It’s almost been 20 years since Starship Troopers first premiered, and while the film has a large and dedicated fan following now, that wasn’t the case when the movie first debuted in 1997. Reception was lukewarm both at the box office and among critics, with many completely missing the film’s satirical viewpoint.
While talking to star Casper Van Dien (Johnny Rico) at San Diego Comic-Con about the political satire in the franchise’s newest installment, Traitor of Mars, the actor recalled how people initially missed that aspect of the ’97 original. “The sense of humor and the satire… some people missed that the first time around,” he said. “Especially in America, which is surreal to me. Maybe it’s because it hit too close to home.” Gradually though, as people gave the film another look, more and more recognized it for what it is: One of the best sci-fi films of all time. And according to Van Dien, the reason for its enduring popularity is that the movie offers so many varying viewpoints that multiple groups are able to claim the film as their own.
“That movie (Starship Troopers) was accepted fully by the Bush administration, they loved it.” he said. “I know that from Karl Rove and from other people who said they loved it, Bush loved it. And then we also know that Clinton loved it and played it in his war room … Both the Democrats and the Republicans liked it, but they both feel like it’s relatable to [their] side.”
“You’ve got to be able to hear the other people (with viewpoints different than your own), and that’s what this film does.” he continued. “We went to a screening once for Greenpeace and they were like, ‘This is our movie!’ … We were just at a Navy base and they were the same way … I love that, because if people really feel that way and they can embrace something that has all these different points of view, that’s the way life is. Life is not one-sided.”
Starship Troopers hasn’t brought about world peace — at least not yet — but the film’s clever satire has drawn praise from all points on the political spectrum, which is why it holds up two decades later as the perfect movie to so many people — and every one of them might give you a different reason as to why.