Executive producer Edward Neumeier takes us inside the world of Starship Troopers: Invasion, currently available on Blu-ray and DVD
There are few who know the Starship Troopers universe better than Edward Neumeier. He first adapted the classic Robert A. Heinlein sci-fi novel for 1997's Starship Troopers. He also wrote Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation and made his directorial debut with Starship Troopers 3: Marauder. The next installment in this sci-fi franchise is the animated Starship Troopers: Invasion, currently available on Blu-ray and DVD, which he executive produced. I recently had the chance to speak with Edward Neumeier about this new animated adventure. Would you like to know more? Then take a look what what he had to say.
I've been a fan of this series ever since it started, so it's great to see a new incarnation of this. Was animation always the next logical step for you, in furthering this franchise?
Edward Neumeier: Two movies I've done, that I think I have a fair amount of responsibility for, have had animation shows with them. They're about big, giant things that boys like, robots, giant bugs, and guys shooting things. They lent themselves, in some people's eyes to animation. I think, in this case, there is another thing happening. The whole animation work is making jumps and learning how to do something that is, essentially, going to be the industry standard of how we make a lot of our visual stuff. I don't think that production as we know it will go away completely, but motion capture will be there in some ways. I think animation is something we're going to see a lot of movies doing, and there's sort of a battle right now, between animation and reality. The interesting thing about Starship Troopers: Invasion is that it gave a little over 100 people, under the direction of Shinji Aramaki, the chance and this canvas to do all this new stuff that you can do now. They're very inventive, and I particularly liked watching what they did with the military stuff. As you probably know, Starship has its own tradition in Japan. In my sense of things, the Japanese tradition is sort of older than the American tradition. There are a lot of people who like it, but the Japanese were fascinated with the idea with the armor. There was a famous picture in Tokyo years ago that showed the idea that this giant tank thing was so nimble, it could pick up an egg. That was the thing that everybody was interested in, and that was in the early 60s, I think, in Japan. Starship became more of a cultural item in America during the Vietnam War, in a lot of ways. People joined the military, as it were, because of that book. Many people have told me that. People got different things out of it, which is what I liked about it. I think you can do many different things with it, and I think they will, because it's a nice little playground for people.
I imagine that animation frees you up a lot, in terms of getting exactly what you want on the screen, instead of dealing with all sorts of visual effects.
Edward Neumeier: I don't know. I was talking with the writer today. They brought in a guy who has done animation work before. He's a guy I knew pretty well, and, by coincidence, he knew Joseph Chou, the producer who, I believe, shares a story credit with (screenwriter) Flint Dille and Shinji Aramaki on this world. One of the things that I didn't understand about animation is you are always trying to wire something together with a piece of tinfoil and a rubber band. I'm sure he thought writing it would be, 'Hey, we can do anything now. It's animation!' That's what they're afraid of. It literally does break down like it does in live-action, with $100 million in 1997, which is a lot of money now. They still said, 'OK, you can have this many bugs, you can't have this armor, we just can't do it.' There is a resource game you're still playing. The animator is always worried about the person who doesn't understand it's not a big rubber stamp kit.
I talked to (executive producer) Casper Van Dien a few months ago for another movie he did. He was really excited about seeing this come out. Could you talk a bit about working with him as a producer this time around?
Edward Neumeier: Oh Casper, I feel like he's my really handsome kid brother who knows how to do everything. He's like a version of me I wish I was, you know (Laughs). We hang out and talk a lot. We were trying to figure out what else to do. We always wanted to make another Starship Troopers, if someone would put up the money for it. We have made money for people, let us do it again. We are intrigued by other things, as we get on in our years. We have a long-established collaboration now, because we both love John Ford and John Wayne. We talk about them all the time. In Starship Troopers 3, that's all we did, talk about John Ford and John Wayne. 'What would John Wayne do here? What did John Wayne do in this movie?' I'm not saying that I shot anything as good as that, but it's just a really fun thing to play with.
