STARSHIP TROOPERS TRILOGY
Thereís no doubt about it, STARSHIP TROOPERS is one doozie of a giant bug movie. When I was a kid, I remember tuning in sci-fi films like THEM! and TARANTULA, which had a certain charm because they featured giant insects that didnít always appear convincingly threatening. However, the CGI insect creatures in STARSHIP TROOPERS are realistic enough to scare the crap out of anyone, including those that donít have any form of bug phobias. The fact that STARSHIP TROOPERS doesnít shy away from showing blood and gore, as the human victims of these giant bugs are literally torn to pieces right in front of their eyes, is certain to make the viewer dislike insects a little more than usual. Despite the gore and the high human body count, director Paul Verhoevenís STARSHIP TROOPERS is actually something of a social and political satire that sets communism (the bugs) against fascism (the humans).
STARSHIP TROOPERS is set at some point in the future, when Earth has fallen under a fascist military rule and the human race has begun colonizing other worlds outside our solar system. Unfortunately, humankind encroaches upon space that is under the control of giant insects, which leads to an all out war over territory. As the film opens, we are introduced to a group of young friends that enlist in the armed forces and go their separate ways after aptitude testing determines their assignments. Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien) is the filmís nominal hero, who is assigned to the mobile infantry- thus finding himself on the ground, fighting with giant bugs on alien worlds. Johnnyís girlfriend, Carmen Ibanez (Denise Richards), becomes a starship pilot, while Dizzy Flores (Dina Meyer), the third side of the filmís romantic triangle, is stationed in the mobile infantry with her unrequited love. Lastly, calculating Carl Jenkins (Neil Patrick Harris) finds he has the aptitude for military intelligence and is tapped to outthink the giant bugs in the war. While the filmís youthful performers all acquit themselves rather well, it is Michael Ironside, who gives the filmís most memorable performance, as the roughneck commander Lt. Rasczak. The cast of STARSHIP TROOPERS also features Jake Busey, Clancy Brown, Patrick Muldoon Rue McClanahan, Brenda Strong and Marshall Bell.
STARSHIP TROOPERS 2:
Although I have heard less than flattering opinions about STARSHIP TROOPERS 2: HERO OF THE FEDERATION, it is actually a fairly serviceable little action movie. STARSHIP TROOPERS 2: HERO OF THE FEDERATION drops almost all vestiges of political and social satire and turns this low budget direct-to-video sequel into an outer space cross between western classic RIO BRAVO and John Carpenterís homage- ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13. The premise of STARSHIP TROOPERS 2: HERO OF THE FEDERATION finds the human bug war is ongoing, and takes place after a defeat to overwhelming bug forces, a rag-tag band of human soldiers take refuge in an abandoned military outpost. Inside the outpost, the soldiers discover a sing survivor- a disgraced former hero who was locked up and awaiting court martial for killing his commanding officer. However, when his military expertise becomes a necessity, the disgraced officer is release form the stockade. However, even after fortifying the outpost well enough to keep the arachnid multitudes out, the soldiers discover themselves under attack from a new type of bug - one that is able infiltrate their ranks by taking over a human host body. The cast of STARSHIP TROOPERS 2: HERO OF THE FEDERATION includes Billy Brown, Richard Burgi, Kelly Carlson, Cy Carter, Sandrine Holt, Ed Lauter, J.P. Manoux, Lawrence Monoson, Colleen Porch, Drew Powell, Ed Quinn, Jason-Shane Scott, and Brenda Strong, who plays a complete different character than she did in the first film.
STARSHIP TROOPERS 3:
STARSHIP TROOPERS 3: MARAUDER is another direct-to-video sequel, but is much more like the original film, insomuch as it features the same leading man and restores some of the elements of political and social satire. Casper Van Dien is back as Colonel Johnny Rico- this time he is in charge of the forces fighting on the bug infested frontier planet of Roku San. Johnny is reunited with old friends, General Dix Hauser (Boris Kodjoe) and Captain Lola Beck (Jolene Blalock), during an unscheduled inspection of Roku San by Sky Marshall Anoke (Stephen Hogan). Unfortunately, Roku San falls under an all out bug assault during the Sky Marshallís inspection, and to make matters worse for our hero, Johnny finds himself under arrest for insubordination after preventing Dix from killing a farmer during a bar fight. However, Johnny is able to escape the hangmanís noose, when Dix taps him for a secret mission to rescue the Sky Marshall and Lola from another bug planet, on which they have crash-landed. STARSHIP TROOPERS 3: MARAUDER has much higher production values than the second installment, but is nowhere as good as the first film, which cost five times much. Still, STARSHIP TROOPERS 3: MARAUDER does serve up a healthy dose of "B" Movie sci-fi action fun, even if it is a bit on the silly side. The cast of STARSHIP TROOPERS 3: MARAUDER also includes Amanda Donohoe Marnette Patterson, Stelio Savante, Cecile Breccia, Jon Falkow and Danny Keogh.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has made the STARSHIP TROOPERS TRILOGY ($90) available on Blu-ray Disc in 1.85:1 aspect ratio presentations that have been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. First, let me say that the 1080p presentation of the original STARSHIP TROOPERS is totally spectacular. Image sharpness, clarity, depth and fine detail are all amazingly good- STARSHIP TROOPERS certainly holds its own against any new blockbuster coming to Blu-ray. Colors pop throughout the presentation, generally appearing rich and vibrant. Blacks and whites are dead on, plus the picture produces excellent contrast and shadow detail. The elements from which STARSHIP TROOPERS have been transferred appear nearly pristine. Grain usually remains a mild level, but the picture never takes on an over processed digital look.
