Starship Troopers: Special Edition (1997)

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Released 6-Nov-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Screen Tests - Johnny & Carmen
Teaser Trailer
Featurette
Audio Commentary-Paul Verhoeven (Director)
Featurette-Scene Developments with Director's Commentary (3)
Deleted Scenes-5
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1997
Running Time 124:18 (Case: 129)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (79:38) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Paul Verhoeven
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Casper Van Dien
Dina Meyer
Denise Richards
Jake Busey
Neil Patrick Harris
Patrick Muldoon
Michael Ironside
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music Basil Poledouris
ZoŽ Poledouris


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Russian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
French
Italian
German
German for the Hearing Impaired
Spanish
Swedish
Norwegian
Danish
Finnish
Icelandic
Portuguese
Hebrew
Greek
Croatian
Slovenian
Estonian
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement Yes, mildly
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

††† "The Dutch have always been more scientific, interested in detail; certainly less idealistic and more realistic." -- Paul Verhoeven.

††† This partial quote is part of Verhoeven's statement about his goal as a director, to be completely open, and another great example of his superiority to the very run-of-the-mill Hollywood directors. As you sit through Starship Troopers and watch the relationship between the characters as adapted by screenwriter Ed Neumeier unfold, you may be interested to know that test audiences in America felt that the wrong character out of the main five died. You'll probably be able to guess which one about an hour into the film, but the point is that war is an ugly thing filled with numerous instances of the "wrong" people dying. Still, if you have to judge a film on the basis of which hero lives or dies, then Starship Troopers won't be your cup of tea for the simple reason that there aren't any real good guys.

††† Starship Troopers, which is loosely based upon the novel of the same name by Robert Heinlein, concerns itself with the lives of five adolescents growing up in a militarised society. The first four we meet in the days leading up to their graduation from high school, beginning with a typical day in a class taught by a veteran named Jean Rasczak (Michael Ironside). Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien) is a strongman with modest intellectual abilities, and the centre of a clash between two women, the first of which is his girlfriend, Carmen Ibanez (Denise Richards). The other woman who wants him is Dizzy Flores (Dina Meyer), but time will tell as to which one gets him, and no, he doesn't ever say things like "hey, can I have you both?". He doesn't tell the audience he'd buy that for a dollar, either, but I'd buy his friend Carl Jenkins (Neil Patrick Harris) and his fast-track career through the military for half that price. After graduation, Johnny and Dizzy head off to boot camp to become grunts, Carmen begins training to be a pilot in the navy, while Carl's intellectual and psychic abilities get him into the ground floor of a military intelligence career.

††† The next part of the film focuses upon Johnny's rough ride through boot camp, which is where we meet the fifth and final main character, a rather tall and nice young man named Ace Levy (Jake Busey). As friendships are made and relationships are broken, Johnny's home in Buenos Aires is hit with one of the meteors that the insectoid race have been allegedly throwing at the Earth for some time. As is the standard for a Verhoeven and Neumeier collaboration, this plot point amongst others is advanced through the use of mock newscasts, these ones being more based upon the propaganda films of the 1940s than the MTV-style, truncated-for-those-short-of-attention-span-style of the mock newcasts in RoboCop. As the war between insectoid and human society unfolds, we are treated to a view of warfare from a quasi-fascist society, not the celebration of fascism that some illiterate critics have called the film.

††† Now, for those who came to the DVD scene a little later than I did, an explanation of why this Special Edition exists is necessary. The original release of Starship Troopers in Region 4 was held up by hardcore multi-region enthusiasts as a prima facie case as to why Region Coding should be outlawed. It was presented with no special features, and it was broken in half at a critical moment of the film to boot, which is something I have been spitting chips about for at least eighteen months now. The original Region 1 release, by comparison, had a single-sided transfer of the film (and one that was almost reference quality to boot), one of the best audio commentaries you'll ever hear, and some rather interesting deleted footage. The original Region 4 release has been withdrawn from sale and supplanted with this new Special Edition, so if you want to know why this is the version we've been waiting for in Australia, read on.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

††† As I have just mentioned, Buena Vista's original transfer of Starship Troopers was not exactly well-received, and it appears that they have listened to and responded to this criticism. I am pleased to report that this new Special Edition is exactly how Paul Verhoeven's anti-militaristic satire masterpiece should have been presented from the very beginning.

††† The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, a slight opening of the mattes from the intended aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and it is 16x9 Enhanced. This is one film where only the intended aspect ratio (or a close approximation like this one) will do, as the numerous crowd shots and special effects sequences attest.

††† The transfer is exceptionally sharp, with enough fine detail and subtlety for every nuance in every shot to count, so much so that even a few matte lines become visible from time to time. The shadow detail, although rarely called for, is excellent, with plenty of subtle gradations between light and dark that enrich the picture even further. There is no low-level noise.

††† The colours in this film were, at least seemingly, deliberately arranged to give the human society a cold, mechanical tone that further enhances the feeling of darkness in the quasi-Nazi society that is depicted on-screen. Other objects, such as the insectoids and their blood, have a bright, shiny sort of tone that furthers the colder look of the human world. The transfer captures these subtle effects in the colour scheme without missing a beat.

