Starship Troopers

Starship Troopers (2008)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cast: Casper Van Dien, Denise Richards, Dina Meyer, Jake Busey, Neil Patrick Harris
Extras: 2 Audio Commentaries, Documentary,Featurettes,Screen Tests,Deleted Scenes

"Starship Troopers" has become probably one of the most expensive cult classics in the history of modern film history (leave "Dune" out of this, please). Universally panned by critics and audiences alike, the film now has an active fan base. Perhaps some of the mistakes were in the very marketing, but perhaps the filmmakers themselves were a little too tongue in cheek about things.

First off, Paul Verhoeven and his entire film crew seemed in on a joke only they knew the punch line to, if it was a commentary on media propaganda in a time when a war was being waged (Desert Storm), then that joke was lost on an worldwide audience that only saw green blips on a radar screen, which actually was the birth of a very popular news channel named CNN. An inherent problem was that it certainly featured a lot of blood and guts, and was as far removed from the actual perception of the conflict than it even is now, when the propaganda machine of the modern day news cycle makes itself more obvious than it did during the actual birth of the 24 hour news channel. Either way, the hilarious news segments certainly make more sense now than they did then.

He was a 'maverick' of sorts, because when all Hollywood was asking him to do was direct a big budget and thoughtless sci fi flick (at 100 million, this was a big film in 1997), he actually seems to have somehow subversively placed social commentary within the film itself, which only proves that probably many of the critics that originally reviewed the film and accused of either being blatantly racist (fascist) or downright dumb either didn't see the film, or (more likely), were completely oblivious to the type of media manipulation and BS he was trying to take a punch at. Either way, Hollywood can be confusing that way, either it is some independent film trying to seem mainstream, or it's the mainstream trying to seem indie. Either way, it confuses the audience. You may as well take the Oliver Stone route than try to hide subversive or unconventional attitudes into a blockbuster.

Starting with "Total Recall" in 1990, Verhoeven created a whole new era as far as intelligent science fiction based on credible source material (this being one of the first films rather loosely 'based on Philip K. Dick material). And the film was a groundbreaking and critical success here in the states (many of us reading can perhaps recall where they were when they first saw the film), it also started a rather interesting directing technique that included clips of fictional news stations based in a science fiction universe that appeared to not only mimic current foreign policy (the original Gulf War AKA 'Desert Storm', but also delved deeper into the origins of war and since we currently live in a world completely saturated with news networks, the joke is almost lost on us these days because it is simply so horrifically realistic, the sarcasm that was lost on a society blind is also lost on a society distrusting and aware of media manipulation.

Either way, Verhoeven struggles to find a steady middle in "Starship Troopers", but for many the film is a work of brilliance upon retrospect (the same people that condemned the film now seem to widely hail it). I always got a kick out of how Verhoeven seems to enjoy making big budget Hollywood productions that have some kind of pseudo intellectual or thought provoking meaning beneath them, and I will say that personally I find Verhoeven films endlessly entertaining and a lot of fun, even the ones that aren't critically acclaimed.

Still, the fact remains the entire known world at large (not just the USA) obviously grossly misunderstood the filmmakers' intentions and actually accused them as fascists and even worse (because of the obvious influence of the Nazi propaganda film 'Triumph Of The Will'). Paul Verhoeven is simply a controversial filmmaker, whose past films have always pushed the envelope, sometimes more successfully than others, "Basic Instinct", the notoriously awful and sexist "Showgirls", the completely offensive and perverted "Hollow Man" and of course the equally sarcastic and subversive "Robo Cop", are a few examples of this director's filmography.

Ultimately, "Starship Troopers" and its irony may have been lost on many, but I must admit, as far as eye candy, this science fiction film has much going for it, and I have always quite enjoyed the film. One thing is for sure, in a post 9/11 world, this director's vision of America certainly isn't as funny as it probably was ten or fifteen years ago, perhaps that's why all of the unnecessary sequels that have sprung from his films completely miss the mark and the point of his originals.

