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 TrueHD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 129 Minutes
Release Date: August 5, 2008
“C'MON YOU APES, YOU WANNA LIVE FOREVER?!”
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. He 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 incredibly violent cinema, Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers forever remains one of the most astonishing discoveries of the sci-fi genre.
Since the DVD release of the movie resulted in one of the most astounding presentations to ever grace the format, it should come as no shocker that the Blu-ray release is an even more astounding experience for the senses. The glorious action and astonishing effects are something to be seen in this format. And from beginning to end, what you get is a fantastic picture with amazing detail in literally every single shot, which is necessary for a movie like this.
Again, we go from a great sounding DVD to an even more astounding sound mix on Blu-ray. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix perfectly blends together the three most pivotal aspects of this film; dialogue, effects and score. Even during the first half hour, which is mainly exposition, we get stellar sound from all the set pieces in this futuristic setting. But once the humans and the bugs go to war…WATCH OUT! The sound performance is as ferocious as the movie itself!
This Sony release boats a fantastic level of extras. Included are two commentary tracks; the first one with Paul Verhoeven and screenwriter Ed Neumeier, the second with Verhoeven and cast members Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer and Neil Patrick Harris. We also get four behind the scenes documentaries; “Death From Above”, “Know Your Foe Bug”, “The Spaceships From Starship Troopers” and an FX Comparison Featurette, as well as Storyboard Comparisons, the original Making Of featuette, Deleted Scenes, Screen Tests and Scene Deconstructions.
As for extras exclusive to the Blu-ray, we have FedNet Mode, a Picture-in-Picture viewing mode with Enhanced Graphics (Pretty Cool!), as well as a Recruitment Test and a Blu-Wizard feature, which basically allows you to select what features you want to pop up while you watch the movie.
Since the phrase “Starship Troopers on Blu-ray” pretty much sells itself, my word on the presentation can’t really add any significant insight. Still, the movie is one of the great guilty pleasures of all time, the kind only someone like Paul Verhoeven could craft. And on Blu-ray, it’s every bit as phenomenal as one would expect!