Starship Troopers -- SuperBit review by Mike Long

As someone who doesn't like war, I typically don't like war movies. Most war films look exactly alike to me, especially those that portray World War II. The one war film that I do enjoy, some would argue isn't a war movie at all. But, I feel that Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers is not only a great action film, but one of the best movies ever to illustrate the harsh realities of war.

Starship Troopers is set in an undisclosed future, where the Earth is locked in combat with an alien force from the planet Klandathu. (The aliens are giant bugs known as Arachnids.) The story opens in Brazil (?!), where we meet Johnny Rico (Casper Van Diem), a young man who comes from a wealthy family, but longs for something else. His girlfriend, Carmen Ibanez (Denise Richards), plans to be a starship pilot, while Johnny's best friend, Carl (Neil Patrick Harris), who is psychic, wants to join military intelligence. As Johnny is an athlete who isn't very good in school, he signs up for the Mobile Infantry, much to the chagrin of his parents. Soon, Johnny, Carmen, and Carl are all shipped off for training. When the Arachnids launch a major assault on Earth and Brazil is destroyed, Earth's military forces are sent to Klandathu to retaliate. Starship Troopers follows Johnny, Carmen, and Carl as they each go into battle against the bugs. Once on Klandathu, Johnny will face a great deal of death and carnage, and must struggle to be a brave soldier.

Allow me to say that I love Starship Troopers, and to this day, I can't believe that it didn't do better at the box-office. This film has it all. The sci-fi elements are great, as the soldiers from Earth must battle these bizarre aliens. This leads to some fantastic action sequences and the CGI bug effects still look very good some six years later. The movie has a convincing human story, and takes the time to let the audience get to know Johnny and his friends. Director Verhoeven is known for not pulling any punches and Starship Troopers deftly mixes a great story with some truly shocking images. He also knows how to keep a film moving along, and even with a running time of over 2 hours, the movie seems to fly by.

But the facet of Starship Troopers which I think is often overlooked is the political aspect. The film is based on a novel by sci-fi legend Robert A. Heinlein. Screenwriter Ed Neumeier has taken the basis of the novel and added many action scenes. However, if one looks carefully, the film carries a very subversive message about war. The thing that I don't like about films such as Saving Private Ryan or Windtalkers is that they beat you over the head with the message, "War is hell!". We know that, we don't need to have that rammed down our throats. Starship Troopers sends this same message, but in a more subtle manner. Notice how all of the young actors are very attractive, while the older characters, such as Michael Ironside's Lt. Rasczak are haggard and often deformed. As the story progresses, we watch our main young characters undergo a similar physical transformation. I could go on and on with many more examples, but suffice it to say that Starship Troopers is a fine example of how a real-world message can be delivered via symbolism. (For more on this, check out Verhoeven's commentary on the special edition Starship Troopers DVD.)

This newly release SuperBit edition of Starship Troopers represents the third time that Columbia/Tri-Star has released this film on DVD. For this DVD, the film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. Being a SuperBit title, where the bit-rate is increased to insure technical perfection, the image looks very good. The picture is very sharp and clear, showing virtually no grain. The colors are fantastic and the image has a great deal of depth. There is little evidence of artifacting or edge-enhancement. The problem is that this transfer doesn't look all that different from the Starship Troopers Special Edition released in 2002. The SuperBit image is somewhat cleaner, but not by much. There isn't much difference in the audio department either. This new disc carries both a Dolby Digital 5.1 track and a DTS 5.1 track, whereas the Special Edition had only the Dolby 5.1. Both of these tracks sound fantastic, as Starship Troopers offers many opportunities for surround sound bliss with great explosions and sound effects during the battle scenes to shake the subwoofer and fill the rear speakers. The dialogue is clear throughout and the musical score sounds fine. The DTS track is slightly louder than the Dolby track and offers a somewhat wider sound range. But, in all honesty, it didn't sound that much better than the Dolby track on the older release. As is common with the SuperBit titles, there are no extras here.

If you are one of those who dismissed Starship Troopers as being simply a special effects film, or who think that the cast ruined it, I urge you to take a second look, as the film has some intelligent things going on under the surface. This new SuperBit disc delivers on the technical goods, but if you already own the Special Edition, I really can't recommend an upgrade.

9 out of 10 Jackasses

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