††† MPEG artefacts were not apparent in this transfer at any time. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of maybe half a dozen noticeable instances of aliasing in the entire running length of the feature, which is saying quite a lot considering how many hard lines there are. The most objectionable instance of aliasing I noticed was when the fine ridges of a wall on the boot camp training grounds at 34:48 shimmered a little as the camera moved. Film artefacts were found in small amounts, with the most noticeable ones coming very early on in the piece, during the opening newscast. This is a very clean-looking and magnificent transfer, so much so that I have to resort to nitpicking in order to point out its flaws.

††† The first of these nitpicks relates to the English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles, which are imposed quite high up on the picture, with character's faces often being blocked out by the text. This makes it hard to follow who is speaking at what time, but it is tempered by the fact that the subtitles follow the spoken dialogue in an almost word-for-word sense. The only time I noticed these subtitles varying from the dialogue was when "All's well" during I Have Not Been To Oxford Town became "Ah-Oh" at 15:36, a major faux-pas considering the significance of the original lyrics in this scene. The second nitpick is the number of chapter stops: there are only seventeen in the entire one hundred and twenty-five minutes of the film, which is in my opinion far less than satisfactory.

††† This disc is RSDL formatted, with the layer change taking place between Chapters 12 and 13 at 79:38. This is just after the almost-sex-scene, and while the pause sticks out like a severed torso, the placement is probably the best it can be. It beats the hell out of the flip point in the original Region 4 release, which at 55:38, interrupted one of the most energetic points of the film.

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

Audio

††† Accompanying a near reference-quality video transfer is a reference-quality audio transfer that will make you feel as if you've just survived a war once the film is over.

††† There are a total of five soundtracks included on this DVD, the first three of which are in Dolby Digital 5.1 with the lower bitrate of 384 kilobits per second. In order, these three soundtracks are the original English dialogue, a German dub, and a Spanish dub. Also included are a Russian dub in Dolby Digital 2.0 with surround-encoding at a bitrate of 192 kilobits per second, and an English Audio Commentary in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo with a bitrate of 192 kilobits per second. Interestingly, the French and Italian dubs on the original Region 4 release of this disc are nowhere to be seen. I listened exclusively to the English soundtrack and the English Audio Commentary track.

††† The dialogue in this film is clear and easy to make out at all times, even from Michael Ironside, who seems to have been instructed to hoarsely mutter his lines during production. There were occasional moments when a few words would be uttered off-camera, and a lot of Marshall Bell's dialogue consists of incoherent screaming, but these add to rather than detract from one's experience of the film. There are no discernable problems with audio sync.

††† The score music in this film is credited to Basil Poledouris, who previously worked with Paul Verhoeven on RoboCop, and his elder daughter, ZoŽ. Basil contributes most of the score, with militaristic themes dominating most of the proceedings as the battles rage on and the bodies pile up. In spite of the fact that the themes in this score are more related to the events than the characters, they elevate the characters in such a manner that you genuinely feel sympathy for them when the film gives you enough breathing time to think about all that has happened. ZoŽ's contribution to the music of this film consists of one of her own compositions, a pseudo-dance song called Into It, and a slightly reworked cover of David Bowie's I Have Not Been To Oxford Town. Both of these small contributions make the scene they appear in all the more involving, for reasons that have to be experienced rather than explained.

††† The surround channels are used in an aggressive and enveloping manner throughout this film, with the battle sequences in particular having an enveloping sound that draws the viewer into the film and keeps them there whether they like it or not. At one point in the film, I wrote on my notepad that I had just heard the example of enveloping surround effects during the battle on Tango Urilla that begins at 85:14 and ends at 92:11. If ever there was a scene that one could use to show friends why they invested in a Dolby Digital 5.1 decoder, this is it. Other great uses of the surround channels are spread throughout the film, although they come more in the second half of the film, but this one stood out so well that it goes into my book as the reference example of how the surround channels should be used in an action sequence.

††† The subwoofer was used quite frequently to support the music and action sequences, with gunshots, explosions, and the movement of insectoids across the ground getting the most support from this channel. Like the surrounds, the subwoofer had a whale of a time supporting the scenes it was called for, and it nearly supported the entire film without calling undue attention to itself.

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

Extras

††† Another reason why the original Region 4 release of this film was held up as Exhibit A against Region Coding was because it was completely bereft of special features, while the equivalent Region 1 version was loaded with a limited but very informative collection of extras. This disc fixes all that.

Menu

††† The main menu is heavily animated with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, and it is 16x9 Enhanced to boot. The overall theme of the menus seem to be based around the navigation computers on the battleships in the film (which we only see a few glimpses of in the feature).

