From the director of Total Recall and Basic Instinct comes a sci-fi film unlike any other. Starship Troopers combined brutal action and sci-fi violence with satirical commentary on the political environment surrounding the army and the soldiers that inhabit it. While not successful in theaters when compared to its large budget, Starship Troopers found a home and fan following on the home video format and has since spawned two direct-to-video sequels, the latest of which brings back the star of this first film, Casper Van Dien, in the role that made this first film so memorable.
It’s the future and Earth’s main concern isn’t what other nations are doing but what other planets are doing. A long-standing fight with the bug species of the planet Klendathu have caused Earth’s society to form into a fascistic nation that recruits students not only after they graduate high school, but slowly breed them into wanting to join during their final years of education. Starship Troopers follows a group of high school graduates who sign up and quickly make their way through the ranks as they continue their fight against the destructive bugs.
Despite being loved by my brothers, I never saw Starship Troopers, simply because I thought it looked incredibly silly. I finally sat down and watched this film on Blu-ray and my original theory about the film proved to be true—it is incredibly silly, but that’s what makes it so enjoyable. Without a doubt it is one of the silliest action/war movies I’ve ever seen, yet that’s what will keep me coming back to watch this movie many times in the future. It feels like a silly high-school “coming of age” film at first, filled with actors who look nothing like high school students, but quickly evolves into some military massacre fest that’s filled with exploding bugs, salty language and nude bodies. In essence, this is a summer college student flick that packs in something for everyone…and yet at the same time, this is not what this film is remotely about.
There are some obvious correlations between how troops are treated in this film and how modern day recruitment is handled. There was even talk in the extras for this film’s recruitment videos and banners were inspired by the World War II era recruitment posters and it really shows in the cheesy nature of the videos that are interspersed throughout the film. Although it kind of took you out of the film, I really didn’t have a problem falling back into the film when it came time to. It’s kind of interesting to note that, as early on in the film I was always very aware of the “propaganda” bits of the film, yet later on I stopped noticing them. It was really well done in retrospect and they are some of the best parts about the film.
Another area of the film that was well done are the characters in the film. While they feel hokey and cheesy at first, especially later on when they all meet up again and are more “grown up” then they were in the beginning. They’ve all been promoted to higher ranks and they all fully understand their roles in life and their interactions with one another hinge on their ranks, rather than their past friendships. It’s really quite interesting to see how they progress due to the war and while I’m sure that’s not an element fans of the film really tend to think about, it’s easy to see if you look for it.
On a less serious front, the film is absolutely obscene with some of the human and bug dismemberments. While not up to levels of gross-out that I’ve seen from some more modern flicks, what they packed into this film is absolutely amazing. One of my favorite elements of the film combines both the comedic and gross-out moments, when, during their training, one of Johnny Rico’s (Casper Van Dien) men is shot through the skull and he looks at the camera and yells “Medic!” It’s such a complete dismemberment and is one of the most confusing elements of the film, at first, because you don’t know whether the films playing it straight or if you should laugh. You realize later on you should have laughed, and that scene is key in setting the tone for the film, as it allows you to laugh at the more morbid elements that happen later on.
Amidst the intermittent spurts of comedy are the hardcore and badass action sequences that still have some impressive CGI work (I guess we know why the budget was so high). Honestly aside from a few brief pieces, there wasn’t any noticeable green screen work done and the bugs really looked nice. I was really impressed by what the film was able to pull off, especially since it’s over a decade old at this point. Very surprising.
The actors in the film are also a highlight. I mentioned the characters, but the actors here really pulled off some superb sequences with one another. Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, Denise Richards, Neil Patrick Harris and Michael Ironside all made for great roles and I was surprised to see so many other young faces in the film as well, such as Amy Smart and Jake Busey. They all made for an entertaining film and while none of them were (and still aren’t, really) big names, their roles in the film were all memorable.
I could go on about the political nature of the film and the CGI work done, but I’ll cut it short here. Starship Troopers parodies itself in more than one way and it makes for one hell of an entertaining film, amidst all of the fun battles and humorous banter between soldiers in the film. Overall this film comes easily Recommended if you’ve yet to dive into it. It may be cheesy and goofy at times, but that’s what makes it worth watching.
