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Paul Verhoeven
Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, Denise Richards, Neil Patrick Harris
Edward Neumeier

Humans in a fascistic, militaristic future do battle with giant alien bugs in a fight for survival.
Box Office:
$105 million.
Opening Weekend
$22,058,773 on 2971 screens.
Domestic Gross
Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
French Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 130 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 8/5/2008

• Audio Commentary With Director Paul Verhoeven and Writer Ed Neumeier
• Audio Commentary With Director Paul Verhoeven and Actors Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, and Neil Patrick Harris
• Isolated Score With Commentary By Composer Basil Poledouris
• “FedNet Mode”
• “Recruitment Test”
• “Death From Above” Documentary
• “Know Your Foe”Featurettes
• “The Starships of Starship Troopers
• Special Effects Comparisons
• Storyboard Comparisons
• “The Making of Starship Troopers” Featurette
• Scene Deconstructions With Commentary By Paul Verhoeven
• Deleted Scenes
• Screen Tests


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Starship Troopers [Blu-Ray] (1997)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 5, 2017)

According to its creators, hardly anybody really understood Starship Troopers back in 1997. Most viewers saw it as a big, dumb shoot-em-up, and if anyone thought more of it than that, they generally interpreted as it as an endorsement of fascism.

During their audio commentary, director Paul Verhoeven and screenwriter Ed Neumeier go to great pains to combat these notions. According to them, the film intends to present an anti-fascist statement, as they feel they depict the future-Earth as a fairly mindless, knee-jerk "kill anything different" kind of place.

Verhoeven especially makes his points with great fervor. Throughout the commentary, he shouts, "That's bad! Bad!" and sounds like a man on the verge of a massive coronary much of the time.

I've now seen Starship Troopers six times, two of which occurred before I listened to the audio commentary. While I certainly understand and appreciate the comments made by Verhoeven and Neumeier, I think their creation turns out differently than they intended. Sorry guys, but whatever you may have wanted, your film really does look like a love-letter to fascism.

Troopers looks at a futuristic Earth that operates under a fascist system. The film primarily follows a crop of kids who graduate from high school early in the film, and our three protagonists enter the military.

Carl (Neil Patrick Harris) possesses psychic abilities and strong technical savvy, and he gets a top secret assignment in intelligence. Carmen (Denise Richards) wants to be a pilot, and she enters the academy for that training.

Johnny (Casper Van Dien) signs up mainly to make himself more appealing to Carmen. They’re a couple, but it’s clear that she has a wandering eye and Johnny doesn’t stand a chance if he doesn’t become a “citizen”. Military service offers the quickest route to that status, so Johnny enters the mobile infantry.

The film focuses mostly on Johnny’s progression. Occasionally it flips over to Carmen’s training, and we see her relationship with Zander (Patrick Muldoon), Johnny’s rival. We only encounter Carl when he meets up with the other two, so otherwise the movie displays virtually none of his work.

This leaves Johnny as our main protagonist, so we watch as he goes through training and rises through the ranks. A complication appears in the form of Dizzy (Dina Meyer), another high school classmate who pines for Johnny. He shoots down her interest due to his obsession with Carmen.

Johnny makes squad leader in camp but loses this status after a tragic training mishap. Even after he accepts physical punishment for his role, he decides to walk down “Washout Lane” and go back to his wealthy family in Buenos Aires.

However, this option vanishes in the blink of an eye. The Earth society battles against a bug planet called Klendathu, and those critters attack South America with an asteroid bomb. This vaporizes Buenos Aires and gives Johnny the will to return to the military.

Soon he and his fellow cadets enter the war, and the second half of Troopers mainly revolves around those battles. Very little action occurs in the film’s first hour or so, but the movie makes up for this. A few interludes occur, but most of the second hour shows the vicious fights between humans and bugs.

It's hard to fight history and conditioning, so if the filmmakers intend to send an anti-fascist message through their flick, they need to work harder. Audiences are greatly trained to see films such as Starship Troopers in very black and white, “good guys/bad guys” terms, and the film rarely does anything to escape those boundaries. There are hints that perhaps the filmmakers disagree with just how conservative the planet has become, but many of these clues do not come through as clearly as Verhoeven and Neumeier believe.

For example, we see some shots of jingoistic humans stomping insects and doing other mindless efforts to indicate their support for the war. However, the movie presents these in such a comical way that their impact as true reflections of the society becomes lost.

Also, a few vague notations that the war began through human - not insect - aggression pop up, but they receive little exploration or explanation. While I certainly applaud subtlety in films, the problem here stems from inconsistency. Since so many of the film's concepts completely lack any nuance, there's little chance that the more gently-inserted notions will come through with any clarity.

