In the fourth episode of our Future Wars cycle, we explore two late 90s classic, The Matrix (1999) and Starship Trooper (1997).
Special Guest: Evan Crean, film critic and co-host of the great Spoilerpiece Theatre podcast.
Here we have two films with diametrically opposed authorial voices. The Matrix is self-serious, pointelty intellectual, and so cool that it borders on frigid sterility. Starship Troopers is a polemic anti-fascist satire that mirrors Baywatch more than it does Aliens. Nearing its 25th anniversary, The Matrix has been rightfully deemed classic cinema. Starship Troopers, on the other hand, remains on the fringes due to its multiplicitous and duplicitous nature.
Intention seems to hold an enhanced importance in the longevity of a film's reputation. While The Matrix can easily be called pretentious, it hasn't lost its potency over the last two decades. In many ways and despite its middling sequels, The Matrix has risen to a new level of respect in the 21st century. Not for its accuracy in depicting the future, but rather for its ability to capture the dissociating effects of technology on our everyday lives. Starship Troopers has sadly begun to fade. For those of us in on the joke, the political reality we have lived through has lessen the bite of the punchline and satire. It also calls into question the effectiveness of red-nosed satire, lighting up the social commentary in every scene. When Verhoeven is perhaps murkier with intentions like in the reclaimed masterpiece Showgirls, his wit and delightful skewering of America feels heavier and more accurate. In Troopers, the daytime tv look is perhaps too much of a veneer on a devolving society surging towards fascism.