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Starship Troopers depicts a future where kids are taught military propaganda in high school. The general population is degraded, people not even considered citizens unless they sign up for military service.
All of this is for a war humans started with a species of insects. Why military action is being taken against them is unclear, not because of a scripting plot hole, but because this battle has gone on for so long and so many lives have been lost, no one actually remembers.
Troopers is somber despite its forceful agenda against such militarization of our society. Soldiers enter prior war zones with strewn body parts, severed limbs, and bodies chopped in half as if it were normal. Death row inmates being executed are broadcast for all on cable, and before primetime, assuming primetime remains 8 o’clock in the distant future.
The issues with Troopers film adaptation is one of pacing. Paul Verhoeven’s style, meaning excessive nudity and graphic violence, is not enough to keep interest. Edward Neumeier’s script takes a generic, painfully slow high school romance and drags it longer than it should go. While the first hour is significant for establishing the nature of this futuristic society, it remains a tepidly paced, repetitive affair. The extensive romance is enough to forget there is even a war occurring behind all of it.
Oddly enough, the second hour, filled with satisfying visual effects, blood, gunfire, and planet hopping, suffers from the same flaws. The war is tiring, maybe appropriately so. Each bug assault begins to feel familiar, their own purpose being to push unexpected character deaths to the forefront of the story.
Unlike many other films which depict a heavily government controlled populace, Starship Troopers is not dark, the people do not feel oppressed, and live their lives fully believing they have freedom. That is probably the scariest part, not the razor-beaked aliens that somehow send asteroids barreling towards Earth. It is a shame the parable is hidden behind a sluggishly paced, verbose script.
Sony’s AVC encode for Starship Troopers is one of inconsistency. Many of the problems seem to exist due to the special effects. When a teacher brings up a computer-generated display in biology class, the wall it displays on is littered with noise and artifacting. Long shots involving effects can appear significantly digital, with extensive artificial sharpening (evident in this screen capture from Cinemasquid). An explosion of Denise Richard’s ship before the final bug assault is troublesome during its entirety.
Despite some questionable pasty flesh tones, Troopers holds up fairly well otherwise. There is no evidence of source damage. Facial details, while inconsistent, typically perform admirably in close-ups. Oddly, natural lighting seems to be a culprit, as scenes shot outdoors cause a dip in discernable textures. Military uniforms are patterned well, delivering a consistent level of definition. While not as sharp as some, the light softness of this transfer does not seem to interfere.
Colors, especially the steely blues of the first full bug assault an hour in, are quite vibrant. Blood is certainly notable, given the amount of it and for the level of color saturation. Black levels remain firm, with one or two scenes giving minimal cause for concern. Contrast is bright, certainly enough to establish a strong level of depth in conjunction with the blacks.
Aggressive is the easiest term of use when describing this TrueHD effort, even before the action begins. A football game (some kind of futuristic variant actually) features adoring fans screaming, pushed from the fronts and rears. School hallways or light conversations outdoors are littered with a slight level of ambiance as to not be intrusive on the dialogue.
When the action does take over, the mix of Basil Poldouris’ excellent score, screaming soldiers, bug screeches, and gunfire is wonderfully presented. The stereo channels are split nicely (if not widely so), and the rears handle the expected array of ambient gunfire.
Explosions are not always beefy, yet provide enough of a jolt to be notable. The regular use of handheld nukes is a powerful audio moment, and the booming footsteps of the larger insects are awesome. Engines from passing ships insert a low level hum into the mix that seems appropriate for something that large. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until the year 2300+ to find out if it is accurate.
Supplements are superb, beginning with two commentaries. Director Paul Verheoven is a part of both, joined by writer Ed Neumeier on the first, the second with actors Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, and Neil Patrick Harris. Fednet Mode is a pop-up feature, with interviews strewn about the film you can select to watch.
A Recruitment Test is a sluggish trivia game that should be skipped, followed by a wonderful making-of that runs over a half hour. Three promo featurettes can be passed over along with that trivia game, while Know Your Foe splits into multiple sections on each bug type and the work that went into realizing them.
Special effects and storyboard comparisons are self-explanatory, followed by two scene deconstructions with voice over from Verhoeven. Five delete scenes, two screen tests, BD-Live support, a ridiculous “Put Yourself in the Movie” feature, and trailers are left.
Note: The disc inside the Starship Troopers Trilogy box set and stand alone releases are the same. No differences are noted.