I'm a huge John Ford and John Wayne fan myself, so that's awesome.
Edward Neumeier: OK, what's your favorite John Ford movie, if you had to say right now?
Edward Neumeier: Ah, a Searchers man. Thank God they are still out there. I am a big Ethan Edwards guy.
Can you talk a bit about the timeline of the whole story and where it fits into the universe? Carmen and Johnny are still in here, so can you talk about where in the time frame of this universe this is set?
Edward Neumeier: I think everybody is still set into this idea that, in 1997, they won the war, although it was whatever year it was, and year by year has gone by. So, here we are, 15 or 16 years later. I guess what you could say is war is a weird thing. By the time you catch up with these people, they are middle-aged. They would be... what would they be now? 40 or 42, something like that, you know. You think about military cultures who have been at war for long periods of time, like Vietnam and stuff like that. They'd be old-looking people at this time, and they would have been through a lot. It's the middle-aged Starship crowd. I guess Carl is a pretty weird guy now. He seems like a good guy, but it's almost like the corporate bad guys in Robocop 2 and RoboCop 3. They became increasingly like, 'Hey, that's the bad guy.' They do pull him out in a nice way. What's interesting about Carmen, is there is some interesting issue she has with the ship. I can tell you where that should have been taken, but they didn't hire me (to write the script). Johnny shows up, and he's great as usual. He has an eyepatch, that may have happened because of True Grit. You never know.
They are working on a live-action remake of Starship Troopers. Are you involved in that in any way?
Edward Neumeier: I am technically an executive producer, which means they never have to talk to me again. I've talked to them a couple of times. I would say that's a few years off, probably three. My only thing to them was, 'Hey, it's a great place to go play. My recommendation is to send your writers on a little field trip and let them experience actual military culture, so they are writing about one of the reasons why people like Starship Troopers.' My producer, Jon Davison, who did Robocop also, always used to say to me, 'You have to make sure your core audience is looked after. If you lose them, you can't ever get anybody else.' That is very smart, commercial thinking. I would say you better make sure you're making a movie that the military guys and those who like the military will like. There's a gym, in Afghanistan, whether you like it or not, called the Johnny Rico Starship Troopers Crossfit Gym. It has an enormous picture of Casper Van Dien holding a Marita on a battlefield, from Starship 1. I grew up in the most liberal places, and my policies are probably as liberal as anyone, and, in many ways, I think there is a warrior culture that is about us, that we enjoy. Even if we don't become soldiers, we play with it in our minds. I think that's a healthy thing to do, even for a savage species such as our own.
Are you also an executive producer on the RoboCop remake too?
Edward Neumeier: No, they don't have anything to do with me, man. Sometimes, it's a good thing, and sometimes you wish you could say, 'No, don't!' I don't know. I've gotten used to it, because it's happened to me ever since RoboCop. 'Hey, thanks a lot, now get the f*&k out of here.' Or, 'It's our way or the highway.' Or, 'There's a strike, you're out.' All those things happen. You see what other people have done with the material, and it's actually kind of interesting, after awhile. One of the most interesting variations on it is District 9. I met one of the art directors on District 9, and he said, 'All we talked about on District 9 was RoboCop.' It was a muse for them, and when I watched it, I felt a deep sense of collective satisfaction. Neill Blomkamp is such a talented guy, you know, and he's played with these things I played with and he clearly has a little bit of Paul Verhoeven injected in him somewhere. It's satisfying to understand yourself as being a part of that process.
Edward Neumeier: Of course they should. They should check out the gear, it's really great. Shinji Aramaki is a gearhead's gearhead, with military gear and machines. When you see how he handles it, you realize he's an artist. I am a gearhead from way back. I used to rebuild cars and stuff. My mother gave me robots for my birthday because I whined about them. Look what happened to me!
Great. That's my time. Thanks so much. It was great talking to you.
Edward Neumeier: It was very nice talking to you, sir. I hope to talk to you again.