Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers Chronicles-Tesca Campaign (1999)

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Released 19-May-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Dolby Digital Trailer-City
Audio Commentary-Filmmakers
Gallery-Photo-Filmmakers Photos
Gallery-Photo
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Krull
Rating ?
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 96:06
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (57:40) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Chris Berkeley
Alan Caldwell
David Hartman
Sam Liu
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Pat Allee
David S. Clark
Steven Melching
Timothy Schlattmann
Greg Weisman
Jon Weisman
Clancy Brown
Elizabeth Daily
David DeLuise
Bill Fagerbakke
Nicholas Guest
Jamie Hanes
Tish Hicks
Case ?
RPI ? Music Wayne Boon
Nathan Furst
Jim Latham


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
German
Dutch
Arabic
Bulgarian
Czech
Danish
Finnish
Greek
Hebrew
Hindi
Hungarian
Icelandic
Norwegian
Polish
Swedish
Turkish
French Audio Commentary
German Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    While this is the second in this computer generated series, this is the first of the series that I have reviewed so the first section of this review will be a 'first time' look rather than a continuation of a previous review.

    Starship Troopers was a Robert Heinlein novel, and when it was released it created a great controversy. Some loved it, but some condemned it as glorifying war. I am in the love it camp and while the backdrop for the story is a war and the characters are in the military, it, like many Heinlein novels, is about the people involved. The society that is portrayed is right wing but surprisingly the military is not and this is where both the film and to some extent this series stray from the original storyline.

    The film is one of those that leave many in two minds - as a standalone film and as a satire of right wing militaries it is not too bad. What annoyed me and others (though not all), was that they called it Starship Troopers and claimed it was based on the novel. They would have been far better off just releasing the film with a different title and not mentioning the book at all. The military in the book was one consisting purely of volunteers and, other than in the face of the enemy, anyone could resign at any time. They worked to a large extent on camaraderie and the key principle that "no one is left behind"; this is translated in the film into "shoot me". The powered armour is missing completely which is a great shame but the worst distortion in my books is the reduction of the enemy to mindless bugs.

    The bugs in the book are a smart, space-faring race. They build starships and carry weaponry which is just as effective as that of the human combatants. In the film, their space-faring ability seems to have been reduced to farting into space from the ground. This combined with the change in the very nature of the military left me shaking my head. Once I had managed to get past this disappointment and watch the film as a standalone piece then I started to enjoy myself up to a point. One thing that remains annoying is the excessive use of ammunition both in the film and in this series. The soldiers seem to simply hold down the trigger and spray whatever it is that the guns shoot around the place. This is highlighted in this particular episode of the series where the sergeant calls out "make every shot count" and everyone takes note but again holds the old go button down for the rest of the battle.

    This series sits somewhat closer to the novel, particularly when compared to the movie. There are still distortions such as when one of the characters is suffering from something similar to post traumatic stress syndrome and the military solution is to plan to send him off to the psychics and have his mind wiped and a new personality imprinted. This does not gel with the ethos of the military as portrayed in the book. They do have a much better feel at the squad level and in this episode it is brought out rather nicely by the introduction into the team of a Skinny commander as a trooper, the result of the recent treaty with the Skinnies.

    One last thing that rubs is the propaganda-type ads that they run in both the film and the series, again a great idea and lots of fun and laughs with a couple having some real bite as far as the satire is concerned but they bear no relation to the society as portrayed in the book. I know that what I should be doing is disassociating the film and series from the book and enjoying them on their own merits, but it is a little difficult when the title screen and some parts of the material do match what is in the book.

    Considering that this is a series aimed at the Saturday morning children's market they have included some reasonably complex material and the character development is above the norm for this market. They have combined each group of 5 episodes into a single story arc. This has been done for a variety of reasons, including the ability to keep the planetary backdrops the same for a number of episodes thus saving time and money. This also gave them the ability to develop the story over more time than is available in a half hour episode.

    This release is referred to as volume two but it contains episodes 16 through 20. This information is not printed on the disc or in the titles at all. The five episodes have been placed on the disc seamlessly as a single film under the title of The Tecsa Campaign. The only mention of the episode numbers is during the commentary. I could not confirm which episodes were released on the first disc but they appear to be the first five. They seem to have gone out of their way to hide this information.

    As an entirety, this section of the series has our squad of troopers landed on a planet. In a previous episode, Carl has been hospitalised and is no longer with the team. He appears to have been put there by a Skinny, a particular Skinny that was the main antagonist in many of the previous episodes. While he was the antagonist, he was actually under the control of a brain bug during these episodes. Now released from this control and with the Skinnies having joined the federation as allies, this very same Skinny has been assigned as a private to Rico's squad. He is not received with open arms as would be expected as the team is still mourning the loss of Carl, and to have the being responsible join their team as a replacement does not make them happy. Once they land on the planet something starts to go wrong and the team slowly disappears one by one, leaving only the Skinny and a very unhappy Rico as partners. As this 'movie' is made up of five separate episodes, there is a mini story arc in each episode making it hard to write a synopsis that does not contain at least four spoilers for each non-ending/cliff hanger. The last two segments end up with one of the team seriously hurt and in a float tank - these two episodes have a surprising amount of dialogue and character development for an animated action series.

