With so much pain and suffering in the world, it always feels selfish of me — a guy who has it pretty good — to ask for anything more. Yet here I am. Because some truths won’t stay buried.
I need Paul Verhoeven to make Starship Troopers 2.
There will be objections. Let me assure you that I don’t care. Yes, the 83-year-old Dutch director has gone back to Europe and transitioned into a celebrated phase as an old master with a deft touch, delivering the icy thriller Elle and, this year, Bendetta, about a forbidden love affair between 17th century nuns. These films hardly resemble the turbocharged sci-fi satires Vehoeven turned out mid-career, most notably RoboCop, Total Recall and Starship Troopers. But does Paul still have the gonzo instinct in him? Not a doubt in my mind. He should give it free rein this one last time. Then he can go back to making (very good) foreign arthouse dramas.
Oh, there’s already a Starship Troopers 2? Some straight-to-video junk? And then another sequel, followed by two animated movies? Not to mention plans to reboot the entire franchise without Verhoeven’s involvement?
Nope. None of that is real, and you cannot make me perceive it. Ditto the dud remakes of RoboCop and Total Recall, which you didn’t remember till you read this sentence. No, no, no. We’re wiping the slate clean. Verhoeven was the man brave enough to spend $100 million of Sony Pictures’ money on a gory, glitzy, heavily ironic adaptation of a Robert A. Heinlein novel that features a human military waging war against giant space bugs. He was the one who had his masterpiece shredded by critics who didn’t get its dark comedy or critiques of fascism and propaganda, and had to wait for it to become a cult classic, renowned for its prophetic vision of everything from fake news to America’s overall decline.
He is the one who deserves a victory lap. It’s that simple.
Throughout the presidency of Donald Trump, we heard time and again that Verhoeven’s futures were the most prescient of any speculative cinema. In the 1980s and 1990s, he seemed to know exactly how grotesque, violent, hypermediated and exploitative our society would be in the 21st century. What then played as ridiculous is now, as they say, “too real.” Trump overseeing (and continually bragging about) the creation of a Space Force is quite literally a step toward our eventual, disastrous, jingoistic invasion of an alien homeworld to seize its resources. The cable and digital channels that have outflanked Fox News from the right are just a hair away from the parodic infotainment disseminated by the “United Citizens Federation.” And the hints of Third Reich imagery in Starship Troopers anticipated the resurgence of neo-Nazism in the U.S.
What I’m saying is, give Verhoeven a blank check to add to this part of his canon today, and we could conceivably get a glimpse of life in 2050. That’s an opportunity we can’t afford to pass up.
Brilliant as the idea is, I can think of one legitimate concern: Starship Troopers stands on its own, a fully realized and finely layered piece of art. There is arguably no merit in an attempt, even from Verhoeven, to expand and build upon the universe portrayed. He may also be uninterested in such a project! The guy has certainly earned a comfortable retirement. I trust, however, in his enduring passion, and his capacity to shock us with a sequel that changes all the rules, not only in the fictional premise but Hollywood itself. If we are condemned to the eternal recycling and remixing of the studios’ intellectual property, each new blockbuster merely adding to the same big clusterfuck of CGI and cross-references, then can’t we have at least one that subverts the whole game? A Verhoeven Starship Troopers 2 would be the rare follow-up actually worth your excitement, because no one else is up to the impossibility of reinvention.
I’m not getting my hopes up, of course. It’s highly unlikely I’ll ever get my wish. Nevertheless, I have an obligation to voice it. Now that the absurdities of the present have elevated Verhoeven’s filmography to mythic status, we must demand — though we do not deserve — a crown jewel for it. I lack the power to make it happen, but you could say I’m doing my part.