Sunday, 21 March 2010

Starship Troopers: Paul Verhoeven

Paul Verhoeven’s film Starship Troopers (1997), is a science fiction story of a war between 'citizens' and terroristic monsters from another planet and can be read as a film about the ‘fascistic’ dimensions of postmodernity.

When seen in this way, postmodernity can be viewed as an age when an increasingly threatened global capitalist ‘Empire’ denounces all forms of moral ambiguity through a political rhetoric that headlines ‘either you are for us or against us’; that is, when captialism declares war on all forms of otherness.

The film touches upon many other philosophically important themes; especially the relationship between technology, the virtual and the posthuman.

Again, this film is an extremely prescient reminder of what is philosophically at stake in postmodern times: the future of a particularly western notion of what it means to be a ‘human person’.

Neil Turnbull


  1. This really is an excellent movie, and a whole lot cleverer than it looks. The bit I remember best was the scientist/mind reader type placing his hand on the alien and saying 'it's afraid,' which was greeted by jingoistic shouts and militaristic jeers. The theme of empire in the face of undenominated otherness is straight out of 'Zulu.' Gender equality between citizens as well! It's like Plato's Republic on well-sourced speed.

  2. I guess what interests me is in considering what exactly is meant by "philosophically" interpreting films in the way that these film posts assume. We have what can be viewed as philosophical content here, whereby we can "read off" philosophical themes, for example in this case, questions concerning the impact of technology on notions of personhood. Film thus becomes a form of philosophical text. This is certainly useful and perfectly valid when attempting to illuminate complex philosophical ideas, especially for teaching purposes!

    But there is another form of philosophical questioning in relation to film, which is where my interests lie, namely considering them as unique objects of philosophical scrutiny in their own right.

    For example, Deleuze explores the film image in terms of time and movement--suggesting, for example, that the film image is unique in that the camera lens offers us a mode of perception that is unique to the machine, since it frees perception from the human eye and therefore from the human subject, instead roaming free. The camera eye (and image) therefore calls into question the human privileging of its own subjective modes of perception.

    Likewise, time and space may be compressed or extended in film narratives in ways that throw our subjective understanding of these everyday, taken-for-granted phenomena into sharp philosophical relief. In this way, film enables time to become an object in its own right, purely objective rather than rooted in the human subject's perception apparatus.
    For me, this is where philosophical endeavour lies in relation to film...

  3. I think that the way films treat time is very iteresting. Typically a much longer period than the film's duration is condensed in to a disjointed view. This is a distortion of reality and highlights events that are important to a single narrative but do not make characters in to whole people.

    Similarly it's interesting that in the popular Fox series 24 -where "Events occur in REALtime" - the intention of getting closer to reality goes by the wayside in favour of continous adrenalin pumping action. Even in so called reality TV the viewer is pasive and only receives edited highlights of the real thing.

    Different again, some films such as Melinda and Melinda (Woody Allen) or Hero (Zhang Yimou) tell a story with a few key events in different ways, stretching out events and giving away more about the characters.

    I think that the interest in 3D films this winter shows how little people care about a plot but a real talent in the contemporary cinema-go'er to enjoy more intuitive aspects of a film such as camera aspect and pace.

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  5. But doesn't the content of the film reveal something about the ontology of the present? What about the film's historicity?

    Surely we can see the film as in some way an attempt to 'sublimate collective poltical anxieties'?

    In this way, film is philosophy; albeit in a technological mode.

    Maybe in the future philosophers will make films rather than write books

  6. I think that our technological development excedes our cultural develpment and as such our experience of the film as an object rather than its content, ascends to primacy.

    The content can still be intellectualised but that doesn't have any of the spectacle that people enjoy.

    I don't really understand what you mean by -film as an attempt to 'sublimate collective poitical anxieties'-?

  7. I agree that films are philosophical texts in a similar way to books, and have philosophical meaning as a result--one can therefore make philosophical readings from them. And yes, they are a good vehicle for philosophy, since they are able to present complex ideas in a succinct way--a series of narratives representations can convey a host of philosophical notions.

    However, as I suggested, films are also philosophical objects in their own right, have unique properties which differ in essence from texts such as books, and therefore also merit being treated as a different philosophical medium. This approach doesn't conflict with what I have termed the "philosophical content" approach. Instead, it operates at a meta-level.

    My point is that there is more to films than merely their philosophical content (eg their themes, issues, historical and cultural context and so on), and that there are different and, to me more interesting and revealing, ways of doing philosophy in relation to films, since the philosophical content method is not particular to film, nor is it designed with film in mind...