Starship Troopers Trilogy Blu-ray Review
Presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and encoded with VC-1 this is head and shoulders by far the best release of Starship Troopers. Troublesome irks of the past such as blocking or enhancement are absolutely nowhere to be seen here. The transfer is absolutely stunning, free from grain and print degradation, pin sharp with incredible detail in both the foreground and distant shots. Take a look at the scene 56 minutes into the movie where our troopers are about to descend upon Klendathu, the bugs' home planet. The rendering of the hanger bay is pristine. Pause the shot and look for the incredible detail on the landing pods. A scene earlier to this, at 50 minutes, shows the aftermath of the destruction of Buenos Aires. Pick out the detail on all the decaying bodies as rescuers comb the annihilated city. Wonderful!
The palette is extremely broad, vibrant and contained within their borders superbly; no bleed here. Skins tones are spot on, no one looking like they've spent too long under a sun bed. Insects here on Earth, no matter your personal opinion, tend to be quite colourful and beautiful creatures. The ones we meet in Starship Troopers are no different. Check out the multi coloured hordes as they sweep over the rolling landscapes, again pause the movie and you'll be able to examine each in minute detail. At 80 minutes a trooper is carried off by a flying bug, the purples and greens on its translucent wings easily standing out.
Dark scenes in the night show adequate shadow detail and space scenes whilst velvet black erupt into full glorious swathes of colour once plasma fired from the planet below rises and cripples most of the on coming fleet. On DVD9, debris floating out of stricken ships was just that, debris. On Blu-Ray you realise these are tiny little people, arms and legs clearly visible, not just a blob.
At the opposite end of the spectrum whites are never crushed. Klendathu is a bright planet and daytime scenes are still well defined, again plastered with the beautiful colour palette used for the bugs.
It sounds as though Starship Troopers cannot get any better than this and perhaps it can't. That's not to say though that there aren't some very minor distractions. Just after the Klendathu departure mentioned above whilst a senior trooper closes one of the hatch doors there is a great amount of noise showing. This appears on the regular DVD9 edition of the print as well. Some other scenes briefly show minor noise, specifically on warship control panels. You really have to be looking out for them though.
Individual Score : 9
Another 1080p MPEG-4/AVC presentation at 1.78:1 but this is nowhere near the class of its previous incarnation. The image is often shrouded in darkness which in itself is not necessarily a bad thing but in this case it is. There's no detail there at all with crush definitely on display, coupled with the fact that at times this is a rather grainy affair and this discs falls somewhat short to what we have expected from recent releases.
The encoding is good enough with no enhancement that I could spot, noise or blocking but again detail is lost somewhere along the way. There's plenty to offer the viewer to look at but in the main it's rather soft and not quite sharp enough to really get a good glimpse of what's going on in the background. Skin tones are good, neither too pale nor pushed into the red but generally the colour palette is somewhat narrow. Primaries are not really vibrant nor bold although this may have been an artistic choice for the film being made.
Individual Score : 5
This 1080p MPEG-4/AVC encode again at a full 1.78:1 ratio is a very good presentation indeed. At times the image is rather strained or cartoon like in effect almost, stylised to a degree but what we have up on screen almost comes close to what the first wowed us with.
Detail is crisp and sharp with some good scenes in the bleached deserts and the initial bar room scene on that long lost planet. Skin detail looks a little soft but there's still good pore, hair detail and the eyes coming across well again.
Contrast is good though not exemplary with a little crush on the blacks occasionally whilst in the first act's bunker scenes. Once out into space though these blacks deepen a little and open up a good level of detail on the ships docking at the Marauder Project's space station. Whites are good with no blooming but in these very light scenes there's some enhancement on the shoulders and heads of the troopers as they walk to gain their rescue. It is during these scenes that the colours come across best. At other times they appear a little muted but in the shining daylight they are bold, strong and confined to the areas they should be.
