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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles—The Tophet Campaign (2001)

"In the war against the bugs, individual achivements don't mean much; troopers aresupposed to work together as a team."
- Higgins (Alexander Polinsky)

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: February 22, 2002

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

Manufacturer: DVCC
MPAA Rating: PG for (pervasive sci-fi action violence)
Run Time: 01h:34m:23s
Release Date: February 19, 2002
UPC: 043396074965
Genre: animation

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ BB-A- B

DVD Review

The Tophet Campaign is another volume in the Starship Troopers Roughnecks computer animated television series as released on DVD. Like other volumes, the episodes are strung together like a movie and center around particular "campaigns" that humankind wages in their war against the interstellar, Klendathu insects. What has always surprised me about Roughnecks, though, is how visceral and action-packed it is considering it was conceived as a children's show. Fans of the original film will find more great bug blasting experiences here, and even non-fans might find this series more to their taste; it's certainly a less satirical take on Robert Heinlein's source novel. Strangely, these discs are being released, in effect, out of order. So, here in Tophet Campaign, we must rewind the clock a bit and go back before the episodes already released on DVD.Tophet takes place prior to humans discovering the mysterious alien race known as "Skinnies," who eventually ally themselves with Earth in The Tesca Campaign. On the planet Tophet, humans think they've found a fairly deserted planet where they can create new bases of operation. Initial investigations reveal an alien race living there, however, which complicates matters. Even worse, for some reason, the Skinnies are working to help the Klendathu insects already living under the planet's surface. So, now humans have two enemies, and the Skinnies are no walk in the park. Their technology allows them to use liquid weapons that fire a goo that will constrict and crush even the most powerful of alloys. They also use strange ores and materials that resist detection from ordinary radar. Johnny Rico and his Roughneck squadron are among the small number of troops assigned to perform special missions on Tophet, most of which are designed to locate bug activity and mark it for air strike. In the process, they learn more about the alien race, as well as the new breeds of bug they will have to contend with.Although a few limitations of computer animation peek through here and there, Roughnecks is an impressive experience that reminds me more of a big-budget, sci-fi action picture than a TV show. The plots tend toward internal messages, but they're just typical ideas to support lots of activity. The Roughnecks usually have to fight off masses of bugs or overcome some other kind of danger, and that's about the limitations of the stories. While the characters are partially based on those from the original book and film, there are really very few connections, especially since the setting is so far in the advanced stages of the war with the bugs.Despite being linked together by many elements, the campaigns seem to be unique enough that no previous knowledge of the show is needed to get the general point. Of course, the funniest thing about the show is that the Roughnecks are basically the only guys fighting, and winning the war on all fronts. It seems like no one else is achieving much, despite thousands of supposedly active troops, but I guess that's just the by-product of focusing on their exploits. As it is, there's so much going on here, the logic holes don't really matter. This is solid sci-fi action that, though not really for little kids, should provide ample entertainment for the average viewer.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: The transfer handles most of the image well, but outdoor scenes (of which there are many) seem a bit hazier than they should, with compression artifacts and shimmer scattered around. Red is the most prominent color (the surface of Tophet is a lot like Mars), but the possible bleeding problems are kept to a minimum. It would seem, for budget's sake, a lot of footage is looped and/or resused (vehicles landing and taking off, etc.) and when its reused it's sometimes not quite the same quality as when we first saw it, but this seems to be a source issue.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0French, Spanish, Portugueseyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby 5.1 English mix feels like an expanded surround mix, with much better clarity and general ambience. The front speakers take most of the activity and there's a lot of directional effects. Activity in the surround channels is pretty subtle but does add to the experience. The subwoofer gets a surprising amount of feed, and the action sequences are appropriately thumping and loud. An impressive element of the sound is how it feels complete, even at lower volumes. If I had any complaints, it would be that the machine guns the Roughnecks use emit a rather 'wimpy' sound, so their weapons sound really flat compared to rest of the activity. The surround tracks in other languages manage to capture most of this feel, but seem less spacious and rendered.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

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

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo Gallery
Extras Review: The most significant features are 2 commentary tracks, both of which offer detailed insight into the design and creation of the show. The filmmakers commentary (which has directors and producers) is a nice, laid-back discussion of plot evolution, character design, and where they wanted to take these episodes. The technical commentary is very similar, done by animators and designers, so there's a lot of discussion about 3-D design and fine crafting on the models. It also serves to provide a different view of the show and, while "technical", is sort of another director's commentary. Both tracks are fun, lively discussions that never get boring or stale. I think it would be a great gift to the creators to give this a listen. The photo gallery is a collection of production drawings and pre-render models, separated by subject matter. The disc is wrapped with trailers for Roughnecks and a decent overall presentation.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

Once the entire Roughnecks series makes it to DVD, it will be a solid investmentfor anyone who loves good sci-fi adventure. While the dramatics and dialogue are fairlysimple, it functions very much like a live-action program, going way beyond the average.


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