Originally released in another region, Starship Troopers finally arrives on U.S. shores fully packed with extras from its previous DVD editions, as well as some new Blu-ray exclusive pieces as well. The film itself arrives in a standard Blu-ray case with an insert for other Blu-ray films as well as the disc itself inside (which mirrors the cover art). Menus are simple and easy to navigate, although subsequent Blu-ray features can get a bit convoluted…but we’ll tackle that later.
The video and audio are the big draw for this release and they don’t disappoint. While there is some detail loss in the facial features in some sequences in the film, for the most part this is a clean and clear transfer. While the first battle sequence, which takes place at night, is a bit muddled, the rest of the sequences that take place during the day are brilliantly lit and show off copious amounts of detail. Really a beautiful and solid transfer all around that is backed up by an equally impressive Dolby TrueHD 5.1 sound track. While it doesn’t slam your face with bass constantly, there is some nice channel separation and subwoofer usage during the battle sequences, as well as some ambience thrown in for troop sequences. An alternate French 5.1 TrueHD track is also available along with English, English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.
Moving onto the extras for the set we first get some BD Live functionality which is actually the first title I’ve been able to review that actually had them working for me. Unfortunately for me what was there was rather boring, as it was just trailers for other films and some other useless information. It also loaded incredibly slow and for what little content was there, it was definitely not worth the wait time. Other Blu-ray exclusives include “FedNet Mode”, a picture-in-picture experience where the entire film is framed in with some strange graphic with some extras playing in the corner. Extras include comments from cast and crew and information about the Troopers universe, commentary on the political and satirical nature of the film as well as some discussions about the original novel. Also included is “Recruitment Test”, a rather boring trivia test that places you in a class (Pilot, soldier, etc.) and then takes you on another quiz after that. It got to be too much of a hassle listening to the voice over guy though, as that’s what most of the time was spent on. “Put Yourself in the Movie” is a rather neat extra that replaces some of the characters in the film with an image of yourself, should you have one available for upload. It’s more distracting than anything and really is something that’s more of a humorous addition than something you’ll actually want the entire movie with (at least I didn’t).
The rest of the extras all return from the previous edition and…boy, there’s a lot to sort through. First up is a pair of commentaries, the first with director Paul Verhoeven and Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer (Dizzy Flores), and Neil Patrick Harris (Carl). This track is mostly just Verhoeven taking over the discussion, with Meyer and Harris rarely speaking up. Van Dien will chat about the hardships of filming occasionally, but for the most part this commentary and the next, also with Verhoeven, are driven by Verhoeven’s comments rather than anyone else’s. The second track pairs Verhoeven with Ed Neumeier, the screenplay writer. Verhoeven leads both tracks and he seems insistent on getting his word in…kind of rude and egotistical about it, but hey, he’s a director. I guess that comes with the territory.
Next up is “Death From Above” (31:57), a making-of documentary for the film filled with comments from cast and crew. Next is a series of “Know Your Foe” Bug Featurettes, which range from one minute to six minutes and are split into five separate featurettes, each focusing on a different type of bug from the film. Another mix of extras is filed under “Featurettes”, where we receive another “The Making of Starship Troopers” (7:58), but in a much briefer form, and “The Spaceships of Starship Troopers” (3:26) which covers the fleet of the film and “Bug Test Film: Don’t Look Now” (1:13), a special effects test for the bugs in the film.
“FX Comparisons” (range from a few seconds to eight minutes, most are under two, nine in all), “Storyboard Comparisons” (range from a minute to six minutes long, three total), “Scene Deconstruction with Paul Verhoeven” (two total, 3 and 4 minutes long) wrap up the short extras that occupy the disc. The rest include five “Deleted Scenes” and screen tests (both with Johnny and Carmen). Five previews for other Sony Blu-ray release are, of course, included as well.
There’s plenty on this release to check out, but if you already own the previous edition, the only thing that will be worth the upgrade are the technical features, as the Blu-ray bonuses are a bit on the lame side. Still, if you’re a fan of the film this Blu-ray presentation can’t be beat and comes Recommended.
Starship Troopers is now available on Blu-ray..