BLU-RAY REVIEW: Starship Troopers - Invasion
CGI Animated Sci-fi Action/Adventure Film Hits Hi-Def Home Video...
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The original Starship Troopers hit theaters in 1997. I was a Senior in high school and wanted nothing more than to join the Mobile Infantry and kill some bugs. (Maybe that's why I'd later enlist in the US Marines). The film - based on the classic, critically acclaimed sci-fi novel by Robert Heinlein - was directed by Paul Verhoeven and starred Casper Van Dien as Johnny Rico, Denise Richards as Lt. Carmen Ibanez, Dina Meyer as Dizzy Flores, Jake Busey as Ace Levy, Clancy Brown as Sgt. Zim, Michael Ironside as Jean Rasczak and Neil Patrick Harrison as Carl Jenkins. Of course, many of these characters died in the original film and, after Verhoeven's original, the two subsequent live-action films, Starship Troopers II: Hero of the Federation and Starship Troopers III: Marauder, lacked the same appeal as the original. Of course, for die-hard fans, the CGI animated series Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles followed the series' characters and expanded the war even more. However, none of these hold a candle to the most recent addition to the series - Starship Troopers: Invasion.
Directed by Shinji Aramaki (of Appleseed fame), written by video game writer Flint Dille, and produced by series' star Casper Van Dien and original film writer Edward Neumeier, Starship Troopers: Invasion tells a new and original story that's set even farther in the future. The war is still in full force and there are now new, dangerous and experimental weapons being created which the humans hope will give them the edge in the on-going struggle against the bugs. Minister of Paranormal Warfare Carl Jenkins (voiced by Justin Doran) commandeers the starship John A. Warden and hopes to use this experimental new weapon against the bugs. However, when the fleet loses all contact with the Warden, General Johnny Rico (voiced by David Matranga) tasks a special unit of Mobile Infantry to track down the ship. With the help of Captain Carmen Ibanez (voiced by Luci Christian) and the unit's leader Major Henry 'Hero' Varro (voiced by David Wald), who's been arrested by Jenkins for insubordination, the group sets out to not only find the ship, but rescue it from a bug invasion the likes of which could cause the earth to be overrun. Of course, the Mobile Infantry takes it to the bugs the only way they know how: cocked, locked, and ready to rock.
The Mobile Infantry unit is made up of a number of interesting personalities, including Ice Blonde, a wicked cold warrior who's always mixing it up with the men; Holy Man, a religious soldier who puts his faith first and foremost in his fellow grunts; Bugspray, who's always ready to lay down heavy fire; Ratzass, a quick to anger muscle head who's loyal and steadfast; and Trig, a lethal sniper who deals death with an antique rifle. Each character's personality is revealed through their actions and, while some of the characters sadly act only as fodder for the bugs, viewers gain a more in-depth look at many of the crew, providing viewers with an opportunity to relate more closely to each.
As is standard with films directed by Aramaki, the animation is tight, smooth, and impressive. Likewise, the motion capture is well done and, while the realism is - like in most CGI today - still somewhat unrealistic, the amazing detail in all of the settings and environments is truly astonishing. The film features design work by both Aramaki as well as designer Shinji Usui, thus bringing to life the futuristic sci-fi warriors, their power suits, their weapons and their ships and stations. In all, the design work on the film is nothing short of spectacular. Likewise, the sound design is well done and features an impressive DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless audio track in both Japanese and English. Providing plenty of explosions, bullet impacts, and bug screams across the sound stage, most will find it plenty satisfying.
As for special features, the film includes bonus material which should impress most fans of the series. This includes an audio commentary with director Aramaki and Sony Pictures' VP of International Production Tony Ishizuka provide an engaging and interesting look at the film's creation, style, connection to the original book and other films, characters, and more. If you're a fan of the series, you'll dig this commentary a lot. Other special features include "The Making of Starship Troopers: Invasion," a full length featurette (at just under two hours long) broken into eleven parts, which focus on everything from the creation of the film, the character desigs, the motion capture, the bugs, the ships, the music, the power suits, and more. Again, if you're a fan of the series, you'll want to check this out. Even more special features include a Concept Art Gallery featuring both hand-drawn and CGI artwork from the film's production, a few deleted scenes, a gag reel, and a Ultraviolet copy of the film.
If you're a fan of the original Starship Troopers, any of the sequels, or the animated series, you'll love Starship Troopers: Invasion. It's got all of the violence, bug battles, suspense, and even nudity found in the original film as well as as cast of interesting new characters, awesome new ideas (Power suits for every soldier? Hell yeah!) and angry new bugs. Heck, even if you're not a fan of the original films, Starship Troopers: Invasion is a great way to spend 90 minutes, especially if you're a sci-fi fan or simply looking for a bit of bug hunting action. While it may not be live-action, this type of film actually is best when done in CGI and, overall, it's one of the coolest new sci-fi films to hit home video.
Starship Troopers: Invasion is rated R for violence, language and nudity and is available now on blu-ray and DVD wherever fine home video is sold.
- Jess C. Horsley