Individual Score : 7
Offering a 5.1 PCM 4.6 mbps soundtrack this has to be the one of choice for all who can take advantage. Like the visuals audio is pin sharp, nothing seems to be lost in this transfer. Vocals are naturally centred and you'll never be looking for the remote to rewind wondering what anyone has said. Left, right and surrounds are used, as they should be, steering the audio as required. Crowd scenes at school or train terminals encompass the viewer and draws them into the picture feeling as though you're not simply watching but actively partaking.
It's during the battle scenes though that your system really comes alive. With thousands of screeching insects descending upon the cast the viewer expects to hear the sounds all around them. You will not be disappointed, as the insects swarm towards and beyond the point of view you hear them pass via the surrounds in their thunderous chaotic glory. This can also be said of the external space shots, audio emanating from the surrounds as you would expect for the path of a fly-by. Multiple, oh so multiple, gun blasts and ricochets during the many ground battles again are routed to the specific speakers as required. Even though the surrounds are well used I did feel that they could have had a little more punch to them, used perhaps a little more frequently.
LFE is monstrous. Explosions will rock your system and thump your chest. One scene where a giant bug emerges from underground to waddle towards the trooper grunts really shows off your sub. If it doesn't kick you in the chest as the bug stamps its way forward then your system is not set up correctly.
Along with the PCM track there is an equivalent DD 5.1 which whilst not quite fully living up to the dynamic range or sheer intensity of the PCM is not to be frowned upon. Viewers without the ability for PCM will certainly not feel short changed here. As well the two English tracks there are French and Spanish DTS-HD and Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks.
Sound Score : 8
You'll get a nice enough Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 track here and it's much in the same vein as what went on before. Surround work is good with weather effects and bug sounds in the main adding to the ambiance of the sound stage. Equally the surrounds will release the crack of gunfire however it's not as crisp as it could have been.
LFE use is good, low and defined in the explosions scenes, the bombing of the bugs as they approach the keep or the lowering of the keep's heavy metallic door. LFE is engaged as and when required never really becoming obtrusive. Dialogue is good and well defined as such no chance of a rewind to catch those missed speeches.
Tonal range is good enough although the high ends do clip a little but being a Starship Troopers story then the high tones are not overly used. Certainly the screeches of the bugs suffer a little and there's less whip on those guns but as the number of bugs here is reduced somewhat I never found it that distracting from the film itself.
Individual Score : 7
The English Dolby Digital TrueHD track on offer here gets back to the basics with lots of explosions and a good workout for your sub and your surrounds. The low tones are immense, deep and heavy which will have you rocking in your seat and at times just a little heavy for their own good. One or two seem a little out of place, merely slotted in there for the sake of it.
Surround use is expansive as would be expected for a film of this nature and continues the trend set by the first two instalments. You'll experience gunfire from your surrounds much as in the first and ambiance from engine effects and the fleet's movements up in the depth of space. Dialogue whilst in check most of the time does suffer every now and again because of the low mix, at times some of the speech is a little difficult to hear above the loud roar of battle.
There's panning from the fronts and steerage from the frontal array to the rears and visa versa and this is handled and timed well with virtual movement apparent from bugs, plasma and fleet ships, even so this doesn't quite live up to the expectations we had from the first whose timing was a little tighter in this regard. On the whole the track is immersive, bombastic and in your face but then it wouldn't be Starship Troopers if it wasn't.
Individual Score : 7
The usual short making of feature that would have played on TV channels prior to the film being released. More of an enhanced trailer for the movie, it has short interviews with Verhoeven and some cast members on the plots and the characters. Also discussed are the creature effects, set design and the teamwork required to pull off a movie such as this.
- Deleted Scenes.
5 Deleted scenes which rightfully landed on the cutting room floor. Nothing really of worth here should have been included back into the main feature.
- Scene Developments with Commentary.
