At the RiffTrax of “Starship Troopers”: A bunch of very white beautiful young people in space will all ways beat out 3 over-weight old white guys who think they’re funny!

Hello. This is a Korean in America. Today, I went to go see RiffTrax’s performance of the movie, “Starship Troopers”, courtesy of Fathom events and my local AMC multiplex. And the movie “Starship Troopers” kicked RiffTrax’s ass.

This is my first introduction to Mystery Science Theater 3000 style movie commentary. From the experience today…, this style of commentary consists of throwing jokes at the screen and see what sticks. With RiffTrax, you have 3 over-weight old white guys, who think they are comedians although this is debatable, on one side of the stage showing 1997 Paul Verhoeven’s Sci-fi flick, “Starship Troopers”. From my tone, you can guess I had some problems with RiffTrax’s performance.

Before I go into details about the performance, I will briefly talk about the production quality. There were serious issues with it. While the performance is filmed and streamed from a theater somewhere, we saw majority of the performance with the movie taking up the majority of the screen and the RiffTrax crew talking up one side of the screen in the form of chat windows. Visually, the quality of “Starship Troopers” displayed was poor. It lacked definition and clarity. As someone who saw the movie originally play during its original theatric run, it looked like a good VHS copy or a poorly transferred early DVD version. They should at least have gotten the Blu-ray version.

The audio quality had much left to be desired. I am not talking about the movie audio which was not terrible. I am talking about the RiffTrax crew’s audio. “Starship Troopers” is not a quiet movie. It is a consistently loud movie with a bombastic soundtrack blaring every second. This creates a problem when the main attraction is the audio commentary put over the movie’s audio. You cannot hear 15-20 % of the RiffTrax crew’s commentary. There is no attempt to modulate the movie audio to make the commentary consistently audible.

Putting aside the technical stuff,  RiffTrax’s performance was lack luster with only about 20% of their material working. The reason behind this poor performance can be explain in two parts. First, the RiffTrax crew are not great comedians. The style of comedy they do is very white, very middle class, very broad comedy. You can say it is in line with the comedy of the sitcom “Two and the half men”.  Don’t get me wrong, I do not hate “Two and the half men” especially during its earlier seasons. However, the RiffTrax crew makes “Two and the half men” feel like an edgy sitcom. It is that white! It makes me wish for a room full of Jewish comedy writers.

Consistent with the average age of the crew which seemed to be around 55 years, 90% of the comedy material was older than the movie they were making fun of. They actually did a Sim-ant joke! Sim-Ant is a PC simulation game that came out in 1991. No one under the age of 30 knows what Sim-ant is. The material is that old. Even the newer jokes, that is jokes created after the end of the 20th  century, are all familiar ones you’ve heard before done by many other people to death.

Second, the choice of the movie was not suited to RiffTrax’s approach to comedic commentary. RiffTrax’s approach is to toss out one line jokes every 10~15 seconds. Think about rapid fire improve comedy shown in such programs as “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”. This means that the crew’s dialog consist of only the punch-line of the joke and not the setup. The setup is delivered by the movie itself. When something odd or interesting catches your eye on screen, that is the setup which is followed by the crew’s punch-line. Because of this structure, this type of comedy is a “hit and miss” affair requiring the bucket to be thrown on the screen and seeing what sticks.

With movies with slower paces and more obviously silly or campy things happening on screen, this works better. The problem is that “Starship Troopers” is not that kind of movie. The pace is consistently driven like a boot camp trainee and there are things happening on screen every second. So, it is easy for us, the audience, to miss a setup since the punch line comes every 15 seconds. In addition, this pace means that a setup is being shown on screen while a punch line is being delivered by one of the crew. For the crew who prepared a script and seen this movie many times to prepare, this may not be much of a problem. However, this is not the case for the audience. The result is that the crew gets tiresome after an hour or so. You just wish they can take a break for 20 minutes so you can see the movie in peace.

I cannot say that it was not an enjoyable experience overall. While the comedic material only worked 20% of the time, it was funny when it worked. There is also the movie which the RiffTrax crew is making fun of. What was surprising for a casual fan of the movie was that the movie holds up! It really does! After almost two decades, the movie still works with all the special effects and the action. Since you know all the problems with the movie and accepted it, the movie flows like butter with all the cheese on the side. The director, Paul Verhoeven with all his issues, could really film a visually dense movie. While the script may not be Shakespeare, there is a lot of information delivered through the visuals.  And we should not forget that the movie is filled with all the beautiful white actors in their 20s in Hollywood at that time! It is fun seeing all the smooth skins and beauty on screen knowing that they are all old know and much less pretty with varying degree of drug and alcohol issues.

In conclusion, the RiffTrax experience of “Starship Troopers” may not be for everyone. You have to be middle aged, middle class, white person to get most out of the experience. However, if you can stomach very broad humor with some cheesy sex jokes…well a lot of cheesy sex jokes, you will be entertained.

At the end of the day, the only thing I have left to say is…” Come on you apes, you wanna live forever?

We need you all. Service guarantees citizenship!  

Score: C


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