We really hope the war ends soon. For one, we want our troops home and safe, as soon as possible. But, as an on-the-side benefit, we'd really like to put an end to those damn war movies that keep coming out. From dramas like Lions For Lambs and The Hurt Locker, to gritty documentaries like Restrepo and No End In Sight, to savagely critical works like Fahrenheit 9/11 and Starship Troopers, it seems like more and more sandy and depressing war movies are taking over our cine-
Yes, Starship Troopers. The campy anti-war satire about a race from a distant, desert land, who out of nowhere strikes a civilian target in a way we didn't think was possible, leading to heavy-handed patriotic propaganda, and a headlong rush into a war with a poorly thought-out strategy that results in a quagmire. You don't have to agree with the message to get that it's clearly a satirical send-up of the War on Terror. If anything, it's too on-the-nose.
What's that, you say? The movie was made in 1997, four years before 9/11? Hmmm. That is a problem. We mean, we're not saying Paul Verhoeven traveled forward in time and then traveled back to film a commentary on a future war (because that would be an absolutely HORRIBLE waste of time travel), but... well, yeah, maybe we're saying he did that. Look how they line up:
In The Film:
The movie follows Johnny Rico, a dumb jock from a weirdly Aryan-looking Buenos Aires of the future, as he signs up for the Mobile Infantry to protect the human race from the Arachnids, hive-minded, insectoid aliens. The war Johnny is training for is purely theoretical for the first 50 minutes of the film and then, suddenly, war is declared. What's the trigger? An asteroid strike on Johnny's home city of Bueno Aires, which destroys the city and kills over eight and a half million people. This, for the humans, is an absolute shock to the system, a blow made all the more devastating by the fact that the Arachnids don't have a colony within fifty thousand light years of Earth.
In space terms, that's this much.
That they shot an asteroid from halfway across the galaxy and managed to hit, not only another planet, but the planet they actually aimed at, is not just impressive, its goddamned miraculous. Especially considering that the Arachnids don't seem to have much knowledge of math and interstellar travel -- their species spreads to other planets by shooting their spores into space and hoping for the best. In fact it's so amazing that it's either a plot hole or a surprisingly subtle plot point- there's a theory among Starship Troopers fans that the attack was either a random collision that the government used as an excuse for war, or a deliberate attack by the government on its own people to justify attacking the bugs.
Either way, humanity promptly loses its shit and declares war on all bugs everywhere.
"Well this seems easy enough."
In Real Life:
You can see right away how the plot mimics real events. Before 9/11, the threat of Islamic terror was lingering out there, but wasn't immediate -- just like the bugs in the movie. Then there's an attack on a civilian target that comes as just as much a shock to the system, as it demonstrated a capability no one thought the terrorists had. The US promptly lost its shit and declared war on the very notion of terrorism, entering into an armed conflict against an abstract concept like only America can.
"And after we beat Terrorism, we're gonna beat Drugs! Then we're going to take on Sadness!"
There are some crucial differences between the movie and real life. For one thing, plus, in war time here on Real Earth, Denise Richards is probably the last person we'd call for support, (assuming the war was not being fought by boners).
"We need at least six more boners to the frontline. Richards, get out there!"
Also, 9/11 was obviously not some random coincidence or inside job. Sure, in a shitty movie, fans will wildly speculate all the time and talk about how the government attacked Buenos Aires on purpose and blamed the bugs, but no one in real life would look at 9/11 and whip up a bunch of crazy, nonsensical, conspiracy theories about "what really happened, right?
In The Film:
The humans quickly mobilize to destroy the Arachnids, sending their space fleet to the Arachnid homeworld of Klendathu. They recklessly charge in, with little thought given to tactics or battle plans. And so what? The enemy is bugs. Who needs tactics?
"I need a really big magnifying glass, stat!"
Well, the bugs have other ideas. Turns out there is one breed of Arachnid that can unload a huge, steaming pile of blue plasma right on into space. Though they don't have sophisticated aiming capabilities, just squirting plasma upwards makes short work of a few human spaceships, while the Arachnid foot soldiers for the Mobile Infantry to retreat in panic from an enemy who was better prepared, better armed and in greater numbers than they expected.
"The giant, armored bugs are defending themselves somehow!"
But this movie is crazy, it was directed by the guy who directed Showgirls. No real military would be as misinformed and unprepared as the military in a move about fighting massive, shrieking bug-monsters, right?
In Real Life:
Operation Anaconda was the first major engagement of the War On Terror. The idea was to attack a force of around 200 Al Qaeda soldiers in the Shahi-Kot Valley from the west, causing them to flee into the waiting arms of more US soldiers in the east, in what's known as a "Hammer and Anvil" strategy.
Just one problem: Al Qaeda did not flee, but stood their ground.
Just one other problem: There were not 200 enemy soldiers in the valley; there were up to five times that amount.
Just one further other problem: the US military planners had assumed the enemy were armed with machine guns; they actually had mortars, rifles and rockets, and the planners assumed that Al Qaeda were in the valley, (they were in caves in the mountains surrounding the valley), and a convoy broke off from the main "TF Hammer" force to reach an observation point they'd been assigned to. And an AC-130, which was supposed to be providing firing and recon support during the battle thought they were an Al Qaeda convoy and attacked them. This friendly fire battle resulted in the first casualty of the operation.
The rest of TF Hammer came under heavy mortar fire from the prepared and entrenched Al Qaeda, and their air support turned out to consist of six bombs, and their attack didn't actually make it into the valley, meaning that TF Anvil, arriving via helicopter, did not close the trap as had been intended, but instead found a trap closing around them, as they were attacked by an enemy who was better prepared, better armed, in greater numbers, and from a better-fortified position than they expected.
No word on whether they had massive pincers and exoskeletons.
In The Film:
After being unpleasantly surprised by the Arachnids' willingness to fight back and defend their home, the human military in Starship Troopers come up with a new battle plan: "Fleet glasses the planet, MI mops up." Basically, rather than wading in and fighting whatever they find, they first bombard the planet with explosives, making it easier for the Mobile Infantry to take out the survivors. We see one of these aerial bombardments in action, not on the planet they invaded originally, but on a completely different planet called Tango Urilla. The jet fighters fly overhead and drop bombs, the bugs scream in terror and try to run away, but get blown to pieces in their thousands.
Space travel has obviously not yet equipped them with super-nukes.
Johnny and his squad then walk in and successfully wipe out the remnants, before being sent off to yet another planet called Planet P, where the rest of the film takes place.
In Real Life:
Oh come on. You already know the real-life version of this, it's part of America's national language by now. Basically, after being unpleasantly surprised by the enemy's willingness to fight back in Afghanistan, the American military came up with a new battle plan for their invasion of Iraq: Shock and Awe. Essentially, they bombarded Baghdad with explosives, with the intention of demoralizing Saddam Hussein's military out of actually fighting.
In both cases, that's a disastrous first engagement as a result of underestimating the enemy, and an attempt to compensate next time around with heavy aerial bombardment.
Also? Here are those planets the military attacked in Troopers...
...aaand here we are...