Starship Troopers: 20th Anniversary Edition (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Bill Hunt
  • Review Date: Sep 21, 2017
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Starship Troopers: 20th Anniversary Edition (4K UHD Review)

Director

Paul Verhoeven

Release Date(s)

1997 (September 19, 2017)

Studio(s)

Touchstone/TriStar Pictures (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
  • Film/Program Grade: A
  • Video Grade: B+
  • Audio Grade: A
  • Extras Grade: A

Starship Troopers (4K Ultra HD Blu-ray)

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Review

Based on the novel by Robert A. Heinlein, director Paul Verhoeven’s big screen Starship Troopers (adapted by screenwriter Ed Neumeier) would seem to be an exercise in over-the-top excess. And it is. But there’s a lot more going on beneath the surface here, if you care to look for it. Here’s a bit from Adam Jahnke’s excellent DVD review of the film...

“Verhoeven and Neumeier draw inspiration from the propaganda films of both sides of World War II, the American Why We Fight series and Leni Riefenstahl’s bone chilling Nazi classic Triumph of the Will. Sure, the enemy is literally dehumanized in Starship Troopers, but so are the humans. This is conveyed through the perfect casting of living Ken and Barbies like Van Dien and Richards. The FedNet News Feeds that pop up throughout the film are hilarious and serve to deepen our understanding of how this brutal utopia really works. And just in case you’ve somehow still managed to miss the point, Verhoeven has the audacity to dress Doogie Howser himself in full SS regalia for the movie’s third act. Back in ‘97, a lot of critics condemned Verhoeven for making a “pro-fascist” movie, a charge I simply didn’t understand at all. It seems clear to me that the audience is meant to enjoy and cheer on all the carnage and bloodshed in Starship Troopers, but by the end of the movie, if you’ve been paying any attention at all, you should be asking yourself, ‘What the hell was I doing and who are these creeps I’ve been rooting for?’ ”

Starship Troopers was shot on 35 mm film using Moviecam and Arriflex cameras. It was scanned in full native 4K, digitally restored, and given an HDR10 color grade. The result is presented here on Ultra HD in 2160p at the proper 1.85:1 flat theatrical aspect ratio. Now… no one is going to mistake this for a reference quality 4K image, especially if you compare it to other titles on the format. However, it is perfectly appropriate for this film and certainly represents Starship Troopers at its best. This is a gritty, dirty science fiction war film. As such, there is moderate to strong grain at almost all times, with the exception of the visual effects footage – particularly the miniature work – which exhibits grain that’s a bit more tightly controlled. Despite this, overall image detail is quite nice and is improved over the previous Blu-ray version. Where this new 4K presentation really shines is in its color saturation and accuracy, and especially its contrast, all thanks to HDR. The darkest areas of the image are truly black, yet retain a nice bit of detail. The brightest areas are bright enough that your eye reacts – case in point, the scene when the Federation Fleet is being hammered by Bug plasma from the planet below – and yet again, still some nice detail visible amid the flames and flares. The brights are a little hot here and there, but this is more of a stylistic choice. Skin tones and other colors are bold and accurate in live action, while the expanded contrast really enhances the space-based footage. Visually, this is a strong presentation for this particular film.

Where this Ultra HD title really stands out is its new Dolby Atmos sound mix (7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible). Dialogue and sound effects clarity is excellent, with good positioning and staging. The overall sonic environment is active and immersive at all times. The height channels are used to terrific effect throughout the film, including the Bug’s orbital bombardment, the MI drop on Klendathu, the Fleet strike on Tango Urilla, and pretty much any scene involving ground combat. Low end reinforcement is bold and firm. Basil Poledouris’ score is strident and wonderfully presented in the mix. Also included is a fine English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix, along with French 5.1 Dolby Digital and Spanish Dolby 2.0 Surround. Optional subtitles are available in English, English SDH, French, and Spanish.

There are two bonus features on the actual 4K disc itself – and audio commentary with Paul Verhoeven and the cast, and a second audio commentary with Verhoeven and Ed Neumeier. The package also includes the movie in 1080p on Blu-ray. This appears to be the exact same Blu-ray Disc that was available previously, with all of its related extras. Nearly everything that was on Sony’s previous 2-disc DVD special edition is available here, but there are a couple things missing. First, you don’t get the isolated music score (with commentary by composer Basil Poledouris) that was on Disc One of the DVD. You also don’t get the extensive conceptual artwork galleries that were on Disc Two of the DVD. What that means is that you can’t get rid of either disc if you really want all the available extras. (You can, however, ditch the previous movie-only SuperBit DVD edition if you have it.) On the other hand, the Blu-ray Disc does give you a few new items exclusive to this edition, including an interactive Recruitment Test trivia challenge, the FedNet Mode picture-in-picture viewing option (that seems to include significant new video-based interviews and other behind-the-scenes material), the ability to “Put Yourself in the Movie”, a Blu-Wizard access option that allows you to create a custom playlist of all the extras you wish to experience, and also BD-Live enhancement. You also get Death from Above, a trio of behind-the-scenes Featurettes, and 5 Know Your Foe clips, FX Comparisons, Storyboard Comparisons, a Scene Deconstruction, Deleted Scenes, and Screen Tests.

Starship Troopers is an absolutely glossy and fascinating action movie, with a great deal of method to its madness. It’s also entertaining as hell and honestly better than it has any right to be. Sony’s new 4K release improves upon the previous Blu-ray’s A/V experience about as much as is conceivably possible. Again, it’s not reference quality, but it’s every bit as good as you want it to be for this film. Some might look at this 4K image and balk at the grain, but true fans will know better and will appreciate the difference. So, for those diehard fans, it’s definitely recommended.

- Bill Hunt (with a contribution by Adam Jahnke)

(You can follow Bill on social media at these links: Twitter and Facebook)

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