Starship Troopers is supposed to be fascist, as the sight of Doogie Howser in full SS-regalia makes that point rather hard to ignore. Where I take exception is the assertion that the film consistently portrays these tendencies in a negative way.

Again, I have to agree with the critics who believe that the film glorifies the ultra-military and conservative society. The filmmakers' biggest argument against this train of thought seems to revolve around the fact that so many of the characters die.

While this is accurate, it is not any more true here than it is in the vast majority of other films within the genre, so Troopers lacks the impact of a more fatalistic film. Also, the three characters we've followed since the beginning - the trio that makes a pact to always stick together - survive to the ending, all of them virtually unscathed and ready to fight some more.

While I don't agree with the filmmakers that their anti-fascist message really rings true, I certainly applaud them for attempting to create some substance in a film from a genre that usually lacks subtext. Unfortunately, I wish they'd spent less time worrying about fascism and used their time to work with their actors.

Starship Troopers is a generally entertaining and exciting film, but it lacks an emotional depth that more effective movies possess. The almost total responsibility for this falls upon the wooden performances by the actors.

While almost the entire cast leaves the audience uninvolved with the characters, the leads commit the worst sins. Richards may be the one person on the planet with the greatest contrast between physical beauty and acting skills - she's unbelievably gorgeous, but she couldn't act her way out of the proverbial paper sack. Essentially, no matter what the circumstance, she can muster two moods: playful or pouty. I've seen sock puppets with greater range.

Van Dien shows somewhat greater skill, but he's still no Lambchop. Of the entire cast, the only actor who entertains me is Jake Busey, mainly because I get a kick from him and his big old rectangular head.

I don't fault the actors for the poor work in this film; I don't think the lame performances happened because they did not put forth the effort. I hold Verhoeven mostly responsible, since one assumes he picked the actors, and since he was the one who was supposed to work with them on the set.

Listening to the audio commentary reveals that he definitely doesn't appear to be an actor's director. He rarely mentions actors by their names; instead, he prefers to simply cite the characters. I see this as a message that he regards the actors as so many interchangeable faces who are there mostly to advance the plot. His heart seems to lie with the action and effects of the film, so the acting suffers.

Many critics argue that acting and characters are virtually meaningless in a film such as Starship Troopers. I argue the opposite, that competent acting becomes essential within this sort of movie because otherwise the audience has no real stake in the action and everything becomes so much less exciting.

In contrast, consider Aliens, a film that shares many similarities with Starship Troopers. Both feature characters who mostly cannot be considered more than stereotypes.

While I think much of the success of Aliens comes about simply because James Cameron's a better director than Verhoeven, I truly believe that the characters also hve a lot to do with it. Simply, the characters in Aliens were fun and fascinating.

The people in Starship Troopers look better naked, but that's about it. When the Marines in Aliens go down, you feel something - you care and you miss them. When some die in Starship Troopers, you really couldn't care less.

Despite all its faults, Starship Troopers remains fairly watchable and entertaining. It certainly packs a lot of action into its 130 minutes, and Verhoeven does know how to make those scenes work.

Many dislike the very graphic violence and gore in this film, but that doesn't bother me. The main problem with all the blood and guts is that they again diminish Verhoeven’s message. While he may want to communicate some idea of the nasty nature of warfare, it's all so over the top that it becomes more comic than upsetting.

Nonetheless, the battle sequences remain fairly vivid and exciting. Really, the battle scenes are the only parts of the movie that make the experience worthwhile. Starship Troopers has its moments, but overall it fails to offer a thrilling and compelling experience.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture C+ / Audio A- / Bonus A-

Starship Troopers appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a decent but erratic presentation.

Sharpness was one of the up and down elements, as definition could be a touch “off” at times. Some of this stemmed from light edge haloes, as the image tended to be a bit soft on occasion. Still, most of the movie offered fairly good delineation.

I saw no shimmering or jaggies, but a few small print flaws interfered. I noticed the occasional speck or nick during the movie – not many, though.

Grain tended to lean toward the heavy side – if we assume this was grain I saw and not coding/digital artifacts. I admit the “grain” looked a bit unnatural, which made me think these issues may have been digital in nature. Whatever the case, this became a mild distraction.

Colors went with a heavily saturated look much of the time – maybe a little too saturated, as the hues tended to seem a smidgen too strong. They were usually fine, though they lacked great clarity.

