Released in 1997, Paul Verhoeven's adaptation of a pulp sci-fi novel was reasonably well received on its release.
Critics noted that the film was somewhat shallow and more aimed at a younger male audience, eager for action and spectacle. It had it all - a rousing score by Basil Poledouris, frequent action setpieces and incredible CGI, a director known for making violent sci-fi films like Robocop and Total Recall - and yet, there was something utterly evil and insidious lying underneath the surface that people at the time didn't even bother to look at because, well, it didn't speak to any real fears at the time.
The source novel by Robert A. Heinelein spoke of a world far into the future where Western democracies failed under the brunt of social delinquency, lack of moral values and foreign interference. Heinlein's attempts were aimed at creating a perfect world government that embraced militarism and citizenship into one, forming under wise leaders with exceptional military strength. This was effectively mirrored in Verhoeven's version of events, but everything was tinged ever so slightly with fascist iconography. In fact, Verhoeven had some experience with it. He was born in Nazi-occupied Holland with his parents almost dying during an Allied bombing raid. He later lived close to the headquarters of the German occupation in The Hague and saw first-hand what a fascist government looked like.
What Verhoeven and screenwriter Edward Neumeier initially wanted was to make a film about teenagers who get swept up in fascism in Nazi Germany and don't even realise that it's happening to them. Both of them correctly predicted that no studio in the entire world would even consider funding a project of this kind and certainly wouldn't even entertain the notion.
So, Verhoeven and Neumeier did what everyone does when they've got an idea too weird for most audiences and studios - they throw a lot of sci-fi trappings over it and lace with technobabble to hide it just enough to make it past the producers.
Verhoeven admitted that Sony's upper management was hired and fired almost every three months, meaning that nobody even knew what the film was about. The heavy-handed Nazi iconography is so glaringly obvious now that it's a wonder nobody saw it during production. Only one Sony executive brought up some of the fascist imagery and the fact that one of the flags looked like a Nazi symbol, according to Verhoeven. He managed to placate the executive by pointing out that they were different colours.
Indeed, the film is laced with Nazi and fascist iconography. Most of the newsreels were shot-by-shot remakes of actual reels from Nazi Germany, particularly the opening 'Join Up Now!' with its blonde-haired, blue-eyed child soldier in the middle of a sea of hardened veterans. The officer uniforms feature jackboots and greatcoats whilst the enlisted soldiers wear braces and caps like German stormtroopers. Everyone of the heroes of the film were specifically chosen by Verhoeven and Neumeier on the basis that they were beautiful, athletic and square-jawed - exactly the kind of people that would fit into a propaganda film produced by Goebbels.
The casual use of violence, Michael Ironside's teacher character dismissing democracy with a wave in a high-school class, even down to the way the antagonists of the film are referred to simply as 'bugs' and completely other the enemy - it's a fascinating watch when you realise that Verhoeven was hiding all this under the guise of just another sci-fi film.
When we look at how Donald Trump swept to power and how the far-right is slowly beginning to permeate political life and become normalised, it's little wonder that Starship Troopers is still so incredibly resonant today. When you watch it without realising the layers beneath that Verhoeven was showing, fascism and militarism has become so normalised in their world. Nobody bats an eye or thinks anything of just how deeply undemocratic their society is or even questions how and why their society is formed. It's fascinating to note that Verhoeven and Neumeier didn't even think for a second that this would become a reality.
As described it in an interview with AV Club in 2007, he and Neumeier "were just tapping things that we saw at that time, and then extrapolated, unfortunately into a direction that life took."