Verhoeven discussing three major scenes from the movie and how with the use of animatronics for story boarding and CGI the final shots came about. Interesting enough from a technical perspective but I wish it was a little longer or more detailed.
- Screen Tests.
A couple of Casper Van Dien and Denise Richards screen tests. If this shows you anything it shows that the casting director could have made better choices.
- Teaser Trailer.
As the name suggests an initial trailer for Starship Troopers. Perhaps the full trailer should have been shown instead or additionally?
Quick access to 3 scenes which are supposed to show off the quality of this Blu-Ray release. Eyesight, bookmarks and chapter use provide the mere mortal with the same.
- Individual Score : 6
Jon Davidson, Ed Numeier, and Phil Tippett indicating they had a lot less money to work with on this flick that the first and this is a recurring theme throughout the feature, they don't sound bitter (OK well Tippett does !) just accepted it for what it was. They relate how the picture came to be, what other themes it's based on, the shooting locations, actors, time taken, props etc and it's a good enough lively track with hardly a quiet moment. It has some good insight into what they were trying to produce and if in the end they feel they accomplished it.
- Inside the Federation - 0:30:04 - MPEG2/480i
An extended EPK with the director and writers having their say on the feature trying to mirror this war to that the Americans encountered in Korea. The director coming from a visual effects medium could relate to what he felt the fans and the film itself needed especially as a continuation from the first. Some of the actors have their say indicating as usual that the director was a joy to work with and they loved working with him. A pretty self congratulatory affair at times.
- From Green Screen to Silver Screen - 0:09:06 - MPEG2/480i
Eric Levin introducing some of the effects shots are taken from storyboards through to shooting the background plates, virtual sets, animation of the bugs and post production. It's an interesting piece and propels itself forward at a fair rate of knots which is a little shame really, I feel the piece should have taken its time a little more on certain features and explained the individual shots and composition a little more.
Finally a BDLive disc that actually connects and does something. I sat there eagerly awaiting as the connection took place and new content appeared on my screen. I shouldn't have bothered though, all I found when I was up there were more trailers and little else.
Trailers for Men In Black, CJ7, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and
- Individual Score : 6
- Filmmakers Commentary.
Ed Neumeier, David Lancaster and Robert Stotak get together for this first commentary. It's more than apparent that these filmmakers had a lot of pride for what they ultimately created although they don't quite realise that it missed the mark that I feel they set for themselves. It's a lively enough chat with few dry areas and trundles along at a good rate of knots. Locations, cast and crew are discussed as well as some of the special effects and some of the themes they tried to present.
- Director and Cast Commentary.
Neumeier is joined this time by Van Dien and Jolene Blalock for what is essentially a non entity of a commentary track. There's repetition from what we heard earlier and far too much lurvie action for my own liking. Like the first it's lively enough but becomes rather stale and boring after a while.
- Marauder Mode
Director and Van Dien introducing this mode where you can watch the film and at certain parts a pop-up window appears with these two giving their input on certain scenes or with others being interviewed. Better really than the meandering commentaries, both of which can be replaced with what we have here. A good enough watch and listen. Behind the scenes footage is shown with a good one showing the Star Marshall and his troops lumbering up for their dance routine. Bug facts are shown when the appropriate bugs come on screen for the first time.
- On the Bounce: The making of ST3 - 0:24:12 - MPEG-2/1080p
An extended EPK with cast and crew interviews giving little more than an extended advert fort the film. Like most EPKs don't expect any in depth information into the film or the production techniques, just enjoy it for what it is. It's interesting to hear that they really do think that this is the true sequel to ST1 and that they wanted to recreate the look and more importantly the tone of the first.
- Evolution: The Bugs of ST3 - 0:11:32 - MPEG-2/1080p
Designing the new bugs for this new feature, extensive CGI work was involved obviously with some real life model puppet shots as well. Robert Styoktek and other visual effects producers have some brief input in to this small featurette. Storyboards, CGI development and modelling work are all discussed. Different bugs are introduced from the Bombardier Bug, the Warrior Bug, the Scorpio Bug obviously and the infamous Brain Bug.
