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Starship Troopers: Traitor Of Mars (Blu-ray Review)

Starship Troopers might be the best sci-fi action movie of the 1990s and the one that has held up the best over time. I was a pretty big fan of it when I saw it in the theater opening weekend. Being a huge Aliens fans, it played to those sensibilities, but truly was its own beast. Lost on my was a lot of the satirical brilliance at play by Paul Vehoeven, who had shown this same expertise that is impossible to replicated in both Robocop and Total Recall. These three of his movies kinda form a bit of trilogy.  Anywho, its been 20 years since the original Starship Troopers and here they are giving us a new adventure featuring Johnny Rico and resurrecting Dizzy Flores. Oh but, its animated. And this review will be of the standard Blu-ray edition, not the 4K Ultra-HD one. You can pick this up as of last week, September 19th.

Film 

C’mon You Apes, You Wanna Live Forever?!  I have only one rule. Everybody fights, no one quits. The bugs have breached Mars and the Federation’s Fleet is too far to help. It’s up to us to save the planet. On the bounce, Troopers! The only Good Bug is a Dead Bug! Oorah!

This animated feature has the return of a few key people form the original movie. Star Caspier Van Dien reprises his role as Johnny Rico for the second time. If you’ll remember he jumped on board the third film and second straight to video sequel Marauder. Dina Meyer is a big one who is back, her long thought deceased character Dizzy Flores makes a return here.  Maybe the most exciting bit of the bunch to return is the writer from the original film who also penned the original Robocop from Verhoeven.

With it being animated, I thought the film might go a little more crazy. Instead it feels like a low budget live action film with a big start and then a lot of wandering around and not much. Van Dien’s performance is a bit far from engaging and feels too much a shell of what he used to be (Yes, I’m sure that’s the point, buts its pretty flat and cold). Its a little bit of a mystery, but, none of the supporting characters are all too engaging and it feels more like a Starship Troopers TV show bottle episode (Though this does travel), than it does a new movie.

One thing I enjoyed about the original Starship Troopers is that it was confident and really seemed to have its own identity and character.  Here, there are very much the things that make it Starship Troopers, but its also lost some of itself by cribbing from some other known popular properties. There are times where you could pause the screen and think you are watching Halo. The space battles sort of look like the Star Wars prequels. And you can’t help but think of Iron Man when someone is talking inside their suit. The animation does it no favors as you feel like you’re watching cut scenes from a video game the entire movie.

This is only my second experience with one of the Starship Troopers sequels/spinoffs. I rented the first one back when it came out in the early 00s and that was one low budget piece of garbage. Traitor of Mars is much better than that, but still leaves a lot to be desired. Starship Troopers could have been a nice set of big budget science fiction war fantasies, but instead only the most minimal stuff has been done with the IP. And being an adult and looking back at the first one, while it hints at a big franchise and further adventures, its secretly really a standalone film. And the further these sequels go, the the closer that it to being more obvious.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: This animated film comes with a nice looking image to Blu-ray. It feel like it could have been much sharper, but it still contains some very strong details. Every uniform has it share of damage, mud, cracks, you name it. Surfaces look worn, used and none of these details look repetitive, all unique. While the detail is strong, you do watching this thinking of a bolder and stronger of an image it could still be.

Depth:  Spacing is pretty decent, though I’ve seen better in fully animated features. Movements are smooth and no jittering or blur was noticed during fast paced battles.

Black Levels: Blacks have a little bit of a grey tint to them. They manage to keep strong details like cracks in leather gloves and hair follicles. No crushing was witnessed during the viewing for this review.

Color Reproduction: Colors are pretty mute as things happen a lot in the desert and deal with a lot of military color schemes. However, there are some beautiful moments with reds in lighting, digitized screens and fiery things. Blue comet-like rockets during a space battle turn out quite amusingly coming off the screen.

Flesh Tones: N/A

Noise/Artifacts: There’s this layer of what they want us to think is grain. I think its a cosmetic choice and not noise.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish

Dynamics: The 4K Ultra-HD editioin of this has an Atmos track with a 7.1 default, but the Blu-ray on carries a 5.1 track. Well, its fine and it gets the job done, but its really nothing special. I will give some credit as its loud and deep. Sounds have some decent layering and depth to them.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: The subwoofer does its share of thumping with explosions, blast fire, ships roaring, bugs stomping and more.

Surround Sound Presentation: For the most part the rear channels provide some smooth ambiance to build the environments. They do get some unique sounds and such, but overall things keep more to the front which accurately battles right to left and back again.

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is crisp and clear, catching every last breath of the voice actors.

Extras 

Traitor of Mars: A Look Inside (HD, 16:03) – The director and animation team first go over the suits and bugs in the film and bringing them to life, then we get a look at some story points in the next segment.

Expanding The Universe: 20 Years And Counting (HD, 6:27) – Casper Van Dien and Ed Nemeier go over how they got involved with the original and their history with the original film, its legacy and how its affected people both regular and famous.

Expanding The Universe: Continuing The Universe (HD, 3:35) – Ed Neumeier and Casper Van Dien talk about adapting the original novel and go over the sequels a little bit here and there and that each one has a reason to exist.

Expanding The Universe: Traitor of Mars (HD, 6:45) – Casper Van Dien and Ed Neumeier discuss the new film and how they are able to do things here that they wanted to do in the original (Like power armor).

Deleted Scene (HD, :44)

Gallery (HD)

Summary 

This fifth Starship Troopers film, Traitor of Mars, could have lent itself to cool possibilities being fully animated, but it amounts to nothing offensive, just kinda boring. The presentation here is a solid one and the extras are titled to lead you to believe there’s more to them than there is. This is probably for the most hardcore of hardcore Starship Troopers fans only.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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