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Starship Troopers: Invasion (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 29, 2012 by  



“Starship Troopers: Invasion” is an exciting CG animated film collaboration between Japan and the United States featuring non-stop action, amazing visuals and a fast-paced storyline.  It may not be deep and it may not satisfy those who are familiar with the original novel but it’s still an entertaining CG animated film that action fans will definitely want to check out!

Images courtesy of © 2012 Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: K-ON!: Starship Troopers: Invasion

DURATION: 89 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen), English, French and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish, Thai, Japanese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Chinese (Mandarin Simplified), Chinese (Mandarin Traditional), Indonesian/Bahasa/ Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai

RATED: R  (For Violence, Language, Nudity)

COMPANY: SOLA Digital Arts/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: August 28, 2012

Directed by Shinji Aramaki

Screenplay by Flint Dille

Based on the Novel by Robert A. Heinlen

Produced by Joseph Chou

Executive Producer: Edward Neumeier, Casper Van Dien

Music by Tetsuya Takahashi

Featuring the voices of:

Luci Christian as Captain Carmen Ibanez

Melissa Davis as Ice Blonde

Justin Doran as Dr. Carl Jenkins

David Matranga as General Johnny Rico

Emily Neves as Trig

David Waid as Major Henry “Hero” Varro

Leraldo Anzaldua as Ratzass

Andrew Love as Lt. Otis “Bugspray” Hacks

Sam Roman as Lt. Tony Daugherty

Jovan Jackson as Mech

Kalob Martinez as Holyman

The troopers of two starships have joined forces to terminate a massive bug attack at a federation outpost. Before the mission can be completed and the survivors evacuated, one ship abruptly departs and goes inexplicably dark. The remaining battle-hardened troopers race to the rescue, only to discover that the threat from the bugs is about to hit home. With the latest in CGI technology, this film from executive Producer Casper Van Dien and Director Shinji Aramaki (Appleseed) features the return of fan favorite characters Johnny Rico, Captain Ibanez and Carl Jenkins.

In 1959, writer Robert A. Heinlen created the military science fiction novel known as “Starship Troopers”.  Serialized in “The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction”, “Starship Troopers” was a major inspiration to writers, filmmakers and video game creators.

In America, the influence of Heinlen’s novel was incorporated to James Cameron’s “Aliens” and would inspire the creation of three live action films, most notably the Paul Verhoeven film which diverged from the original novel.

While in Japan, “Starship Troopers” was a major influence to anime creators.  Yoshiyuki Tomino, known for creating the legendary mecha series “Mobile Suit Gundam” has cited the novel as an inspiration and in 1988, Sunrise and Bandai Visual created a 6-episode anime OVA series titled “Uchu no Senshi” (which translates to “Starship Troopers”), a series that was faithful to Heinlen’s original novel.

The original novel was focused on a young soldier from the Philippines named Juan “Johnnie” Rico and his adventures as part of the Mobile Infantry and his rise in his military career during a time when mankind is in war against an arachnoid specials known as “The Bugs”.

With its acknowledged major influence to Japanese science fiction, nearly 25-years-later since the “Uchuu no Senshi” animated OVA series, “Starship Troopers” once again goes back to Japan for a CG-animated film titled “Starship Troopers: Invasion”.  But this collaboration was also with the United States.

Directed by Shinji Aramaki (“Appleseed”, “”Megazone 23 Part III”, “Genesis Survivor Gaiarth”, “Bubblegum Crisis”) and a man known for his work on many of the Japan’s popular mecha anime hits, Aramaki’s direction is based on the written work of Edward Neumeier (who wrote the previous films in the series) and executive producer and actor Casper Van Dien (best known for playing Johnny Rico in the live action films).  The animation and motion capturing was done in Japan courtesy of SOLA Digital Arts.

The CG animated film would feature the return of characters Johnny Rico, Carl Jenkins and Carmen Ibanez but following the adventures of the A-1 Team.