The worst I can say the film seems to suffer from an identity crisis at times, and that is it's fatal flaw, perhaps it would even be better if it had taken the hard science fiction route instead of considering itself not only above it's Heinlein origins but also over the heads of most viewers, and that's why it failed at the box office.

And yet, on home video the film has received a comeback, and deservedly so, since the film obviously is a visual feast. It's easy to discount the obviously pulpy fifties sci fi plot, which simply consists of interplanetary bugs who are out to destroy the human race starring a very young cast (who all perform greatly) consisting of Casper Van Dien as Johnny, an athlete in a futuristic society. Military service is a requirement, and when Johnny decides to follow his sexy girlfriend Carmen (Denise Richards) and become an intergalactic soldier, as she becomes a pilot. But when Earth is attacked by a terrifying and bug like alien race, it's time for all out war. The special effects are amazing and the action scenes are so over the top that it's difficult not to be impressed with this misunderstood space gore fest. It is as much fun as I remember, and more so on this stellar Blu-ray edition, which truly sparkles, the film has never looked or sounded this amazing!

Featuring a pristine and flawless picture, this disc is demo worthy. The 1080p High Definition disc fills the screen with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 looks outstanding in every way, it captures the battles and the intergalactic terrain like never before, and in fact I was blown away. It's one of those discs that reminds you how much of a difference there is between standard def and the Blu-ray alternative, because this film has never looked so clear, and yet it has that slight hint of grain which makes the whole experience that much more theatrical.

The audio is equally impressive, as it features a bombastic and immersive Dolby TrueHD track that quite simply rocks the house! The surrounds are constantly active, and since this absurd futuristic thrill fest features so much bug splattering mayhem and outrageous violence (not to mention explosions), it is a disc you will want to put in to impress. The dialogue always comes through clear, never rendered inaudible and it sounds better than I even expected. This is certainly the version of "Starship Troopers" fans have been waiting for.

As for the special features, it is brimming with most of the extras featured on the two disc edition (which suffered a loss of image quality if I recall). Although none are in high def, these are all strong features and add to the enjoyment of the film because of their exhaustive completeness, We have a commentary from the director and Ed Neumeier, which is interesting and explores many areas of the film and the way it was received. Another more entertaining track features Verhoeven with cast members, including Neil Patrick Harris, Dina Meyer and Casper Van Dien.

'Death From Above' is probably the best feature on the disc, it runs around thirty minutes and is interesting because it explores the negative reaction the film received when it came out and some of the misunderstandings (including accusations of fascism). "Starship Troopers" appears to be a victim of poor marketing more than anything.

We also have a handful of short featurettes that explore many different areas of the production and include 'The Making Of Starship Troopers', 'The Spaceships Of Starship Troopers', 'Bug Test Film', 'Know Your Foe', and 'FX Comparisons'. These are all very well done featurettes that also give you an amusing look at the eccentric director and the way he works with his actors and crewmembers. It is also fairly technical at times as they feature in depth examinations of the special effects used in the film.

Along with a handful of deleted scenes and some screen tests this disc is a truly complete version of the film and certainly covers every angle a fan could wish for. The Blu-ray version also incorporates Blu- Wizard technology, which lets you watch the special features of the film along with the movie itself. 'Recruitment Test' is a useless trivia game, along with a pointless but interesting BD-Live feature where you have the option to 'Put Yourself In The Movie' which actually sounds more interesting than it is and it takes forever to get through. Basically it features the ability to superimpose a photo of yourself which is then integrated into the film. Seriously.

'FedNet Mode' is one of the better features and is a successful PIP feature which contains endless entertaining interviews and perceptions on the making of the film from just about every person involved in the making of the film. Very well done.

Fans of the film no doubt will be thrilled with this fantastic edition of "Starship Troopers", it has everything they could possibly want and more. The outstanding picture and sound on this 50GB Blu-ray disc alone make this a worthy purchase for fans and non fans alike as it really stretches the limits of this new technology.