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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Starship Troopers (Superbit) (1997)

"Kill them! Kill them all!"
- Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien)

Review By: Brian Calhoun   
Published: August 19, 2003

Stars: Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, Denise Richards
Other Stars: Jake Busey, Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Muldoon, Michael Ironside, Clancy Brown
Director: Paul Verhoeven

MPAA Rating: R for graphic sci-fi violence and gore, and for some language and nudity
Run Time: 02h:09m:20s
Release Date: August 05, 2003
UPC: 043396012271
Genre: sci-fi

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Director Paul Verhoeven never ceases to delight and amaze me. Nearly all of his films are giddy romps rooted in over-the-top excessiveness that I would normally find dreadful. Yet, (with the exception of Showgirls) I happen to find all of his films to be joyously escapist entertainment. Verhoeven has a unique talent for rationalizing the inanity of his quirky style; none of his films demonstrate this as well as the brazenly extreme Starship Troopers. An adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein's novel, Troopers is a mostly satirical handling of the conservative author's viewpoints. While his methods are not always entirely convincing, Verhoeven has successfully taken on the daunting task of simultaneously honoring yet parodying this book.

The story line of the film is similar to the novel; a group of naïve high school grads sign up to become members of the Mobile Infantry, an elite military unit trained to go to war against a hostile race of bugs from outer space. The cadets are played by attractive young actors, soap opera leftovers whose hammy acting skills seem to serve as part of Verhoeven's master joke. The campy, pulp aspects of the novel are exemplified in the film by the fact that these characters seem to be unaware of any such satire. They take their bug slaughtering very seriously, even if Verhoeven and company do not. Though the film may seem cheesy and artificial, the stunted dialogue and overt violence is really a sly commentary on the media's glorification of war. Though at times its messages are muddled, through all of its layers, Troopers is quite simply an extremely entertaining piece of science fiction that never loses sight of its tongue-in-cheek overtone.

The most dazzling element of the film is the magnificent special effects work. Computer-generated images seamlessly blend in with the actors and realistic miniatures to create what is perhaps the best science fiction visuals I have ever seen on screen. I can think of no other film that offers such a convincing combination of live action and digital effects. The grandiose war sequences are absolutely breathtaking. My jaw fell to the floor as I witnessed the troopers go head to thorax with thousands of creepy-crawlies that appeared just as lifelike (maybe more so) as any of the human actors.

Unfair criticism can be made against the film's use of excessive violence. However, Starship Troopers actually demonstrates the most innocuous form of cinema violence. There are typically three types of violence seen on the silver screen: 1) short, intense bursts that enhance the story while horrifying the audience, like that seen in The Godfather; 2) tasteless and senseless gore, as is commonly seen in a Friday the 13th film; 3) cartoon-like violence so over-the-top and unrealistic that it can hardly be deemed offensive. It's the latter that this film has to offer. By eliminating any correlation with the real world, Verhoeven has masterfully created sequences of farcical violence that dazzle rather than desensitize. The violence in Starship Troopers is in fact graphic and extreme, but then again, so is the violence in a Tom & Jerry episode.

I believe many people missed the satirical intentions of this film. Verhoeven's vision is not to be taken seriously, and it is even best when viewed as pure mockery. One could ceaselessly argue over the treatment or mistreatment of Heinlein's novel, lash out against the film's cartoon violence, or complain that the acting is awful. Yet, the essence of this movie is brainless entertainment. As such, it succeeds admirably. Ultimately, Starship Troopers is a shrewd reminder of exactly why I enjoy motion pictures—because they are a good time.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: I did not expect to see much, if any, enhancement over the already stellar transfers on the two previous editions of Troopers. However, I can honestly assert that the Superbit version exhibits subtle yet visible improvements over the earlier releases. Most apparent is the increased level of fine detail, particularly evident in the many CGI shots. The overall image displays a smoother, more natural aesthetic than the other releases, which occasionally appeared somewhat soft. Colors are stronger than ever before, conveying a lifelike vibrancy that leaps off the screen. Black level is equally impressive as the other editions, yet contrast has somehow been subtly improved and offers even greater perceived shadow detail. This is a dazzling transfer in all regards—anyone looking for a new reference disc should look no further.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Superbit offers both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS soundtracks, and my comparisons yielded interesting results. Both tracks are absolutely phenomenal, guaranteeing a hearty workout for any home theater system. Split surrounds are highly aggressive and fully compelling as I was immersed within a barrage of gunshots, explosions, and various critter noises. The bottom end extends down to the deepest frequencies of the audio spectrum with sonic impacts powerful enough to rattle the foundation of my home. Thankfully, dialogue always remains crisp and clear throughout these sonically assaulting moments. While the bass on the DTS version excels in terms of clarity and depth, I did detect a slight boominess on both this format and the Dolby track. Strangely, I did not notice quite as much of this warbling effect on the previous releases. Otherwise, the DTS is a noticeable improvement over any other version released. The entire soundfield is much more natural and convincing, particularly in the surround channels. In comparing a scene in chapter 22, I found that the exit of the dragonfly on the Dolby Digital version merely sounds as if the creature is panning from the front right speaker to the right surround speaker. On the other hand, this same effect on the DTS track gives the impression that the dragonfly is seamlessly traveling across the entire right side of the room. High end might initially seem to have more presence on the Dolby Digital version, yet I found it to sound somewhat shrill and overcooked. The frequency spectrum on the DTS version is more neutral, offering a slightly more refined midrange and tonally balanced high end. Whatever one's home theater capabilities might be, either soundtrack is a thrilling way to experience this exciting soundtrack.

Audio Transfer Grade: A


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:21m:00s

Extras Review: If special features are your thing, then this is not the disc for you. What could have been a prime opportunity for Superbit Deluxe turns into yet another ploy to lure fans into double (or in this case even triple) dipping on their favorite titles.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Starship Troopers is a loveable sci-fi romp filled with cartoon-like gore and mind-blowing special effects. The audio and video transfers on this Superbit version are nearly immaculate, yet I still have reservations in offering my highest recommendation. After all, this is the third time Troopers has been released to DVD, and while the transfers may not be quite as polished, the previous releases did contain excellent special features. In order to have it all, one must actually purchase all three versions, which seems highly exorbitant.


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