“Starship Troopers: Invasion” takes place in a distant Federation outpost known as Fort Casey where the A-1 Team led by Lt. Tony Daugherty go to the outpost to help the survivors of the starship John A. Warden (which is stationed at the outpost) and evacuate everyone, including bringing military intelligence that General/Dr. Carl Jenkins has back to Earth.

Meanwhile, we are introduced to other characters especially to Major Henry “Hero” Varro, the commander of the K-12 team who has been locked up by Dr. Carl Jenkins for insubordination.

But while everyone including the A-1 team learn that the outpost has been overrun by the Bugs, as they try to escape, the starship John A. Warden takes off without them and goes missing in the nebula.  While members of the K-12 Team and the A-1 Team manage to escape on the Alesia, they want answers why the starship John A. Warden had took off.

Especially Captain Carmen Ibanez who is upset that her superior, General Johnny Rico would let someone like Dr. Jenkins (who’s personal ambition seems to be priority than the lives of the soldiers) leave with her ship.

But when the starship John A. Warden is found floating in the nebula, something bad has happened and now both members of the K-12 Team and A-1 Team go inside the John A. Warden to find out what had happen to those inside the ship.

And unfortunately, they find out that not only has everyone been killed, only Dr. Jenkins is alive (who has locked himself inside a room) and worst of all, a Queen of “The Bugs” has found a way to take control of the John A. Warden.  As the K-12 and A-1 Team try to escape back on the Alesia, the Queen who has complete control of the starship John A. Warden destroys the Alesia, leaving the soldiers stranded inside the starship with Bugs all over the place.

Will they survive the onslaught?

VIDEO:

Having watched a good number of CG animation from Japan, it’s always great to see how technology has continued to get better and better with the models and textures since the release of Shinji Aramaki’s previous effort on “Appleseed”.  There was no doubt that “Appleseed” broke new ground for CG animation in Japan and for Aramaki, he continues to be a major legend in the industry because of his work on the greatest mecha anime series and to have him work on “Starship Troopers: Invasion” is fantastic, if you are an anime fan!

With SOLA Digital Arts, Inc. working on the animation and that the company literally flew all American actors to Japan for motion capturing, I’m just amazed how far CG animation has come since “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within”, “Final Fantasy: Advent Children” to the “Appleseed” related films to this current animated film, “Starship Troopers: Invasion”.

Presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio), the film looks absolutely amazing in HD.  The detail of the characters show skin pores, the movements are not as jerky as they were years ago.  Movements are smooth, emotions of characters are much more evident and natural and there is this less blank look on the faces of the characters.

From the characters to the aliens, they are heavily detailed, especially with mechanical design.  Aramaki’s experience is in mechanical design, so it helps to have him as the driving force and getting people to give their 100% in making the vehicles look amazing.

I didn’t notice any banding or artifacts or edge enhancement.  If anything, the picture quality for “Starship Troopers: Invasion” is fantastic on Blu-ray!

AUDIO:

The lossless soundtrack is presented in English, French and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish, Thai and Japanese 5.1 Dolby Digital.  The soundtrack was very good, with good use of the surround channels as this is an action-packed film featuring explosions, gunshots, laser blasts that come up often throughout the film.  Dialogue and music is crystal clear through the center and front channels.  But I wish the soundtrack was much more immersive.  I was hoping more more LFE and directional effects but I really felt the lossless soundtrack could have been a lot better for this series, as I had high expectations for “Starship Troopers: Invasion” to be immersive for its sheer number of action scenes.

The soundtrack also comes with quite a few language dubs but for the English lossless soundtrack, you have well-known anime voice talents such as Luci Christian, David Matranga and Emily Neves involved.  But for those hoping Casper Van Dien or other talents from the previous films voicing their roles, this is not the case for “Starship Troopers: Invasion”.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, French, Chinese (Mandarin/Simplified and Traditional), Indonesia/Bahasa, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Starship Troopers: Invasion” comes with the following special features:

  • Filmmaker Commentary – Featuring the Japanese audio commentary with director Shinji Aramaki and Ishizuka of Sony Pictures. 
  • Conceptual Art Gallery – Featuring a slideshow of concept art
  • Deleted Scenes – (1:36) Featuring two deleted scenes: “I Don’t Like Funerals” and “Marzijon Wormhole”.
  • Gag Reel – (3:24) English voice dubbing outtakes
  • The Making of “Starship Troopers: Invasion” – (1:19:59) Featuring the making of the CG animated film broken down to the following parts that can be viewed separately or together: “Genesis”, “Archive”, “Character Design”, “Motion Capture”, “Power Suits”, “Bugs”, “Ships”, “Backgrounds”, “Compositing” and “Music”.

