Not so brainless: Paul Verhoeven at the Brattle


As is his wont with films of this kind, Anthony Lane's review of "Clash of the Titans" is highly entertaining. But I could hardly let stand a gratuitous swipe he takes at one of the great sci-fi films of the 90s, Paul Verhoeven's "Starship Troopers" (1997),  which he dismisses as "thrillingly brainless." Hardly. It was one of the brainiest films of the decade.

Literally so, in a certain sense, since the enemy insects are led by giant tick-like nasties dwelling in caves on a desert planet that are basically enormous telepathic cerebrums with vestigial limbs and vagina-ey faces

tended by doodle-buggy minions. Which brings me to Bin Laden and the film's uncanny prescience when it comes to the War against Terror.

What does this sound like? An alien, fanatic culture strikes a terrorist blow against a major city (ie: hurling an asteroid at Buenos Aires). The government responds by sending  the Marines to the aliens' hostile world where they soon find themselves in over their heads. But tactics change, namely the good guys start employing special interrogation techniques (ie:, psi-ops) and ultimately the tables are turned. Or, as the film's last scene can be interpreted, we become as bad as they are,

It's all there - four years before 9-11.

And don't get me started on RoboCop (1987), one of the best sci-fi movies of that decade (rivaling "The Terminator"). Especially since you'll get a chance to hear Verhoeven talk about it himself when he attends a special screening of the film at the Brattle Theatre  on Monday. He's in town promoting, believe it or not, a book he wrote called "Jesus of Nazareth," and come to think of it "RoboCop" (1987 --accept no remake! ) is full of messianic motifs and themes: a cop dies for us,

is resurrected as a cyborg killing machine and proceeds to waste the bad guys.

Sounds just like the Gospels. Plus, it's another prescient look at our times, in this case the fate of our capitalist, corporate society.

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