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Starship Troopers (1997)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 8/5/2008

All Rating out of
Movie: 1/2
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/3/2008

As someone who doesn't like war, I typically don't like war movies. Most war films look exactly alike to me, especially those that portray World War II. The one war film that I do enjoy, some would argue isn't a war movie at all. But, I feel that Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers is not only a great action film, but one of the best movies ever to illustrate the harsh realities of war.

Starship Troopers is set in an undisclosed future, where the Earth is locked in combat with an alien force from the planet Klandathu. (The aliens are giant bugs known as Arachnids.) The story opens in Brazil (?!), where we meet Johnny Rico (Casper Van Diem), a young man who comes from a wealthy family, but longs for something else. His girlfriend, Carmen Ibanez (Denise Richards), plans to be a starship pilot, while Johnny's best friend, Carl (Neil Patrick Harris), who is psychic, wants to join military intelligence. As Johnny is an athlete who isn't very good in school, he signs up for the Mobile Infantry, much to the chagrin of his parents. Soon, Johnny, Carmen, and Carl are all shipped off for training. When the Arachnids launch a major assault on Earth and Brazil is destroyed, Earth's military forces are sent to Klandathu to retaliate. Starship Troopers follows Johnny, Carmen, and Carl as they each go into battle against the bugs. Once on Klandathu, Johnny will face a great deal of death and carnage, and must struggle to be a brave soldier.

Allow me to say that I love Starship Troopers, and to this day, I can't believe that it didn't do better at the box-office. This film has it all. The sci-fi elements are great, as the soldiers from Earth must battle these bizarre aliens. This leads to some fantastic action sequences and the CGI bug effects still look very good some six years later. The movie has a convincing human story, and takes the time to let the audience get to know Johnny and his friends. Director Verhoeven is known for not pulling any punches and Starship Troopers deftly mixes a great story with some truly shocking images. He also knows how to keep a film moving along, and even with a running time of over 2 hours, the movie seems to fly by.

But the facet of Starship Troopers which I think is often overlooked is the political aspect. The film is based on a novel by sci-fi legend Robert A. Heinlein. Screenwriter Ed Neumeier has taken the basis of the novel and added many action scenes. However, if one looks carefully, the film carries a very subversive message about war. The thing that I don't like about films such as Saving Private Ryan or Windtalkers is that they beat you over the head with the message, "War is hell!". We know that, we don't need to have that rammed down our throats. Starship Troopers sends this same message, but in a more subtle manner. Notice how all of the young actors are very attractive, while the older characters, such as Michael Ironside's Lt. Rasczak are haggard and often deformed. As the story progresses, we watch our main young characters undergo a similar physical transformation. I could go on and on with many more examples, but suffice it to say that Starship Troopers is a fine example of how a real-world message can be delivered via symbolism. (For more on this, check out Verhoeven's commentary.)

Starship Troopers invades Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film is letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is very sharp, but there is notable grain in some shots. In the classroom scene, the corners of the frame get very grainy. Also, fleshtones are a bit waxy in some scenes. Colors are very good, especially bright reds and greens. The brightness of the image is appropriate, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The picture has a very nice depth, and the landscape shots look fantastic. The Disc offers a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.2 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a very good track and of the better Dolby TrueHD tracks that I've heard on an (relatively) older film. The stereo effects are very good and very detailed. They really provide a sense of place in certain scenes. Likewise, the surround sound effects are good as well, as we hear the planes fly by us and the bugs move through a scene. The subwoofer effects are a bit weak, and explosions don't provide very much "oomph".

The Starship Troopers Blu-ray Disc contains a galaxy of extras. If you view the film in "Fednet Mode", you will be treated to a variety of Picture-in-Picture offerings, such as factoids about elements of the story, behind-the-scenes footage, and modern interviews with the cast and crew. "Recruitment Test" is a set-top trivia game. The Disc contains a Director and Cast Commentary, which features Paul Verhoeven and actors Casper Van Dien, Nina Meyer, and Neil Patrick Harris. This is an entertaining track, as the group discusses the making of the film. Verhoeven is his usual enthusiastic self and the actors talk about the challenge of working with so many special effects. There is also a Commentary with Paul Verhoeven and Ed Neumeier. This talk focuses mainly on the politics of the film and it's clear that Verhoeven and Neumeier had cerebral goals for the film which missed many moviegoers. "Death from Above" (32 minutes) is a making-of featurette which contains comments from the cast and filmmakers. Ed Neumeier discusses the novel and his motivation to do the script. It then examines the cast and characters. From there the piece looks at the making of the film, examining Verhoeven's directing style, the influence of war films on the movie, and the tone of the film. "The Making of Starship Troopers" (8 minutes) is very much an electronic press-ket, as it offers some interviews and on-set footage, but is mainly comprised of clips. "The Spaceships of Starship Troopers" (3 minutes) examines the designs of the spacecrafts in the film, and what Verhoeven wanted for the movie. Includes behind-the-scenes footage of models being built. "Bug Test Film: Don't Look Now" (1 minute) has Verhoeven introducing a brief CGI effects test reel. "Know Your Foe" offers brief overviews of the various creatures in the movie. We get comments from the designers and concept art here. "FX Comparison" has a picture-in-picture look at scenes with and without visual effects. We get film to "Storyboard Comparisons" for three scenes. "Scene Deconstruction with Paul Verhoeven" has the director doing commentary over storyboards and animatics for two key scenes. The Disc contains five DELETED SCENES, four of which are very brief and focus on Carmen's relationships. One features some questionable P.D.A. Finally, we have two "Screen Tests" with Van Dien and Richards.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long