Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars 4K UHD Blu-ray Review

Mushy

Writer Edward Neumeier wrote the script for Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars before the 2017 Presidential election. That’s eerie, considering the content. Neumeier wrote the original RoboCop, slathered in anti-corporate speech, and the first live action Starship Troopers, doused in an eruptive war commentary post-Gulf War. No surprise then, Traitor of Mars slams the right wing war machine, and the leader at the top.

Central to any Traitor of Mars’ success is Sky Marshall Amy Snapp, not the returning Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien) or Dizzy Flores (Dina Meyer). Snapp’s obsession with approval ratings and disdain (even bigotry) for the population of Earth’s galactic southern neighbor Mars isn’t a subtle character trait. She also speaks in empty rooms with piped in applause, makes speeches of being tough on immigrating bugs, and promises safety from their terrorizing numbers. All the while, she grooms a populace to believe nuking an entire planet is acceptable, doing so through the veil of fake news.

Again, Neumeier wrote this before the election.

Traitor of Mars’ asset is the political hammering scripted out by Neumeier

Traitor of Mars hardly succeeds otherwise. Co-directed by notable anime creator Shinji Aramaki, this decidedly American anti-war parable takes on the feel of its originating country. The use of powered oversuits and flashy action scenes scream Japanese accentuation. The two styles never fit in Traitor of Mars, languishing under the turgid pacing. Rico’s Martian battle with bugs is the least interesting part.

Getting through Traitor of Mars is a chore, frustrating and plodding. At times, editing seems incoherent. A team of space marines frantically fires their guns toward an ocean of bugs. In the next edit, no one seems concerned, or the ocean disappeared. When convenient, the creatures return.

That happens often, dipping in and out of action. The animation format seems to dictate the need for fighting. Yet, Traitor of Mars’ asset is the political hammering scripted out by Neumeier, not the fledgling ground war. Sometimes expectations lead to ruin. Traitor of Mars won’t risk anything and bows to the gunplay established by the live action original’s clever war porn.

The format itself lacks the attractiveness too. Clearly on a budget, the so-so animation flounders between an attraction to reality and skewed fantasy. Like the Japanese/American co-production overall, the styles collide rather than connect. As great as marketing finds it to have Casper Van Dien back as Rico (and it is), he’s limited in what he can do. Amy Snapp and her delusions of power better reset the series for the future.

Video (4K UHD)

Traitor of Mars was not rendered at 4K. That’s not unexpected. However, it doesn’t look rendered at 2K or even 1080p. At issue is the constant and frustrating aliasing. Not a scene goes by without some small object flickering or piece of armor breaking up. Scenes with spaceships cause a mountain of small lines, primed to shatter into pixels.

Some clean-up noticeably tries to fix this. Ringing and edge enhancement halos show up regularly. Those after effects do not work. Instead, they take the already coarse look of the animation and further degrade image detail.

The disc does offer Dolby Vision support, although this isn’t the high-end quality meant to be a breakout for the format. Drab color design and weakened shadows in a dusty Martian atmosphere flatline the contrast. Static backgrounds with bright lights induce an effect I personally call “pasted HDR,” where the source material wasn’t meant for the effect, but it looks like someone overlaid patches of brightness for the sake of it. This doesn’t look natural.

A slew of noise and some quick macroblocking further degrades the image. A touch of fine detail within the animation itself does help, and Sony’s encode generally holds off any significant problems.

Video (Blu-ray)

Aliasing and flickering continue on the Blu-ray side. There’s no escaping it on this format either. Any drop in fidelity or detail between the formats is minimal, further suggesting a lower resolution source. Expect the same halos and edge enhancement too.

When Traitor of Mars starts up, expect a “noise watch” to be issued. Later, this turns into a warning. The grit and digital remnants begin quickly, spreading out and causing problems for the Blu-ray encode. Compression artifacts seep in, varying in intensity.

Audio

Active and wide, the Dolby Atmos soundstage keeps the action spread around. Extensive use of the rear channels in the middle of gunfights or bug screeches when troops retreat captures the spirit of the live action source. Dialog spreads into the stereos where needed, further spacing this material.

A great heft to the low-end adds the needed scale. Whether ships take a hit from plasma or the troops launch their missiles, each blast hits the low-end. The bold score is no slouch either.

Extras

Casper Van Dien and Edward Neumeier find themselves part of nearly every feature, and at times it’s a wonder why these weren’t included on a special edition of Paul Veerhoven’s original. The three part Expanding the Universe speaks almost entirely on the legacy and writing the series. A six-minute piece on Traitor of Mars is the only one that digs into this feature entirely.

A Look Inside splits into two parts (16-minutes total), interviewing some of the Japanese team about their approach. A deleted scene and image gallery close things out.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The 15 unaltered images below represent the Blu-ray. For an additional 14 Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars screenshots, early access to all screens (plus the 7,000+ already in our library), exclusive UHD reviews, and more, support us on Patreon.