News Article

Marching Order

Movie's website recruits legions of devoted fans

Giving the term media blitz an eerie new meaning, TriStar Pictures' Starship Troopers website (www.starshiptroopers.com) cunningly blurs the borders between movie and military propaganda. Among the flashing jingoistic slogans of the war-bunker interface, users can ''enlist'' as a virtual volunteer with the movie's space-bug-battling soldiers.

After completing a brief survey, recruits swear to obey a regimented code of conduct; join 50-person, E-mail-swapping platoons; and earn points and possible prizes by recruiting others as well as by scoring high on videogames. Online troopers can also be mobilized — via mass E-mailings — to ''infiltrate'' public chat rooms at specified times to promote movie buzz. And in an unprecedented film-site feature, the soldiers can download templates to create personal Mobile Infantry home pages.

Should this sort of para-cinematic militia — numbering 40,000 as of Nov. 5 and, according to Columbia TriStar Interactive, growing at the rate of more than 5,000 virtual troopers a day, even before the movie's Nov. 7 opening — scare civilians? Contends Lynda Keeler, Columbia TriStar Interactive's vice president of marketing, ''We simply took Starship Troopers' focus on military life and made that the site's centerpiece.'' The troops, she adds, will be called into action only ''as an internal promotional tool.''

Perhaps the next orders to be issued to the cyberspace infantry: Wage an E-mail assault on traitorous movie reviewers.

Originally posted Nov 21, 1997 Published in issue #406 Nov 21, 1997 Order article reprints