STARSHIP TROOPERS 2: HERO OF THE FEDERATION has the weakest 1080p presentation and looks like a relatively low budget affair. Shot on HD equipment, STARSHIP TROOPERS 2: HERO OF THE FEDERATION is a bit noisy looking due to the fact that darkness is used to disguise a lack of production values. Image sharpness and detail is variable, with the amount of lighting determining how much depth and detail one gets out of picture. Even at its best, STARSHIP TROOPERS 2 isnít a great looking hi-def production, but it does get by. Colors are adequate, but again the amount of light is a determining factor to how vibrant hues can look. Contrast and shadow detail arenít spectacular, but not too bad either.
The 1080p presentation of STARSHIP TROOPERS 3: MARAUDER is head and shoulders above the second installment, but it is still left in the dust by the original film. Still, this is a terrific looking direct-to-video production that delivers a very sharp and highly defined image, which has the unintended side effects of making some of the special effects look cheesy. Colors are very strongly rendered with good-looking flesh tones. Blacks are fine and the whites are stable. Contrast and shadow detail are good for a direct-to-video program such as this. There is some noise, but for the most part, the picture is free from serious defects.
All three films that comprise the STARSHIP TROOPERS TRILOGY are presented on Blu-ray Disc with 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD soundtracks. No surprises here, the original STARSHIP TROOPERS sounds the best. Sound effects are aggressively deployed throughout the entire soundstage, with all of the outlying channels springing to life. The bass channel is deep and ground shaking when required. Fidelity is very strong, creating believable sound effects and good musical presence. Dialogue is always understandable. STARSHIP TROOPERS 2: HERO OF THE FEDERATION also features a strong audio component. Although the mix is a bit rollicking, it is not as high-end sounding as the first film, which comes as no surprise on a low budget production. Still, the soundtrack is very good quality for this type of direct-to-video feature. STARSHIP TROOPERS 3: MARAUDER delivers sonically during the battle sequences and seems well produced, even for the talky passages. There are good channel separations and effects move about the soundstage without any muddiness. Fidelity is at the high end, plus dialogue is always clean sounding. The bass channel delivers anytime the action calls on it. Additional soundtrack and subtitle options are also provided for each of the three films. STARSHIP TROOPERS includes a French TrueHD track, plus English, French and Spanish subtitles. STARSHIP TROOPERS 2 includes a French TrueHD track, plus English, French, Spanish and Hindi subtitles. STARSHIP TROOPERS 2 includes French, Spanish, Portuguese and Thai 5.1 channel Dolby Digital tracks, plus English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Indonesian and Thai subtitles.
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance each of the discsí interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplements. STARSHIP TROOPERS comes with two separate running Audio Commentaries- the first is with director Paul Verhoeven and writer Ed Neumeier, while the second features Verhoeven along with actors Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, and Neil Patrick Harris. FedNet Mode offers an interactive mode with popup video- "Would you like to know more?" (requires a Profile 1.1 player). Featurettes include Death From Above (thirty two minutes), The Making Of Starship Troopers (eight minutes), The Spaceships Of Starship Troopers (four minutes), Bug Test Film: Don't Look Now (one minute), Know Your Foe (seventeen minutes), FX Comparisons (twenty nine minutes) and Scene Deconstructions With Paul Verhoeven (eight minutes). Deleted Scenes and Screen Tests close out the supplements. The Blu-Wizard allows one to select the supplements that would like to view in an uninterrupted manner. STARSHIP TROOPERS is also BD-Live enabled (requires a Profile 2.0 player).
STARSHIP TROOPERS 2 comes with a running Audio Commentary with director Phil Tippett, writer Edward Neumeier and producer Jon Davison, plus Featurettes From Green Screen To Silver Screen (nine minutes) and Inside The Federation (thirty minutes). STARSHIP TROOPERS 3 comes with two separate running Audio Commentaries- the first is with director/writer Ed Neumeier, producer David Lancaster, and special effects supervisor Robert Skotak, while the second features Neumeier, Casper Van Dien, and Jolene Blalock. Marauder Mode offers an interactive mode with popup video- (requires a Profile 1.1 player). Featurettes include Evolution: The Bugs Of Starship Troopers 3: Marauder (eleven minutes) and Enlist: Marauderís Mobile Infantry (fourteen minutes). A Music Video for the song Itís A Good Day To Die by Sky Marshal Onoke and some Trailers close out the supplements. STARSHIP TROOPERS 3 is also BD-Live enabled.
The STARSHIP TROOPERS TRILOGY is a box of giant bug movie fun. Sure, only the original STARSHIP TROOPERS is a classic, but the direct-to-video sequels do offer pulpy fun. The Blu-ray presentations vary by each movieís production budget, with the fist film looking amazing in hi-def.
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