We've had one divisive big-time feature film, a handful of shitty sequels, a better-than-you'd-think animated series — but nothing has lived up to the jingoistic brilliance of Heinlein's military-sci-fi classic.
It's influence can be felt through modern science fiction, from the exoskeletal Armored Mobility Platforms in Avatar to the star-stranded grunts of Joe Haldeman's Forever War. It's one of the rare works of sci-fi to be endorsed by the Armed Forces. And it's bloody cool. But no one has yet to do justice to Starship Troopers itself.
Robert A. Heinlein's 1959 novel follows Juan Rico — a new recruit in the Terran Federation's Mobile Infantry — through enlistment, training, commission, and to the front lines of a war against the "bugs," an alien species called the Klendathu. Controversal, at times, for it's stance in favor of the military — only those who have served have the right to vote, because only veterans have proven by example that they can put aside self-interest and choose for the good of the many — Starship is also a rich YA adventure story, with it's fair share of stunning set pieces and techno-shimmery toys. (For more on the book itself, Josh Wimmer's got you covered.)
Paul Verhoeven's 1997 adaptation decided to eschew the powered armor suits — and subtlety — in favor of pulpy satire, complete with a plastic cast (Casper Van Dien, Denise Richards!) and outgrageous propaganda. Some think it's brilliant, others think it's a travesty; but regardless of where you come down, is clear that it's not Heinlein's Troopers. And, neither are the direct-to-video sequels; though the lack of budget forced those filmmakers, oddly enough, to reembrace a harder military tone, if not actual quality. (Ironically, the CG animated series Roughnecks got more of the author's spirit on the screen — but it's still a kid's show.)
Why doesn't Syfy or AMC or HBO roll the dice and make a Starship Troopers miniseries, one with all the production value and attention to detail of The Pacific or Battlestar Galactica? Why not simply tell this story, the one that won a Hugo way back when, the one that all but created a whole subgenre of science fiction...and still hovers over it today? I'd watch it: Not only do I love the source material, but there's nothing else like it currently on TV. And, like Sun Tzu probably never said, "Don't hit 'em where they are, hit 'em where they ain't."