Case Number 03183: Small Claims Court


Sony // 1997 // 129 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // August 11th, 2003

The Charge

A new kind of enemy.
A new kind of war.

The Case

Based on the novel by sci-fi author Robert A. Heinlein and set in the future, Starship Troopers follows a group of military cadets as they're registered, trained, and then sent off to fight against an enemy that dwells underneath your back porch -- only they're about fifty times bigger and they like to kill humans. As this ragtag group of troopers heads off into the vastness of space, they're led by a tough-as-nails leader (Michael Ironside, Total Recall) who has instilled the fear of eight-legged creatures in them. It seems that a species of super bugs are colonizing various planets by sending their spores into outer space. Giant acid spitting beetles and lobster-like spiders run rampant, eating and killing anything that gets in their way. As the cadets fight the enemy, they also find themselves embattled in Melrose Place-ish drama. It seems that the hunky cadet Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien, Sleepy Hollow) has eyes for flight commander Carmen (Denise Richards, The World is Not Enough), but she's broken off their relationship because she has the hots for one of her superiors, Zander (Patrick Muldoon, Wicked). And then there's Dizzy (Dina Meyer, Dragonheart), a tomboy hottie who wants nothing more than to play with Johnny's rifle (if you know what I mean, and I think you do). As these young models -- I mean characters -- try to sort out all their sexual issues, they find themselves embattled with the enemy when their hometown of Buenos Aires is destroyed by a bug attack. Soon it's an all out war: man vs. bug in a deadly fight to the finish!

Starship Troopers is a movie that's definitely grown on me. When I saw it in the theaters, my first response was, "That was neat and all, but kind of empty." Upon subsequent viewings, my opinion is now "That was awesome, and who gives a cockroach's rear how empty it is? It's got Dina Meyer prancing around in skimpy shorts!" Yes, I am a full red-blooded straight American male through and through. I will readily admit that I enjoy watching ships, aliens and people getting blown-up/stabbed/eaten/shot/mutilated/torn apart and generally decimated by gargantuan bugs that would make even the Orkin man head for the hills. In director Paul Verhoeven's grandly violent Starship Troopers, people are dispatched and smashed like...well, like bugs. This is appropriate since the movie deals with huge, drooling alien insects attempting to wipe out mankind as we know it. Can you get any cooler than that? The cast -- featuring the lip smacking Denise Richards and purring Dina Meyer -- is made up of actors who all appear to have been genetically bred to look like Barbie and Ken dolls (save for poor old Neil Patrick "Doogie Howser" Harris). Casper Van Dien, all chiseled chin that could give Bruce Campbell a run for his money, looks like he just walked in off the set of a G.I. Joe flick. Filling in the spaces between the gruff dialogue are eye-popping special effects scenes of spaceships crashing, bugs killing, and creatures exploding. Though the film tries to touch on such deep subjects as a citizen's duty to his country, any introspective ideas are whisked away in lieu of big action set pieces. The film cost nearly $100 million to make, and damned if it doesn't look like every penny is up there on the screen. Some have accused Verhoeven's films of being ultra-violent and empty -- and they have no better evidence than Starship Troopers. Well, actually they have a better argument with Showgirls, but that's another quibble for another day. The fact remains that while Starship Troopers is somewhat empty, it's a guy movie through and through -- bugs, bombs, and babes. Pardon me while I grab a Kleenex, a tear just came to my eye.

Starship Troopers: Superbit Edition is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen with an anamorphic enhancement for 16x9 TV sets. Holy smoke, what a great looking picture this is! I have to say that out of all the transfers I've seen this past year, Starship Troopers: Superbit Edition may just get the top spot. Columbia has done a fantastic job on this print, making sure that the colors and flesh tones are all evenly rendered and bright. The black levels are all very solid and dark, even in scenes involving attacks at night. There was not a single instance of grain, dirt, or edge enhancement in any of this transfer (there was one instance of haloing, but I'll let that slide). You may consider this as close to reference quality as you're likely to get. I owned the original 1998 DVD release of this film, and I can safely say that if you're looking to upgrade to a better looking disc, this new Superbit title is your best bet.

The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, as well as DTS Surround, both in English. Much like the video presentation, the audio on both of these mixes is near perfect. There are a ton of surround sounds and directional effects throughout -- from intergalactic explosions to screeching bugs, Starship Troopers is a movie that features sensory overload. I took a listen to both the DTS and Dolby tracks, and I have to say that I preferred the DTS track slightly more -- it was a bit more dynamic with richer sound. However, those are minor quibbles. The fact remains that either of these soundtracks are going to get the job done on any home theater system. Not surprisingly, all aspects of the effects (lots of 'em), dialogue, and composer Basil Poledouris' heavily bombastic music score was free of any excessive hiss or distortion. Also included on this disc are French, English, and Spanish subtitles.

As with most all of Columbia's Superbit titles, Starship Troopers is void of any and all supplemental materials. As the Soup Nazi might say, "No theatrical trailer for you!"

Review content copyright © 2003 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 95

Perp Profile
Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* DTS 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)

* English
* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 129 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks
* None

* IMDb