Exceptional! Starship Troopers (Special Edition) is a must have in any movie fanatics collection. Combine a controversial cinematic and special effects masterpiece with a superb DVD release, and Columbia-Tristar has a sure winner in its catalog.
Paul Verhoeven’s (RoboCop, Total Recall, Showgirls, Hollowman) 1997 adaptation of Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers is stunning not only for its Academy Award nominated special effects, but also for the volume of controversy that the film elicited amongst c…itics and the public. The movie and its director were widely lambasted for glorifying Nazism, totalitarianism, and fascism, and its not hard to see where these charges come from. Verhoeven’s future Earth is ruled by a single fascist government that has eliminated poverty and disease, and created a uniformly attractive, educated, and affluent populace. Verhoeven’s response to these critics (in the “Death From Above” documentary) makes owning this Special Edition a must for any serious film lover; in the feature Verhoeven and screenwriter Ed Neumeier discuss at length their ironic intent for the movie, talk about how the script and filming were designed to mimic and mock WWII warfare and propaganda, and how ultimately the movie failed to communicate their anti-fascist agenda (“We were warned not to be ironic.”).
For those not interested in politics or unfamiliar with the movie, here’s a brief synopsis: Earth is under attack by hideous alien monsters, and the beautiful, idealist and ultimately vacuous/innocent youth of Earth must travel to the insect’s home planet to be slaughtered en masse. The film is a tour de force of special effects, and has superb casting – Casper van Dien, Dina Meyer, Denise Richards, and Michael Ironside all excel at playing programmed neo-fascists or empty-headed 1950’s teen archetypes.
This transfer is perfect. That sums it up. Particulate damage is nil. Colours are perfect. Grain is non-existent. Jaggies, edge enhancements, and pixellation are non-existent as well. This transfer is particular excellent when one takes into account the variety of lighting environments encountered – day and night, indoors and outdoors, planet bound or in space, the colours are always true to their environment, vivid, and grain free. This shows the scene by scene attention to detail that Columbia-Tristar is noted for lavishing on their releases – no quickly encoded celluloid-to-dvd transfers here. In summary, superb transfer – extremely watchable.
Same story as video – exceptional. Sounds utilize all three dimensions continuously, and Basil Poledouris’ stirring, and discordant score comes through perfectly, both in the movie and in the special features. The sound of guns firing resonates in your chest cavity, and the noise of bugs screeching puts your hair on end. Finally, excellent use of bass – the sub-woofer is a continuous, unobtrusive presence; that is to say, bass enhances the film through-out, as opposed to pouring out in random gouts. Why isn’t this a 6.1 / DTS / THX / etc. release? I’m not sure – definitely could have been. However the 5.1 is soooooo good that the point is moot. Again, excellent job from Columbia-Tristar.
Brace yourself – this double-disc is overloaded with cool goodies:
- Bug test film “Don’t Look Now:” This is funny – Verhoeven apparently had this made to sell the concept of the movie to financial backers – it’s a funny shot of some guy running from a bug and getting comically dismembered (if such a thing is possible). Summary: Verhoeven is nuts.
- Death from Above, new documentary: This is a fascinating forty-minute documentary, primarily on the the message that the film was intended to communicate, how it was misinterpreted by almost everyone, and what it all means. The film is interwoven with Vietnam, WWII, the Nazi’s, Mussolini, the Dutch Navy, and a mountain of other interesting social and historical references. I recommend watching the movie, watching this documentary, then watching the movie again – the documentary will open your eyes to another level of the film.
- Commentary: Lots of commentary – from the excitable Neumeier and Verhoeven, to the uninspired Denise Richards. Interesting and insightful, and worth a listen.
- The Ships: A great featurette on the starships in the movie. One of the things that I love about this movie is that the space scenes were shot with models, not animated. Check out this featurette to watch them doing frame-by-frame scenes of ships exploding and venting atmosphere and bodies – the attention to detail is nothing short of neurotic.
- Deleted Scenes and Screen Tests: There’s a reason these scenes were deleted: They stink. Nonetheless, interesting to see Johnny and Carmen getting angstful over pre-marital sex. The screen tests are really disappointing – to lame scenes of Capser and Denise more or less being themselves.
- “Know Your Foe:” Five interesting examinations of the bugs. Discussion includes the bugs role in bug society, their role in the movie, how they were conceptualized and animated, and lots of clips of the bugs in action. The flying bug scenes of the troopers getting decapitated are particularly macabre: turns out Verhoeven didn’t want any plain, boring old decapitation, he wanted a unique and exciting decapitation, which resulted in much work being investing severed head models. Lovely.
- …and more. Way more. Check the side bar list – I’ve spend about six hours digging through stuff on these discs, and I’d say that I’ve covered about 65% of it.
I can heartily recommend purchasing this disc on all levels. General cinema fans: buy it to own a controversial classic with insightful commentary from its makers. Owners of the non-SE version: buy it for the reference quality film and audio and massive collection of special features. Everybody else: buy it to let studios know that quality transfers and quality extras sell lots of discs.
Just remember – The only good bug is a dead bug!
Special Features List
- Commentary by Paul Verhoeven and screenwriter Ed Neumeier
- Commentary by Paul Verhoeven and cast members Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, and Neil Patrick Harris
- Isolated score with commentary by composer Basil Poledouris
- New documentary: “Death from Above”
- “Know Your Foe”: five special-effects featurettes
- The Starships of Starship Troopers
- Vintage featurette: The Making of Starship Troopers
- Two scene deconstructions with commentary by Paul Verhoeven
- Five deleted scenes
- Johnny & Carmen screen tests
- Bug test film “Don
- Theatrical trailer(s)