- Enlist Marauder's Mobile Infantry - 0:13:55 - MPEG-2/1080p
Another EPK and much in the same vein as the first one listed earlier. There's little information and nothing new, ideally this should just have been concatenated onto the first EPK. It concentrates a little more on the actors who took part but apart from that, much like the rest of these featurettes, its a throw away affair.
Woo hoo another one that actually works. But really there's not a lot to see, surveys, profiles, downloads, previews an interesting feature on Comic Con 2008 and a put yourself in the movie, join the fight. Although I could get on and see some previews I couldn't register. No matter the combinations I entered ( all valid by the way according to their own rules ) I kept on getting “Registration Failed - Please check your input”. The review team here asked about this and we were assured that this registration should be available when the discs hit the streets. Once you're registered though you should be able to take one of your mug shots and place it over the face of a character on screen. I was desperate to try this functionality to see what I would look like wandering around killing bugs, alas it was not to be.
- Star Marshall Video: It's a good day to die - 0:02:40 - MPEG-2/1080p
What a hoot. I would give this on 10/10 on its own, it's just a damn good laugh.
Only Hancock here I'm afraid.
- Individual Score : 7
So a good enough set of extras from 2 and 3 but really let down from 1 yet again; we still don't get the original Verhoeven commentary for the first film. This was a let down on its initial BD release and not to have included it here when it's obviously available because the US BD version contains it, is inexcusable really. I've finally got BDLive functionality working but on the strength of what I have seen I don't think I'll be checking the back covers of any disc from now on in to see if it contains the same, it's really a marketing gimmick and not worth anyone's time in my own opinion.
VerdictStarship Troopers, no matter the terrible acting style, is still a great watch almost ten years on. Obviously Verhoeven has a bee in his bonnet about getting certain themes across to the viewer. In Robocop the reduction of personal freedoms by overblown corporations, here the reduction of personal freedoms by the state. At times it's not as in your face or as satirically funny as Robocop but it still gets the point across. Underlying we have the menace of a society mobilising only for expansion and war. To serve the military in such a way has no other purpose and Verhoeven is not so subtlety trying to tell us to watch out for this. One day it's bugs, who knows who or what it might be next. Even without the supplied directors commentary backing all of this up it can be easily seen from moments in the film where phrases like "To ensure that Human civilisation, not insect dominates this galaxy now and forever" or the fact that most of the military wear costumes WWII Nazis tailors would have been proud of! Interspersed with propaganda adverts Verhoeven has suitably shown us a society on the march towards fascism, control and destruction. The other films in this box set are hit and miss; the second instalment is a certain miss and the third is viewers choice; you'll either enjoy some of the satire in there or you'll think there's not enough nor has the same biting wit of the first.
Transfer wise the first is excellent. Certainly it's by no means perfect but those minor glitches are nothing if not fleeting. Sound wise, perhaps a little more exposure to the rears but apart from that I cannot fault it. The second and third have poorer transfers but some great audio to keep the masses entertained a little. In terms of extras again the second and third are padded out somewhat better but there's still nothing there to emulate Verhoeven's original commentary.
Watchers of Starship Troopers tend to fall into the love it or hate it camps. Most in the latter can't get by the Pinocchio acting technique. They are right of course, some of the acting at times doesn't get any worse than this. Does this enhance what is ultimately a B-Movie though, or just me sticking up for it? For my own part the themes, story, visual spectacle and utter mayhem in this film appeals. A lover of 50s Sci-Fi B-Movies and this has to be the best one of its genre from the 90's, this B movie theme has continued with the second and third and as a box set it's a rather nice affair. Fans of the film though will opt for this for completeness however I'm also more than sure that some will just have that original first sitting on their shelves and no more.
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