The latest Rifftrax: Live event, broadcast to theaters in US and Canada
thanks to Fathom Events, was a bit different. Instead of riffing
on an obscure z-grade film that's in the public domain, the Rifftrax
gang took on a big name Hollywood film. Thanks to a successful
Kickstarter campaign, the team was able to purchase the rights to Paul
Verhoeven's sci-fi action flick Starship Troopers. While I was a
bit surprised at the choice, the movie does have a lot of fans, Michael
J. Nelson and the gang did a wonderful job of poking fun at the film.
For those not in the know, the Rifftrax crew is a trio of Mystery
Science Theater 3000 alumni: Michael J. Nelson (head writer and
host), Kevin Murphy (Tom Servo) and Bill Corbett (Crow T. Robot). They
joined together to create a great series of downloadable audio tracks
that could be played along with a film on DVD and featured the crew's
signature barbed jokes and obscure pop references. Every one that
I've heard is very funny and harkens back to the best days of
MST3K. Occasionally they will broadcast a live show to theaters
across the country, billed as Rifftrax: Live. This is my
favorite way to experience a film that they skewer. Watching at
home is fine, but there's no comparison to seeing them on the big
screen with an appreciative audience full of fans.
The jokes start right as soon as patrons walk into the theater.
Instead of the usual elevator music and slide show or ads, Rifftrax
makes their own pre-show entertainment. The slides range from
amusing to hilarious and their original songs are great. This
time the show featured a series of anagrams for viewers to unscramble
(such as "After Aerth" which was decoded as "Hollywood Nepotism"),
assorted movie spoilers ("Hannibal: he doesn't cross the Alps with an
army of elephants") and trivia about the film ("Starship Troopers was
adapted from a book by Robert Heinlein which makes it the only sci-fi
film not adapted from a book by Phillip K. Dick").
The main attraction was Starship Troopers of course. The film
follows a quartet of high school friends living in a futuristic society
where the Earth is run by the military who join the armed forces after
graduation. It's a violent movie with a message and a fairly
strong fan base, so I'm a little surprised that Rifftrax selected this
particular film to skewer. In any case they did and the results
were pretty funny.
The movie is filled with beautiful people, incredibly long battle
scenes and inane military tactics. That's all prime riffing
material, and the guys mercilessly making fun of the movies
faults My favorite riff of the evening: "Now the
fly-by scenes are telling the endless fight scenes 'ya think that's
boring... check this out!'"
There were a lot of other great lines, many of them making fun of the
'futuristic' settings. A cheer went up when someone got
disconnected during a call and Bill said "AT&T is still dropping
calls in the distant future." Another audience favorite was when
someone in the movie mentioned how many meters they were away from
their target. "What!? We're on the metric system?
Then the bugs have already won."
While there were some great lines, and the jokes were sprinkled well
throughout the movie, this event isn't among their very best. The
movie didn't fully lend itself to being riffed. It's a very
bloody and intense film, with people screaming as their arms and legs
are graphically ripped off, brains being sucked from skulls, and people
walking through corpse-filled areas. That fits in with the film's
'war is bad' theme, but it's hard to make something like that funny.
While to the best of my knowledge they didn't edit the film, they did
switch the focus away from the movie during the two nude scenes.
In those cases they had a mini-sketch where Kevin brought in dancing
monkeys. While I can understand why they did that, it was a bit
strange that someone being sprayed with napalm and melting on screen
was fine, but a pair of mammary glands wasn't suitable.
When all was said and done however, a great time was had by all.
There were groups of people standing around the lobby afterwards
talking about their favorite bits, and the audience laughed constantly
through the show. It was a great event, and if you didn't get a
chance to catch it, there is an encore performance on September 12,
2013. It's well worth seeing.