If you've read Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers, then you know that Paul Verhoeven's adaptation diverges wildly from the source material. If you haven't read the 1959 book, one of the biggest difference is a simple one: its humans fight the aliens not like boots-on-the-ground grunts walking into a meat grinder, but from within large, mechanized suits of war called power armor. And there's an equally simple reason Verhoeven and company didn't use said power armor, but before we get to that, let's look at a bit of Starship Troopers that did.
Nearly a decade before Verhoeven made his film, there was a Japanese OVA with the literal title Soldiers of Space that stuck far closer to Heinlein's novel, particularly when it came to the power armor. Now 23 years later, a fan has taken the power armor from the six-film anime series and made it a reality. Well, kind of. You're not going to go on a bug hunt in it, but you can certainly stand next to it and still feel like a badass. Hit up Dvice for more images of the suit, as well as a clip from the OVA.
Now as for why the film decided not to use this highly influential piece of Heinlein's industrial military complex, it just so happens we spoke to visual effects wizard Phil Tippett about that recently. As you may recall, we chatted with Tippett thanks to a special Alamo Drafthouse screening of Jurassic Park, and since I am a die hard fan of Verhoeven's film, a chunk of our interview time was spent on Starship Troopers. We're still saving the entirety of that interview for when the JP trilogy hits Blu-ray October 25th, but while we're on the topic, we might as well share this concise insight as to why the power arm was shelved:
Phil Tippett: The power suit thing was more of a budgetary thing. In some of the first meetings we opened up the hood and looked at what it would take to integrate all of those things and it was really a budgetary show stopper. It was a choice: power suits or bugs and Paul went with bugs.
Movies.com: Well I think it paid off.
Tippett: Yeah, it was just Paul's sensibility. Once he found the movie he wanted to make, it was all clear. It was just... Sandra Dee and Tab Hunter as fascists, you know? [laughs]
So there ya' have it. It wasn't out of any dislike for the suits, they were just too expensive and would have probably just gotten in the way of the satire. Oh, and if you love Starship Troopers as much as we do, we spoke to the film's second unit director, Vic Armstrong, earlier this year.