Blacks seemed deep and dense, whereas shadows were acceptable. Some low-light elements appeared a little too dark but they usually remained fine. At no point did this become a bad presentation, but I thought it failed to show the movie at its best.

On the other hand, I found the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack of Starship Troopers to present a positive experience. As one might expect from this sort of film, it offered a very active soundfield.

The track featured a lively and engaging presence. Music showed good stereo imaging, while effects popped up from all around the spectrum. Those elements moved cleanly from channel to channel, and they blended together very well.

The surrounds contributed a high level of material, especially throughout the many action sequences. The rear speakers added a lot of unique audio and helped to create a vivid and engaging experience.

Audio quality also seemed good. Although much of it was looped, dialogue appeared crisp and natural, with no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Music was bright and distinct, and the score showed solid fidelity and range.

Effects were the stars of the show, of course, and they worked well. I thought gunfire came across as a little flat, but the rest of the mix seemed clear and clean, with virtually no distortion.

Low-end response appeared excellent, as the movie pumped out lots of loud and tight bass. Overall, the audio of Starship Troopers offered a vibrant and exciting presentation.

How did this Blu-ray compare to the 2002 DVD? Audio showed a bit more range and impact, while visuals were cleaner and more distinctive. Though this wasn’t a great presentation, it topped the DVD.

The Blu-ray includes most of the DVD’s extras, and we find two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director Paul Verhoeven and writer Ed Neumeier, both of whom sit together for this running, screen-specific affair. This track works better than many because Verhoeven and Neumeier so strongly discuss what they tried to do.

Since they feel so many people misunderstood the movie, they take great pains to articulate their true intentions. Verhoeven spends too much of the track pointing out whicj visual effects were "real" and whicj were computer-generated - which also contributes to my opinion that he's a very mechanical director - but even with that fault, the commentary offers an excellent look at the film.

The second commentary presents Verhoeven with actors Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, and Neil Patrick Harris. All sit together for this running, screen-specific piece. If you want lots of concrete information and interpretation of Troopers, stick with the Verhoeven/Neumeier track. If you just want to have some fun, give the actors’ discussion a listen.

That doesn’t mean we find no interesting data from the second commentary, as it includes some useful material at times. However, the chat seems less formal and jokier.

That tone can get annoying at times, mainly because the actors like to kid around and just relate what we see on screen. Verhoeven also repeats some info that appears in the first commentary.

On the other hand, they appear nicely lively and uncensored, and they provide some fun anecdotes from the set. Best of all, they’re totally happy to mock Verhoeven, who seems to relish his role as the authority figure. Each actor does an impression of Verhoeven to relate his manic attitude on the set, and it seems very amusing as well as informative.

They even give Verhoeven a hard time because he didn’t cast any of them in Hollow Man, Verhoeven’s follow-up to Troopers. They discuss the director’s tendency to use the same actors in multiple films, and then a deadpan Harris asks the others if they got the call for Hollow Man.

Again, the actors’ commentary seems light on hard facts, but it made me laugh out loud a number of times. That’s not an easy feat, so I’d recommend it to fans of the film.

Next we encounter a documentary called Death From Above. This piece lasts 31 minutes, 57 seconds as it includes notes from producers Jon Davison and Alan Marshall, science fiction historian Paul Sammon, director Verhoeven, director of photography Jost Vacano, composer Basil Poledouris, editor Mark Goldblatt, creature effects creator Tom Woodruff, human visual effects creator Kevin Yagher, and actors Van Dien, Meyer, Harris, Michael Ironside, Denise Richards, and Jake Busey.

Overall, “Above” offers a solid look at the movie. We learn about the origins of the project and the Robert Heinlein book and go through differences between the two. We then get information about the shoot and more info about the fascist message. These elements come across particularly well since we get to compare film scenes with old propaganda.

We also observe fine material about Captain Dale Dye’s boot camp for the actors and their additional training. Some of the information repeats what we get in the commentaries, but it still provides an entertaining and useful discussion.

In the Know Your Foe domain, we locate five special effects featurettes. These run a total of 17 minutes, four seconds and offer info from science fiction historian Paul Sammon, creature designer Craig Hayes, director Verhoeven, creature effects supervisor Phil Tippett, director of photography Jost Vacano, creature effects creator Alec Gillis, producer Jon Davison, human visual effects creator Kevin Yagher, and creature effects creator Tom Woodruff.

Overall, this is a nice collection of material. We learn a lot about the creation of the bugs and get good info about their development. The behind the scenes material’s very interesting and adds to the presentation. “Know Your Foe” provides a solid addition to the disc.