Audio Commentary - Paul Verhoeven (Director) & Edward Neumeier (Writer)

††† This is the audio commentary that all people who wish to participate in audio commentaries should be made to listen to before they get started. Paul and Edward speak non-stop about everything regarding the film, from the challenges of making it to the ignorant reactions the film got upon release from the American press. Both men speak with very little pause about all the things that inspired various parts of the film, and they are clearly having quite a lot of fun recounting the myriad of experiences they had leading up to, during, and after the film was completed. You've heard of reference-quality video and audio transfers, now this is an example of a reference-quality audio commentary.

Featurette - Screen Tests: Johnny And Carmen

†† This three minute and thirty-two second featurette shows Casper Van Dien and Denise Richards in character, but not in costume, reciting the dialogue from several sequences in the film. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Teaser Trailer

††† This trailer, clocking in at one minute and forty-seven seconds, is presented in the approximate aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. It is not 16x9 Enhanced.

Featurette

††† This untitled featurette is basically an electronic press kit, but with a slight difference. During the seven minute and forty-eight second length, the principal cast share a few comments about their characters, while director Paul Verhoeven and special effects supervisor Phil Tippett share some rather interesting views about what they accomplished with the film. This featurette is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with footage from the film in approximately 1.85:1, with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. It is not 16x9 Enhanced.

Featurettes - Scene Development with Director's Commentary

††† These three separate featurettes all detail the making of a different special effects sequence from the finished film. The first, Starship Destruction, which runs for three minutes and twenty seconds, is presented in the approximate aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with footage from the film in 1.85:1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. It details the technical aspects of shooting the destruction of the Roger Young. The second featurette, Bug Riding, which runs for three minutes and fifty-five seconds, shows various animatics that were used to comprise the shot where Casper Van Dien surfs on the back of a tanker bug, and it too is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with 1.85:1 footage and Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. The final featurette, Don't Look, which runs for one minute and nine seconds, is actually a screen test that was used by director Paul Verhoeven to show the financiers how the insectoids would be simulated in the finished film. Featuring a quick introduction by the man himself, it is presented in an approximate aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Deleted Scenes

††† This is a collection of scenes that were shot, but didn't make it into the final cut of the film for various reasons that are explained in the commentary. Suffice it to say that audience reactions to Denise Richards' character were far more negative in test screenings that included this footage. In order they are; Transporter, which runs for forty-five seconds; High School Lawn, which runs for one minute and two seconds; Zander Consoles Carmen, which runs for one minute and four seconds; Carmen's Cabin, which runs for one minute and nine seconds; and finally Last Kiss, which runs for three minutes and forty-five seconds. All of these deleted scenes are presented in an approximate 1.85:1 ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, and are not 16x9 Enhanced.

R4 vs R1

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

††† There are two versions currently circulating in Region 1, or at least there will be when the much-talked-about Special Edition that is planned for release there hits the shelves. For now, I will restrict my comparison to the previously released Region 1 version.

††† The Region 1 version misses out on;

††† The Region 4 version misses out on;

††† Normally, this would easily tip the scales in favour of Region 4, but the situation here is not quite that simple. In spite of being restricted to only one layer, the original Region 1 version of this disc is nearly of reference quality, and it also has much better chaptering. One of the chapters in this new version of the Region 4 disc is twenty minutes long, despite having several distinct scenes contained in it (the Region 1 version has four or five in the same period of time). Accessing one's favourite point in the film on the new Region 4 disc is just as awkward and annoying as was the case on the original Region 4 release. To make matters even more complicated, the new Region 1 version of the disc will apparently have an Isolated Score with commentary by Basil Poledouris, a feature that I'm sure most, if not all, punters will want. Unless you're like me, and eager to own all four versions of the disc that will have been released by the time the Region 1 Special Edition is out, you may want to wait and see what eventuates with that one. For the time being, however, this new Region 4 Special Edition is the version of choice due to RSDL formatting, but only if not being able to directly access the prom scene via Chapter stops bothers you less than it does me.

††††

The much talked about special edition in Region 1 has finally surfaced. In addition to all of the extras on the Region 4 special edition, the new Region 1 special edition is a two-disc set featuring a new commentary with director Paul Verhoeven as well as actors Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, and Neil Patrick Harris. Also included is an Isolated Score with commentary by Basil Poledouris, as well as a few more making-of featurettes. This, combined with the fact that the number of Chapter Stops on both Region 4 editions is totally inadequate, makes the Region 1 special edition the version of choice. They aren't doing a very good job of discouraging parallel importing.

Summary

††† Starship Troopers is a classic backhanded satire of fascist politics that separates the men from the boys when it comes to film analysis. The DVD it happens to be presented on takes all the previous criticisms of Buena Vista Home Entertainment's previous products and truly buries them.

††† The video transfer is excellent.

††† The audio transfer is excellent.

††† The extras are excellent.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Sunday, November 11, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySamsung CS-823AMF (80cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Ben P
Michael D's Region 4 DVD Info Page - DarkEye (This bio says: Death to DNR!)

Comments (Add)
Factual error on sleeve -
Edge enhancement present -
MPEG artifacts -
Starship Troopers: SE R1. letterbox or 16:9? - Allan M
SST Region 1 transfers ARE anamorphic -