    The CGI animation in the series is very good. While it is relatively easy to create the machines and suits and probably the bugs as well as hierarchies of objects, the real challenge comes in creating the human characters' faces. They have succeeded surprisingly well considering that they were producing episodes in an incredibly tight time frame. At times, the image shifts over in your mind's eye to complete realism. This only happens occasionally but is testament to the skill of the animators.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    I must admit that I expected a little more from this transfer than I found. Considering that the first time any of this image was rendered in the analogue domain was probably on the output of your DVD player (DVI connections exempt), I was surprised to find some problems with the transfer.

    The series is presented at 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced. This would appear to be its original aspect ratio.

    The image is very sharp except where there is movement. I expected to find each frame cleanly rendered but moving objects and pans exhibit motion blur with trails and double images. A clear example of this is while two of the troopers run past the virtual camera at 23:30. Either this is intentional to give motion the look of real life or perhaps the transfer has suffered somewhat during an NTSC to PAL conversion. Shadow detail is good though some scenes are quite dark.

    The colours are accurate and free of any artefacts. The colour palette is a mix of greens for the forest moon and military green.

    There are no visible MPEG artefacts, though some of the motion blur comes very close to appearing pixelated. There is some annoying noise in some of the backgrounds such as the ground at 23:16. There are of course no film artefacts.

    The subtitles are easy to read and accurate to the dialogue.

    This is an RSDL disc with the layer change at 57:40. This is during a fade-to-black with no audio so it is basically invisible.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Again I expected slightly more from the audio, although to be fair it is a fast production daily cartoon so there is limited time to produce a movie quality soundtrack.

    There are three Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtracks on the disc; English, French and German along with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack carrying the audio commentary.

    Dialogue quality is good as is the audio sync.

    The surrounds carry some good ambience such as the sound of the waves during the beach landing but there are no battle effects or any split rear effects present. There is a good front sound stage with god left/right material.

    The subwoofer is in use with some good supporting material but it doesn't rock the whole house like it should for such a series.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    A static menu with no audio is presented at 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced. The backdrop appears to be the view out of a starship porthole but with a scene from a planet superimposed over the left hand side.

Commentary

    Producer Audu Paden, co-executive producer Jeff Kline, and story editor Greg Wesson are present for the entire movie and episode directors Alan Caldwell, Michael Chang, and Jay Olivia join us for the particular episode that they were involved with. Also Rino Romano, one of the voice actors, is present for the last segment. The commentary is interesting and covers a wide range of topics. It is sometimes screen specific, particularly at the start, but at other times covers background information on the series or production information. It contains some very big spoilers for later series so listen with caution. It also talks about there having only been 36 of the 40 planned episodes made and that this leaves the series hanging somewhat at the end. I cannot confirm this as the episode guides out there appear to show 40 episodes having been aired at some stage or another - confusing.

Filmmakers photos

    Six photographs of what I assume is the voice cast siting in a room with microphones in front of their faces.

Photo Gallery

    Eighty-odd images of line drawn storyboard and detail drawings of characters and their machinery. There are also some colour plates of backgrounds and other material. These are the concept and working drawings that I assume were then handed over to the 3D animators.

Trailer: The Tesca Campaign (1:03)

    Presented at 1.33:1 and accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, this trailer is a combination of a segment of the propaganda ads that are contained within the series and a voiceover describing the series. It only gives an impression of the action side of the series though of course I am only judging the series by this set of episodes.

Trailer: Krull (1:24)

    Presented at 1:85:1 and accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, this is the trailer for the 1982 fantasy film Krull.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this DVD misses out on:

    The Region 1 version of this DVD misses out on:

    This would give us a clear Region 4 winner.

Summary

    Once you get past the deficiencies in the translation of the novel which are far less in this series when compared to the movie, this is an enjoyable and surprisingly character-driven series. They have drawn on some obvious parallels from well-known war films or real life battles when making this series as they point out in the commentary, such as the first episode being an attack on a beach head, the second being a boat trip up a hostile river and so on.

    The video is good up to a point.

    The audio is good.

    The extras are also good.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Terry McCracken (read my bio)
Saturday, May 29, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDSkyworth 1050p progressive scan, using RGB output
DisplaySony 1252q CRT Projector, Screen Technics matte white screen 16:9 (223cm). Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR800
SpeakersB&W DM305 (mains); CC3 (centre); S100 (surrounds); custom Adire Audio Tempest with Redgum plate amp (subwoofer)

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