of sense. The final words of this book are all glory to the mobile infantry. This book would instill more pride in a soldier than all the marines fighting CG dragons commercials in the world. Yet, it is a good story, told well. Really kind of a tough one. Is it ok that it’s his platform to spout what I largely think is nonsense? Well, of course it’s ok, but is it still allowed to be a good book? Can I separate the two? I suppose I am, as i have positive feelings about the book, but it is hard to reconcile. While I’m here, I rented the movie immediately after finishing. I hadn’t seen it since forever. And though I don’t really review re-watches on here, I find it relevant. Mostly because, this movie is actually kind of genius. No no, don’t close the window, follow me here. The movie is a complete lampooning of the ridiculousness of the book. Every extreme hawkish conservative motivation underlying the book is completely torn apart by the over the top cheesy propaganda of the movie. It shows children squashing bugs to pick at the built in racism. It gives the announcer the cheesiest voice to convince you that the only true citizen is one who fights. It has ridiculous violence that reflects the blood thirsty nature of the book (which itself, actually has no blood). It directly quotes some of the more ridiculous lines of the book. It even turns capital punishment into a spectator sport, clearly pouncing on Heinlein’s seeming eagerness to impose it on criminals. I’ll grant you, the acting is fucking horrible. And it dances freely one either side of the fine line (like all movies that criticize the glorification of violence, sex, or profanity) by clearly reveling in its gore. And they must be fully aware that most people see this FOR the gore. The writing isn’t really that great. The filming and effects are fine, hold up rather well for it having been over 10 years. So I had to add this because it kind of blew me away. On the surface this is a gory cheesy movie that is likable for those qualities, but nothing more. In context it is a completely response and reversal of everything Heinlein was going for in his book. If I was on Heinlein’s side, i’d probably be super pissed. But I’m not, so I’m kind of just sitting here clapping slowly.

No comments: