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STARSHIP TROOPERS: SPECIAL EDITION

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, Denise Richards, Jake Busey, Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Muldoon, Michael Ironside
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Features: See Review
Length: 129 Minutes
Release Date: May 28, 2002

“THE ONLY GOOD BUG IS A DEAD BUG!”

Film ****

With all the discs I have been given to review, I have repeatedly held off on a review of Starship Troopers, so I am entirely grateful to Columbia Tri Star for reissuing the movie, so that I am able to review one of the best discs you’ll ever witness.

In the realm of science fiction movies, I haven’t felt a certain sense of joy and adrenaline in a single film since my first viewing of Star Wars than in Paul Verhoeven’s thrills galore epic, Starship Troopers. Verhoeven has long mastered the genre of futuristic films ever since 1987’s RoboCop, and I might be myself in saying this, but I find this to be his true masterpiece. It’s a rare mixture of science fiction with a comic book-like feel. This is one extravagant movie that really has everything for the appropriate admirer: grand visual settings, a ferocious and deadly adversary, and by far some of the most truly astonishing special effects you will ever see, and I mean that sincerely. To give an example of how triumphant the visual effects are, Starship Troopers was up for Best Visual Effects at the 97 Oscars. Of course, it lost to Titanic, and while Cameron’s film did boast some memorable effects indeed, Starship Troopers was far more impressive and state of the art, and thus should’ve won the award.

Set in the distant future, which carries a neat underlying theme of fascism, the movie chronicles a futuristic war that is strangely symbolic of World War II. The central characters are high school graduates who immediately enlist in the Federal Service, as Earth is on the verge of a battle of diabolical proportions. Among this rag tag group is Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien), whose enlisting in the service is due to his affection for his girlfriend, Carmen (Denise Richards) who aspires to be a career flight pilot. Other enlistees include Carl (Neil Patrick Harris), who’s a pro at telepathy, and Dizzy (Dina Meyer), who’s eager to do her part in the service, though she may hide a secret crush on Johnny. But soon enough, romantic and friendship relations alike are put aside as the planet is on the brink of annihilation.

The war is against the Arachnids, giant insect creatures that are smarter than the average human may suspect. The deadly bugs are concerned with one thing and one thing only: complete destruction of the entire human race. Half of the effects work in the movie goes in favor of the bugs, who are really something for the eyes to see, that is, if you are not arachnophobic. There are countless battle scenes between humans and bugs, and trust me, there is enough memorable gore and carnage in these scenes to fill about three movies, which is why I personally think this movie rocks. Verhoeven, like in all his movies, doesn’t hold a single thing back in terms of violence. Verhoeven also throws in scenes of spontaneous internet news updates on the maneuvering of the bugs, elaborating on the gimmick he did in RoboCop, which adds a bit of sharpness and originality. The movie also opens and closes with gleefully goofy recruiting ads, which I always get a giddy delight out of seeing.

Throughout the movie, we see different types of arachnids with different killing methods. The regular ground force bugs tear flesh out, while the flying ones take care of decapitation. There’s also two huge sized insects; the Tankers, which spits out fire at its enemies, and finally, the Brain Bug, whose tactic I won’t reveal, but I will say that I did fear that I would soon have a nightmare about an encounter with one soon after first watching this movie.

On the outskirts, Starship Troopers as the appeal of a B movie, and although some scenes in the have a B movie feel to it, the movie as a whole never loses its status as pure genius. A pure achievement of visual and purely violent cinema, Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers forever remains one of the most astonishing discoveries of the sci-fi genre.

Video ****

The first Starship Troopers disc release was one of the very first discs I bought not long after getting my very first DVD player, and I remember labeling it as the first great looking movie on DVD I had experienced. This superb re-release is very much, from what I can tell, no different from the first disc, therefore remaining one of the most superior transfers you will ever encounter in this format. The picture image is nothing short of astonishing, never faltering for a single second. The futuristic setting is perfectly rendered and enhanced for this superb digital viewing, and colors deliver in every detail, as well. Quite simply one of CTS’s most shining moments in the history of DVD.

Audio ****

Again, no different from the original release, and Starship Troopers remains one of the true best, if not THE best, audio tracks I’ve ever heard. The 5.1 audio mix delivers in every imaginable aspect. First off, Basil Poledouris’s brilliant score to the film stands out as perhaps the single best musical score ever transferred to the DVD format. The sound of gunfire acquires about a good 70% of the movie, providing a remarkable opportunity for immense and rapid pick up. The attack sequences alone are one of the history books in terms of audio quality. Once again, illustrative proof that CTS is proud of this film, because they have applied perhaps their best transfer of all time here.

Features ****

The original disc did have its share of extras, but none exactly at four-star level. This new Special Edition 2-disc set delivers the goods, with a galaxy-conquering feat of superbly conceived extras.

Disc 1 contains three commentary tracks: the original commentary by Paul Verhoeven and screenwriter Ed Neumeier, a new commentary track with cast members Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer and Neil Patrick Harris, and a new isolated music score with commentary by Basil Poledouris.

Disc 2 is endless with extras. Included is a new documentary titled “Death from Above”, two featurettes: “Know Your Foe”, and “The Starships of Starship Troopers”. Also featured are special effects and storyboard comparisons, a Vintage Featurette: “The Making of Starship Troopers”, conceptual art galleries, Scene Deconstructions with commentary by Paul Verhoeven, Deleted Scenes, Screen Tests, and trailers.

This Special Edition release also contains by far the most impressive use of menu screens I have seen thus far this year, making it a solid candidate at next year’s DMC Awards.

Summary:

Sci-fi movies hardly get as fun and entertaining as Starship Troopers, which for me, forever remains of the best discoveries of the genre. Credit should to Paul Verhoeven for going all out with this bloody good masterpiece of visual effects and violence