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Thereís no doubt about it, STARSHIP TROOPERS ($27) 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 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 and Marshall Bell.

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment has made their Superbit DVD edition of STARSHIP TROOPERS available in a 1.85:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for 16:9 displays. This is truly a terrific Superbit effort, for the kind of movie that would benefit most from the higher bit rate- namely, a big budget sci-fi movie with tremendous special effects and visuals. While the initial release was from the early days of the format and looked really good for its time, the Superbit version of STARSHIP TROOPERS improves the definition and clarity of the picture. Other improvements come in the form of more dimensionality and depth- creating a truly impressive visual presentation. Colors are highly saturated and feature wonderfully appealing flesh tones. All of the hues are rock solid, without the slightest bit of chroma noise of fuzziness. Blacks are pure, whites are clean and shadow detail is excellent. Other than an occasional blemish on the film element, this presentation is utterly outstanding. Of course, the high bit rate of the Superbit process keeps digital compression artifacts totally out of sight.

STARSHIP TROOPERS comes with 5.1 channel soundtracks in both the Dolby Digital and DTS varieties. The sound design for STARSHIP TROOPERS is exceedingly aggressive, with a very lively soundstage that makes good use of all the discrete channels. Sound effects are cleanly defined and move about the soundstage with complete authority. Battle sequences are particularly impressive, launching a sonic barrage directly at the viewer that draws them into the action. Dialogue is always completely understandable, even when the sound effects are at their loudest. As for the differences between Dolby Digital and DTS- both tracks are very similar and qualify as sonically outstanding, with DTS having a decided edge in spaciousness and bottom end rumble. However, I found that I liked the way that the Basil Poledourisí militarist score sounded in Dolby Digital, as opposed to DTS- go figure. English, French and Spanish subtitles have been provided on the DVD. The basic interactive menus offer access to the standard set up and scene selection features. No supplements are provided on this Superbit title, since all of the storage space on the DVD has been utilized to maximize the bit rate for the video and audio.

There is no doubt in my mind; the Superbit version of STARSHIP TROOPERS is a demonstration quality DVD for both video and audio. If you are a fan of the movie and have to own the absolute best presentation of the film this side of high definition- then you are going to want to upgrade to this Superbit release.



Starship Troopers (Superbit Collection) (1997)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2003 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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