There were many wondering how the guys of RiffTrax would make fun of a film that basically makes fun of itself. Well, whatever doubts were felt prior to the Aug. 15 showing of “RiffTrax Live: Starship Troopers” easily vacated people’s minds, as the three former stars of “Mystery Science Theatre 3000” dismantled Paul Verhoeven’s 1997 science fiction cult classic.
Now, RiffTrax is a pretty tame brand of humor; Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett don’t swear throughout their entire set. This live event was the first time the trio tackled a well-known film, and it was also the first time for one that is R-rated.
Usually, the three guys do a previous riff on the film and then create new material for the live event. With this, it was started on Kickstarter as a means to raise funds to do a live spoof of “Twilight.” After the goal was met, Summit Entertainment refused to give the guys the rights to the film about sparkly vampires. So, they decided to use Verhoeven’s campy, futuristic feature about the military versus giant bugs, which is a good substitute.
“Starship Troopers” is known for not only being a violent, sci-fi war movie, but its shower scene, in which we see the entire cast cleaning off after a long day in training. Instead of censoring the entire screen, the three guys created a clever way to not show any nudity by pulling the camera away and focusing on the audience. 2013 marks the seventh anniversary for RiffTrax, and Murphy told the guys that, as a celebration, he got a gorillagram, which consisted of a man in a gorilla suit running out to the stage with balloons and dancing. Of course, the live audience still had the film onscreen, but their attention was more focused on the gorilla. And, yes, there is a second nude scene in the movie. Murphy brought out two gorillagrams for this part.
Aside from the nude scenes, the rest of the movie ran uncensored, so audiences got to see all the bug blood splatter and dismemberment of soldiers.
One of the great things about these RiffTrax Live events is they always have hilarious pre-show slides before the start of the movie. This one had slides for anagrams, movie trivia, and “movies that could have also been called ‘Starship Troopers.’” The latter had titles like “Star Wars” and “Star Trek.”
The group’s material is usually filled with referential humor. During the movie, when a character asks Denise Richards’ character, Carmen, if she’s “doing anything afterward,” one of the guys chimed in with, “Yeah, Matt Dillon and Neve Campbell” – a reference to 1998’s “Wild Things.” Of course, the three also took jabs at the atrocious acting by Richards, Casper Van Dien, Neil Patrick Harris, Jake Busey, and the others in the film.
Despite being a self-aware film, “Starship Troopers” is loud, repetitive, and cliched. The guys took jabs at how “80 percent” of the movie’s final segment consisted of someone saying “Move! Move! Move!” and how there were endless gun battles and scenes of ships flying by.
There were moments where it felt like the movie was too loud, and it was hard to understand some of the jokes being told. This didn’t happen a lot, but it was still a bit frustrating to not really hear what was being said, and then hearing the live audience laugh. But, despite some technical issues, the guys at RiffTrax put on yet another great show.
References to “The Fugitive,” the marriage of Richards and Charlie Sheen, and other pop culture-related material all made for great laughs, but the best joke of the night came from Nelson. After Jean Rasczak (Michael Ironside) told Johnny Rico (Van Dien) that he was “it, until you’re dead or I find someone better,” Nelson follows it with: “Awe, my wedding vows.”
For those who missed the event, there will be a special encore presentation on Sept. 12. Tickets will go on sale Aug. 30. Don’t miss it!
The next RiffTrax Live event will be a special, Halloween showing of “Night of the Living Dead” on Oct. 24. Tickets for that event also go on sale Aug. 30.
Special thanks to Fathom Events for providing press passes to this event.