EXTRAS:

“Starship Troopers: Invasion” comes with an UltraViolet code which allows you to stream the film to computers, tablets or smartphones and download to your computer.

“Starship Troopers: Invasion” is a film that visually, looks great and non-stop action that fans of the genres will enjoy.

But the film felt like I was watching cut scenes for a first-person shooter.  A storyline that focused so much on the action that very little was left of the plot.  What it turns out to be is another banal storyline of humanity trying to survive against an alien infestation, another film like “Aliens”, like “Predator” and wondering which characters would ultimately survive.

But “Starship Troopers”, especially for the films, have been stories that deviated from the original novels, anyone expecting a return to Robert A. Heinlein’s work may be disappointed, while those who grew up watching the Edward Neumeier written films will probably enjoy “Starship Troopers: Invasion” a lot.  Especially anime fans who are used to seeing these type of action films.

I want to make it clear that I enjoyed “Starship Troopers: Invasion”.  For one, I was not expecting a deep storyline but I did enjoy the visual aspect of the film but also its characters.  Granted, a well-written plot and giving more depth and attention to character development would have made this film much deeper, but “Starship Troopers” to many people who have never read the novel is about warfare, about action and a storyline that is filled with sex and violence and team bravado as humanity takes on the aliens that continue to threaten them.

Like the live-action films, there is a lot of violence in “Starship Troopers: Invasion” as no matter how efficient the armor of the soldiers are, the aliens are even deadlier as soldiers are constantly getting impaled and no matter how many bullets hits these aliens, they are relentless.

As for the sex, director Shinji Aramaki discusses in the audio commentary of how there were questions by female staff of how much nudity was featured in first half-hour of the film.  Literally, the three female characters which consist of Captain Carmen Ibanez, Ice Blonde and Trig are seen nude in the film.  And while some viewers will roll their eyes of the amount of female nudity this film has to offer, sex and violence will no doubt be its strength to a core demographic who love first person shooter video games and films with intense action.  It’s how it is and Shinji Aramaki and Japanese crew followed Edward Neumeier’s script to incorporate as much sex and violence as possible.

But another reason why I enjoyed this film was its CG animation.  I have watched many CG animated films come from Japan and the technology continues to get better and better and I’m just in awe of how beautiful these CG renderings are and how much work went to making this film looks visually stunning.

And on Blu-ray, the film looks absolutely fantastic but I wish the lossless soundtrack would have complimented the amount of action as seen in the film.  This film has so much action, I wanted immersiveness.  I wanted to feel these explosions and hear the directional fire coming from my surround and rear surround channels and bullets zipping from left to right and vice versa.  And I admit that I was a bit disappointed that with amazing visuals, the lossless soundtrack was not stellar as it could have been.  But you do get a number of special features that made the film worth its while and once again, I did enjoy it.

I know already that by the look of this film alone, “Starship Troopers: Invasion” was not cheap.  Having this collaboration between the East and West working together is great but at the same time, there is no doubt that this film needs to make its money back, especially if there are talks of how successful this film does, more will be made.

It would be great if more can be made as I surely enjoyed this film much better than the second and third installment of the “Starship Troopers” films.  It’s pretty much a popcorn action film that will appeal to “Starship Troopers” fans and also those who want to see an all-action, violent CG animated film and throw in the titillating nudity as well!

Overall, “Starship Troopers: Invasion” is an exciting CG animated film collaboration between Japan and the United States featuring non-stop action, amazing visuals and a fast-paced storyline.  It may not be deep and it may not satisfy those who are familiar with the original novel but it’s still an entertaining CG animated film that action fans will definitely want to check out!

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