The Spaceships of Starship Troopers provides a quick three-minute, 26-second featurette with info from Verhoeven, spaceship visual effects supervisor Scott E. Anderson, and Jost Vacano. The program’s far too short to offer any depth, but it still provides an entertaining glimpse at the design of the ships.

In the FX Comparisons domain, we find nine different “before and after” programs. These take up a total of 29 minutes, three seconds and fill most of the frame with unfinished footage, as we see either raw material from the original shoot or crude effects work.

An inset in the lower right-hand corner shows the final film, but you won’t care about that; you’ll be too fascinated by the incomplete material. The clips mainly offer the original production audio, which is the best part; we hear Verhoeven shout at the actors and make all sorts of bizarre sound effects. Overall, I think these snippets are a tremendous amount of fun.

Storyboard Comparisons offers a similar compilation, though it seems much less entertaining. The art takes up most of the screen, and we again see the final film in the little inset box.

The three comparisons run 111 seconds, six minutes and 51 seconds, and 151 seconds, respectively. The presentation seems good, but the material doesn’t fascinate me.

The Making of Starship Troopers offers little more than a superficial seven minute, 58 second promo reel, the kind you'd see between movies on HBO. Along with some shots from the set, it includes quick sound bites from Verhoeven and creature visual effects supervisor Phil Tippett plus actors Richards, Van Dien, Meyer, Harris, Patrick Muldoon, Clancy Brown, Jake Busey and Michael Ironside. The behind the scenes footage provides a modicum of interesting material, but overall, this piece seems fairly useless, especially given the inclusion of the new documentary.

The Conceptual Art Galleries offer stills that cover 10 topics. You can access these individually or scan right through all 135 of the images.

As one might expect from the title, these all cover artwork created for the film. For example, we see drawings of costumes, sets, and other items. It’s a nice little collection, though the pictures seem too small; they should have filled more of the screen.

Next we get five deleted scenes, all of which essentially present character bits that involve Denise Richards as Carmen. As character pieces in a film that lacks compelling characters, they add little to the experience, though they do flesh out some concepts, such as why Johnny’s parents aren’t citizens.

However, you’ll likely find them more interesting if you watch the after listening to the Verhoeven/Neumeier audio commentary. I won't reveal why, but the reasons that these clips failed to make the cut become much more apparent when you hear from those two. These last a total of eight minutes.

Scene Deconstructions contains two fairly interesting reels that show the progress of some effects shots and how they were integrated with real action. Narrated by Verhoeven, this area offers a fun look at the material. “Scene Development: Tanker Bug Ride” lasts four minutes, six seconds, while “Scene Development: Rodger Young Destroyed” goes for three minutes, 29 seconds.

Called Bug Test Film: Don’t Look Now, we get a brief effects test sequence that apparently was shown to crowds at sci-fi conventions in an attempt to stir up some pre-release hype. It runs one minute, 13 seconds and it’s entertaining to see.

Next we get two screen tests between Van Dien and Richards. The first test lasts 109 seconds, while the second runs 113 seconds. Nothing surprising emerges here, although they actually seem a little more real and genuine during this test than at any point in the film.

New to the Blu-ray, FedNet Mode gives us an interactive component. It provides video clips with Sammon, Ironside, Verhoeven, Brown, Harris, Van Dien, Neumeier, Muldoon, Busey, Tippett, and Scifi.com’s Michael Hassutt.

“FedNet” looks at the source and its adaptation, story/characters/themes, cinematography, design and effects, Verhoeven’s impact on the production, cast and performances, combat scenes and stunts, and related domains. We also get occasional photos/text about movie locations and ships/space stations.

My only complaint about “FedNet” comes from the gaps in coverage, as more than a few parts of the movie pass without any information. Still, these don’t dominate, and the quality of the material works so well that I mind them less than usual. We get a slew of insights in this enjoyable, informative picture-in-picture piece.

Another Blu-ray exclusive, Recruitment Test offers a quiz about the movie. It’s mildly engaging at best.

The disc opens with an ad for Starshop Troopers 3: Marauder. Previews adds promos for Men in Black, CJ7 and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. No trailer for Troopers appears here.

What does the Blu-ray drop from the DVD? In addition to some trailers and art galleries, it loses an isolated score. That’s a pretty big omission.

No one will mistake Starship Troopers for a great film, and it suffers from quite a few flaws. However, it provides enough interesting moments to become something moderately entertaining at times. The Blu-ray offers very good audio and supplements but picture quality disappoints. This becomes a step up over the DVD but it’s not a top-notch product.

To rate this film, visit the Special Edition review of STARSHIP TROOPERS

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main