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Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles - The Homefront Campaign

Columbia/Tri-Star // PG // May 28, 2002
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Earl Cressey | posted June 20, 2002 | E-mail the Author
Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles - The Homefront Campaign

Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles is a CGI TV series that debuted in August of 1999. Based on the novel by Robert A. Heinlein that inspired the movie, Roughnecks adds more anti-bug campaigns than were featured in the movie, effectively filling in some gaps and adding lots of character development. Fans of the film will recognize Rico, Flores, Ibanez, Jenkins, and Razak. The Homefront Campaign was scripted to comprise episodes 31-40, though due to a dwindling budget, episodes 33, 38, 39, and 40 were uncompleted. Episode 31, which was completed and aired on TV, was not included in this collection, as a decision was made to limit each DVD release to five episodes. This release contains episodes 32, 34, 35, 36, and 37.

Thinking Klendathu's queen bug destroyed, the SICON forces deem the war finally over. Jenkins, however, disagrees and believes the queen is still alive and on Earth. The Roughnecks follow up his hunch and discover a new breed of arachnid hiding amongst the humans, cloaked in human form. While the Roughnecks manage to save a fusion plant, several important landmarks around the globe are destroyed. With the stakes rising and one of their own lost in battle, the Roughnecks have to fight to keep their team together and overcome the bug threat.

Viewed as the continuing adventures of the Roughnecks, The Homefront Campaign succeeds, but it fails to adequately function as the series finale, as the conflict between bugs and humans is left unresolved. The absence of episode 31, which bridges the previous Klendathu Campaign to Homefront Campaign, is felt and starts this new arc off in a confusing way. The Homefront Campaign attempts to bring home the reality of war moreso than previous arcs, as in this one, a main character dies. This arc also develops the relationship between Rico and Flores to a greater degree, though the final resolution of that remains a mystery. Lee R. Ermey (Sky Marshall Sanchez) and Clancy Brown (Sergeant Zim) also appear as guest voices, with Brown reprising his role from the feature film. Though every Trooper fan should see The Homefront Campaign, I honestly didn't think it worked as well as previous arcs, which can be mainly attributed to the absence of episode 31 and a concrete ending.

Roughnecks is presented in 1.33:1 full frame, as it originally aired on TV. For the most part, the CGI is top-notch, though when the characters are out of uniform, the animation tends to be both bland and jerky. The environments are also a bit sparse, which can also be attributed to the show's shrinking budget at this point. There is also some slight grain and some shimmer throughout the episodes, though the grain was probably added for effect.

Roughnecks is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 in English and Dolby 2.0 Surround in French and Spanish. The 5.1 surround track is amazing, especially when considering that this was originally a TV show. Throughout the episodes, the front surrounds stay almost constantly active with the sounds of war and the series' music. There are quite a few split surround effects and front to rear surrounds, both of which sound excellent and add greatly to the experience. Dialogue throughout the episodes is crisp and clean, with no distortion that I could detect. Subtitles are also available in English, Spanish, and French.

Note: The case also lists a Portuguese Dolby 2.0 Surround track, but it is not included.

The main extras on the disc are the two screen-specific audio commentaries, a filmmaker's commentary and a technical commentary. As with the previous Roughneck DVDs (except The Pluto Campaign), the commentaries feature rotating participants.

The filmmaker's commentary is hosted by Audu Paden. While most participants are involved for only one episode, three people stay for more. Marsha Griffin (Story Editor/Story Director) joins him for episodes 32, 34, and 35; Vincent Edwards (Director) joins him for episodes 34, 35, and 37; and Greg Weisman (Writer) joins him for episodes 36 and 37. Other participants include (credit, episode): Jeff Kline (Co-Executive Producer, 32), Alan Caldwell (Director, 35), Sean Song (Director, 35), Irene Bedard (voice of General Redwing, 36), Sam Liu (Director, 36), and Jon Weisman (Writer, 37).

The technical commentary is again hosted by Audu Paden, who is the only participant that remains for all five episodes. Joining him is a wide variety of people from the animation teams at Flat Earth and Foundation, including the animation directors. Each episode has about four participants (Paden, the episode CGI director, and two other animators).

As with previous Roughneck commentaries, I enjoyed the filmmaker's one the most. The commentary includes discussion on the completed but not included episode 31, discussion of the storyline for episode 33, a few tidbits about the planned conclusion in the final three uncompleted episodes, discussion of the character development throughout the series and parallels between characters, a brief mention of the clip shows and why they were necessary, and discussion of how the storyline was modified to accommodate the shrinking budget towards the end of the series.

The participants for the technical commentary, much like in the previous ones, focus on how the show was brought to life through animation. While the participants spend a fair amount of time reminiscing, they also discuss the puppets, sets, designs, lighting, and the challenges associated both with filming a CG television show on a budget.

Also rounding out the disc are a trailer for the Roughnecks series and filmographies for seven of the voice actors and two of the producers.

However, lots more extras could and should have been included, especially since these DVDs have been touted as being "for the fans." First, episode 31 should really have been included. If space was a determining factor, a second disc should have been added and, to make its inclusion worthwhile, the three clip shows could have joined it. Second, Paden mentions he has the storyboards for the final three episodes. Why weren't at least some of these included? Previous Roughneck DVDs have contained quite a few storyboards (for the exception of Klendathu and Homefront) so I can't see why these were omitted, especially since Paden seems skeptical of these episodes ever being completed and released.

The Homefront Campaign is comprised of some great episodes, but the arc is ultimately hampered by the lack of episode 31 and a final resolution to the series. Still, for Trooper fans, The Homefront Campaign remains well worth watching. Recommended.

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