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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles—The Hydora Campaign (1999)

"This hunt ain't over until the fat lady bug screams!"
- Razak (Jamie Hanes)

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: February 21, 2002

Stars: Rino Romano, Rider Strong, E.G. Daily
Other Stars: Trish Hicks, James Horan, Alexander Polinsky, Jamie Hanes
Director: David Hartman, Vincent Edwards, Andre Clavel, Sam Liu

MPAA Rating: PG for pervasive sci-fi violence
Run Time: 01h:36m:35s
Release Date: February 19, 2002
UPC: 043396074958
Genre: animation

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ BB+B+ B-

DVD Review

Right around the time that Paul Verhoeven was putting the final touches on his vision of Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers, a novel concerning Earth's war with a bug-like hive-minded alien species, plans to spin off a computer animated version were put into effect. Despite the film's mixed critical responses and a lackluster tally at the box-office, the ambitious project still moved forward. The target market was syndication, which allowed for more violence and a harder edge than would've been possible on a major network. Unfortunately, production problems led to a somewhat spotty initial run in the Saturday morning slot, and it wasn't until it ran on the Sci-Fi Network that the show began to really amass a fan base.The end result, really, is an amazing achievement, considering the constraints of working on a tight budget that had to at least fit somewhat within the confines of children's programming. Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers Chronicles is, in fact, far better than the film in terms of translating the feel of Heinlein's novel. The film suffered from a very repetitive structure and over-stylized violence, but was redeemed somewhat by Verhoeven's injection of anti-fascist humor. Verhoeven is the executive producer of Roughnecks, and the show still carries some of that satirical tone, but overall, the balance shifts more towards innovative action scenes, many of them incorporating elements from the novels that were impossible to realize in a live action film (like the Power Suits the Troopers wear). The Hydora Campaign presents episodes 6-10 of this 40 episode series, edited into one feature film. Truth be told, the editing works against the material, because while there is over-arching character development, the stories are clearly structured to be episodic, and watching them uninterrupted is a bit jarring at times. Characters are inspired by those in Verhoeven's film, and fans will recognize Dizzy, Rico, and Carl, though they play somewhat different, and certainly more complex, roles here. In this volume, the Roughnecks follow an alien ship to a water-covered planet, Hydora, which they believe may be the alien home world. Instead, they encounter a deadly new breed of bug, one that can shoot poison darts, and finally come into contact with one of the Brain Bugs, giant creatures that control the hive mind, orchestrating attack plans in order to see humanity driven to extinction.The overall emphasis is certainly on the action, and the shootouts and rescues and attacks are fully realized through surprisingly imaginative and detailed computer graphics. The human characters have an artificial look to their faces and movements, but they fit well into their environments. But it is the "bug menace" that really pushes the limits of creative design. Clearly, initial concepts are based on those in the film, but they have been greatly expanded on, and are brought to life by the sometimes stunning animation (here I am particularly thinking of the flying bugs featured prominently throughout this disc). The nice thing about the show, though, and another element that sets it apart from most children's animated entertainment, are the continuing story arcs for the characters. Things actually change throughout these episodes, and the ramifications of war are illustrated much more effectively than on lightweight fare like, say, G.I. Joe. There are elements of humor, romance, and conflict, and most of it is handled very well, with support from the excellent cast of voice actors.Roughnecks is certainly geared towards an older audience (perhaps kids in their early teens), but I think adult sci-fi fans will find a lot to love, too. Let's hope that Columbia TriStar continues to release the show on DVD, because with this much effort put into each episode, all 40 deserve to be seen.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: While overall the transfer on this disc looks quite nice, there are some problems, although most of them are probably due to the limited budget for the source material. Roughnecks is far more ambitious than other CGI shows like ReBoot, and as a result, the more complex images and backgrounds don't look as clean onscreen. There is some digital shimmer evident on many of the very detailed backgrounds, but major images in the foreground always look pretty sharp. Colors are very strong, with some of the explosions looking very bright and lifelike. Black level is good, as is shadow detail.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0French, Spanish, Portugueseyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: This is an excellent track, especially considering that this was originally just a TV show. The front soundstage is very active throughout, with a very wide soundfield and excellent use of panning and directional effects. Surrounds augment the action scenes nicely, and there are a few instances of front to back imaging. Dialogue is clear throughout, though the voiceover that opens Episode Three sounds a bit muffled. Other than that, there are no major problems. Quite nice for an animated show, overall.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese, Thai with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles - The Pluto Campaign, Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles - The Tesca Campaign
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Filmmaker's commentary, Technical commentary
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Concept Art Gallery
Extras Review: There aren't a lot of extras on this disc, but what is here is very informative and entertaining, providing a lot of information on the development of the series.More mundane extras include filmographies for the cast and crew, a somewhat interesting concept art gallery with about 65 images, and two trailers for other DVDs in the series (though the spots are exactly the same save for the onscreen titles, which makes me wonder why they bothered to include both).The commentary tracks provide most of the information, and they are surprisingly comprehensive and easy to listen to. The filmmakers' track is the more entertaining of the two, as the group spends a lot of time joking around with one another. I especially liked it when story editor Marsha Griffin and director Vincent Edwards began some lighthearted banter about the love/hate relationship between writers and directors. Each episode features a separate group of commentators, but producer Audu Paden is present for all five. Discussion ranges from the genesis of the series to the day-to-day difficulties of producing a syndicated animated show.The technical commentary is (logically) more technical, and thus, less amusing, but there is still a lot of good information about the process of constructing digital environments and the digital puppets that are blended with already recorded voice tracks. This track also features a rotating cast along with Audu Paden, and though it becomes a bit repetitive towards the end, it's worth a listen for techno-geeks.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

Roughnecks is a surprisingly fun show. There's some wonderful animation and a nice balance of character and action. Fans of either the book or the Verhoeven film should be quite pleased with this conceptualization. The initial TV run of the show was somewhat botched, so it's nice to see Columbia TriStar putting real effort into the DVDs.


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