Wednesday, March 20, 2002

It's currently 0041, and thanks to a small but total computer crash I am still blogging. To recap: I have just finished watching Starship Troopers.

If I want to be a film critic, Starship Troopers is a spotty movie: the special effects are excellent; the acting is sometimes quite good (it is!) and sometimes not; the plot is okay; the depiction of the Federation's military machine is abominable; the feel of the universe is pretty good. But despite this overall mediocrity, I am really quite fond of this movie.

I am fond of it because I do not watch Starship Troopers as a film critic. I watch it as a young man who knows he will not be drafted but is thinking about military service all the same. And more than any other movie - even the very realistic ones, like Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down - Starship Troopers confronts me with the reality I would have to steel myself to face in the armed forces.

I'm not talking about eight-foot arachnids and plastic body armor, of course. Neither the film nor Mr. Heinlein's estimable book has ever been about the time or method of combat, or even the society that gives combat birth (such, at any rate, is my conclusion after reading Expanded Universe), but rather about the timeless quality of the soldier himself, epitomized in the qualities of the infantryman. The carnage, the fear, the unpreparedness, the experience of putting yourself on the line because you've bought into an Idea and then finding out when you're actually on the line that no Idea thought by man is worth it, only the men next to you who are in the same absurd position as you are - those are what I would have to agree to face if I became a soldier, and I would have to agree to face them knowing that I have absolutely no clue what the real thing will be like.

Could I do that? Maybe. But what this movie tells me about myself is that I don't ever, ever want to be in that position. Maybe I'd surprise myself and turn out to have what it takes to be a soldier under fire. Maybe I'd surprise myself even more and come back alive from the experience. But I don't ever want to find out. It makes me respect all the more the people who do face those situations and face them like soldiers - but I don't ever want to be one of those people if I can help it.

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