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Warner Home Video presents
Troy: HD-DVD (2004)

Hector: You speak of war as if it's a game, but how many wives wait at Troy's gates for husbands they'll never see again?
Achilles: Perhaps your brother can comfort them. I hear he's good at charming other men's wives.

- Eric Bana, Brad Pitt

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: September 28, 2006

Stars: Brad Pitt, Eric Bana
Other Stars: Orlando Bloom, Brian Cox, Sean Bean, Peter O'Toole, Diane Kruger, Rose Byrne, Garrett Hedlund, Saffron Burrows, Owain Yeoman, Tyler Mane, Julie Christie
Director: Wolfgang Petersen

MPAA Rating: R for graphic violence, some sexuality/nudity
Run Time: 02h:42m:36s
Release Date: September 12, 2006
UPC: 012569809468
Genre: epic


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B BAA A-

DVD Review

The DVD Review and Extras Review are by Nate Meyers.

Despite having an impressive cast and marketing campaign, Wolfgang Petersen's Troy failed to strike a strong impression with American ticket buyers last summer. I was one of the many who went to see it on its opening weekend and left the theater feeling underwhelmed. It's not a bad movie by any means, but it feels like just another entry in a long line of epics sparked by the success of Gladiator.

The basis for Troy is Homer's epic poem, The Iliad. The Greek warrior Achilles (Brad Pitt) is barely allegiant to the emerging Greek nation, under the rule of Agamemnon (Brian Cox). As Agamemnon pursues power and territory, his brother, Menelaus of Sparta (Brendan Gleeson), is in the process of securing peace with Greece's neighbor, Troy. Things become complicated, however, when the Trojan prince, Paris (Orlando Bloom), steals Menelaus' wife, Helen (Diane Kruger). Thus starts what will become known as the Trojan War, where Agamemnon finally has his chance to conquer Troy and Achilles meets his match—Paris' older brother, Hector (Eric Bana). For those who are familiar with The Iliad, do not expect this to be a faithful adaptation. Director Petersen and his screenwriter, David Benioff, do not include the Greek gods in their telling of this timeless tale and the events on screen go beyond the conclusion of Homer's story. It appears as though the filmmakers ate attempting to take a more historical dramatization of the war, though the massive CGI shots of Troy and the armies are on far too grand a scale for even the most casual historian to take them seriously.

Personally, I support the decision to make Troy more akin to the real world by sidestepping the more fantastical elements of the story. Some other decisions made by the filmmakers, however, aren't as successful. The increased role of Troy's king, Priam (Peter O'Toole), results in a masterful performance by the old pro O'Toole, but it is also a distraction from the narrative. Additionally, the filmmakers never decide quite how to use Achilles. They seem to want him to be the story's hero (after all, Brad Pitt is playing him), but this is completely contrary to Achilles' character. He's a selfish, brooding, and arrogant man (or demigod, if you're a purist) who is more concerned with his prizes than anything else. At times this is captured well by the script, but it appears that nobody wanted to truly commit Brad Pitt's handsome face to an unsympathetic character. Consequently, Achilles' treatment of the Trojan priestess, Briseis (Rose Byrne), is heavily altered from The Iliad in order to make Achilles a hero of sorts with considerably worse results.

Where the film is a complete success is in its portrayal of Hector. Eric Bana is easily the highlight of the cast, creating an extremely memorable portrayal of the Trojan prince that should be considered by Academy voters when they cast their ballots in a few weeks. It's a shame that Bana is so good, because it makes Pitt's failings as Achilles all the more apparent. Brad Pitt is a talented actor, but he takes the wrong approach to Achilles. Furrowing his brow, Pitt seems to think that he can play this role with the same angst that he brings to other parts. Sadly, Achilles is not a 20th-century anti-hero and Pitt's performance puts a major sour patch on the whole movie. Just as unfortunate a casting decision is Orlando Bloom as Paris. It must be difficult for an actor to play a childish coward, but Bloom does not manage to find a way of making his character annoying without his performance becoming annoying. It's tough to imagine that Helen would leave her kingdom for such a baby-faced, childish man.

