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In what is becoming an increasingly common trend, Paul Verhoeven’s ultra-violent sci-fi action flick Starship Troopers is the latest in a long line of films to get a new, Special Edition release. The film is already well represented on DVD in both region one and two, so is this re-release really necessary, or is it just another money making exercise by the studios?

Starship Troopers: Special Edition

Feature


The story is fairly simplistic (unlike the book on which the film is based) and concerns a group of teenagers who have just graduated from high school and are wondering what to do with their lives. Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dein), the school’s all-star athlete, is dating the most gorgeous girl in school, Carmen Ibanez (Denise Richards). Unfortunately, Carmen has aspirations of joining the Federation’s mighty Starfleet as a pilot, something Johnny just doesn’t have the brains for. In an attempt to impress Carmen Johnny signs up for the Mobile Infantry, the cannon fodder of the Federation’s armed forces. Soon after signing up they, and countless other fresh-faced teens, are shipped off to their respective assignments. For Ibanez this means a cushy lunar base where she learns to pilot huge starships. For Rico it means the gruelling training schedule of the Mobile Infantry and one particularly brutal Drill Sergeant named Zim. Not too far into their training war breaks out with a planet of giant alien insects, known to the people of Earth as the Arachnids. These bugs send a meteor to Earth, which completely obliterates Ibanez’s and Rico's home city of Buenos Aires. Fuelled by revenge, Johnny and the rest of his unit are sent to Klendathu (the Arachnid’s home world) to kick some serious bug butt. Unfortunately for them, the people of Earth have seriously underestimated the Arachnid’s intelligence...

The film features a (then) largely unknown cast of actors, including Casper Van Dien, Denise Richards, Dina Meyer, Neil Patrick Harris, Jake Busey and Patrick Muldoon. Obviously a couple of these actors went on to bigger and better things (most notably Denise Richards), whereas some vanished into obscurity. The only ‘big’ name actor in the film is Michael Ironside, who is such a top bloke that he can actually make the film’s over-the-top dialogue sound cool! Make no mistake; Starship Troopers is groan inducing on occasion. The tongue-in-cheek dialogue reaches absurd levels of cheese at times and the acting is adequate at best. Still, this doesn’t stop it from being an enjoyable movie, mostly thanks to the fantastic CGI and Paul Verhoeven’s energetic direction. The CGI really is something special, far more convincing than a certain long-eared Gungan I could mention. The bugs all look suitably disgusting, especially the Brain bug, and move in a very convincing manner for the most part. The warriors really look as if they could tear a person to pieces and there are often thousands of the creatures on the screen at the same time. Starship Troopers was a great technical achievement at the time and still holds up well today.

Video


As with the previous release, Starship Troopers features an excellent transfer. The 1.85:1 anamorphic video is very good, easily matching (and in certain cases surpassing) some newer releases. The DVD format shows up the astounding Arachnid effects brilliantly and everything is incredibly sharp. There are one or two minor film artefacts, but I couldn’t spot any compression issues and black level and colour rendition are also spot-on. I didn’t notice any marked improvement over the previous release, but some have commented on improved sharpness and greater depth to the image. In any case, this is still a good transfer.

Audio


Sound comes in either Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround or 5.1 formats, the latter being the preferred choice (obviously). The mix is great; bugs scamper all around and screeches emanate from every speaker. The surrounds are used extensively during the film; the crowd cheers during the football game and the roar of the starships being good examples. During the first invasion of the bug’s home planet you will swear you’re right in the middle of the action. The centre dialogue channel is also very clear above the carnage. The sound effects are worthy of a mention; the bug’s screeches and howls sound brilliant. When the sound is combined with the stunning CGI it makes the Arachnids all the more believable (far more believable than the human actors).

Starship Troopers: Special Edition

Extras


Here’s where the set differs from previous releases. This Special Edition ditches the double-sided format of those efforts in favour of the more traditional double-disc package. This allows for even more supplemental material than was found on the original region one disc.

The first disc contains its fair share of extras. In addition the original commentary from Paul Verhoeven and Ed Neumeier (which is great), the disc now features a commentary track from Verhoeven, Dina Meyer, Casper Van Dien and Neil Patrick Harris. This is a pretty good track, with a lot of behind the scenes info and anecdotes from the set. The group seem to have a good rapport, and I didn’t get bored listening to this track as I often do with others. An isolated score with commentary from composer Basil Poledouris is also included. Rounding things off on disc one are some filmographies.

Moving on to disc two, one of the most obvious improvements from the previous release is an all-new documentary entitled ‘Death from Above’. This documentary takes a look at all aspects of the film, and includes interviews with many of the creative staff and actors. Running for approximately thirty minutes, this is an informative an entertaining documentary that gives valuable insight into the film. Particularly interesting are the tales of how Starship Troopers was received by the media, many of who branded the film as neo-nazi propaganda.

‘Know Your Foe’ is a series of text-based descriptions of the bugs, with accompanying video clips. These are quite interesting, and there are descriptions of all the main bugs in the film—Warrior, Tanker, Hopper, Plasma and Brain bugs are all here. The video segments give the viewer a nice look at how the amazing effects were done, and this is a pretty interesting feature overall.

‘Starships of Starship Troopers’ is a short featurette that goes into greater detail about the huge spacecraft that ferry the troops from one planet to another. It features interviews with designers, clips of the models under construction and how they were integrated into the final film.

‘Special Effects Comparisons’ is a series of sequences comparing unfinished effects shots with those found in the completed movie. This is actually one of the more interesting extras, with some amusing moments on display as hoards of troopers round about shooting at thin air while Paul Verhoeven yells at them. This feature makes you appreciate just how difficult it must be to act like there’s a huge bug on the attack when you have little more than a mad Dutch director as a reference point. A number of storyboard comparisons follow, and are similar to the previous section. Obviously they feature storyboards rather than video segments. These are probably worth a quick look, but nothing more.

Next is the original ‘Making of’ featurette, as found on the original release of the film. The seven-minute feature is largely promotional in nature, containing only superficial looks behind the scenes and limited interviews. This is still worth a look though. Moving on we come to some very comprehensive conceptual art galleries and a couple of scene deconstructions with commentary by Verhoeven.

Five deleted scenes are included, which were also on the original release. These are all pretty lightweight, adding little to the proceedings. They do make the character of Carmen out to be somewhat of a slut though! A couple of screen tests for Johnny and Carmen are also on the disc. I found these pretty boring, but others may disagree.

‘Don’t Look Now’ is the bug test film that was created to demonstrate how the Arachnids would look and move. It showcases the design of the warrior bugs as they hunt down a lone soldier and let him have it. Verhoeven introduces the video, and is actually scarier than the bugs! Finally we have a number of theatrical trailers for Starship Troopers, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles and Resident Evil . Overall this is a nice collection of extras, and a good mix of the old and the new.

Starship Troopers: Special Edition

Overall


As I said before, this is a very enjoyable action film with more intelligence than first impressions might suggest. If you can suspend your disbelief (and for once at the acting not the special effects), then you will find this a great popcorn movie. This edition is now the best version of the film available, although I have to question the importance of an upgrade if you already own the original release. However, if you’re a Troopers virgin, go for it! Invite some friends around, turn off the lights, crank up the volume, and prepare to be entertained. By the end of the night you’ll swear those bugs are real!


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