Of course these flaws can be forgiven thanks to the impressive production values. The special effects never manage to create the sense of awe and wonder that The Return of the King's did, but they are impressive nonetheless. At times it is a bit tough to feel any empathy for the hoards of men being sent to their doom on the beaches of Troy, since by now we're becoming familiar with these massive digital armies. However, I couldn't find one flaw in any visual effects shot and eventually was swept away by them. The highlight of the film, though, is the fight scene between Hector and Achilles. Undoubtedly this stems partly from Bana's tour-de-force performance, but I was relieved while viewing it to see a fight scene that is realistic in its violence and completely CG free. Another stunning scene in the film is between Priam and Achilles, which just goes to show that epic's only resonate with an audience when the characters are laid bare in from of us.

Critics immediately attacked Troy for not being a masterpiece on the level of The Iliad. This is a completely unfair criticism, since Homer's telling of the Trojan War may be the most important piece of literature in the entire world. However, there are some flaws with this film that cannot be overlooked, even if the craftsmanship and Bana's performance are remarkable. When I got out of my seat after viewing Troy, I felt mildly disappointed. Not because it's a bad film, but because with this cast and crew it could have been great.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.40:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Despite a bit of softness throughout, the picture is a substantial improvement over the standard DVD, which was already excellent. It's especially noticeable in the shadow detail, which comes to vivid life here. The extravagant detail in the costuming comes through in spectacular fashion, drawing the viewer's attention constantly. The blue tunic of Paris against the blue sea as he escapes with Helen is particularly breathtaking. Color is very vivid throughout. I didn't notice any edge enhancement or compression artifacting. The result is a filmlike and quite pleasing viewing experience on all sides.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Spanishyes
Dolby Digital
+
English, Frenchyes


Audio Transfer Review: Not only does the disc include Dolby Digital+ English and French 5.1 tracks, but there's also a lossless TrueHD 5.1 track. All have good impact, especially in the battle sequences, with plenty of bass. Hiss and noise are not noticeable at all. The score has a good presence, with delicate touches from the strings crisply audible. The clang of swords have excellent immediacy. Nothing to complain about here.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu
Scene Access with 44 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Documentaries
2 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Elite
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Gallery of the Gods, a 3D-animated guide to the Greek gods and their myths.
  2. In-Movie Experience
  3. Previsualizations
Extras Review: In addition to the extras on the somewhat underwhelming two-disc standard special edition, the HD DVD sports an exclusive "In-Movie Experience" that serves as something of a visual commentary. The stars, other than Pitt, reveal themselves to be dim bulbs indeed, lending a humorous aspect to the proceedings. Unfortunately, after the first half hour or so, the tidbits become few and far between, so that the impatient may find themselves jumping to the next observation (using the right arrow). As usual for Warner discs, the In-Movie Experience is not accessible on the fly, but restarts the movie from the beginning if it's selected, which I find quite an annoying design. The HD DVD also features four brief previsualization sequences not found on the older release.

The standard DVD's extras ported over (in standard definition) are decent if also a little thin. The documentary In the Thick of Battle (17m:14s) consists of interviews with the cast, crew, and director Petersen, this documentary gives a nice overview of the preparation and execution for the battle and fight scenes' choreography. It mixes behind-the-scenes footage with interviews and film clips quite well, making for a fairly informative feature. An added bonus is that Eric Bana's interviews once again show him to be a classy and humble guy (nice to see these days).

Following are two featurettes. First is From Ruins to Reality (14m:05s), which gives a detailed account of the production design process. Production designer Nigel Phelps admits that he made the city of Troy far larger than it actually was, but justifies his decision by asserting it has a more thematically correct look to it. There's also a good amount of material covering the numerous production difficulties, such as a hurricane destroying the walls of Troy. Some of this was widely reported by news affiliates, but it's nice to get a summation of the film's production. The other featurette, Troy: An Effects Odyssey (10m:58s) goes through the sound and visual effects of the film. There's nothing here that wasn't shown before more thoroughly on the Lord of the Rings DVD sets, but it's a quicker glimpse if you don't want to spend hours surfing through the labyrinths of those DVDs.

Finally, there's a Gallery of the Gods, which is a 3D-animated introduction to the Greek gods. Each god is introduced with a voiceover that explains their legend and who they supported in the Trojan War. The theatrical trailer is also shown in anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

Warner once again delivers a fine HD DVD with Troy. The image and sound transfers are reference quality. The extras are solid, with the added benefit of the In-Movie Experience providing a partial commentary absent from the standard release.

 


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