DVD Review HTF DVD REVIEW: Troy - Director's Cut: Two-Disc Special Edition

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Ken_McAlinden, Sep 19, 2007.

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  1. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
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    Troy - Director's Cut: Two-Disc Special Edition

    Directed By: Wolfgang Petersen

    Starring: Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Diane Kruger, Peter O'Toole, Brian Cox, Sean Bean, Brendan Gleeson, Rose Byrne


    Studio: Warner Brothers

    Year: 2004

    Rated: NR

    Film Length: 196 minutes

    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

    Subtitles: English, Spanish, French

    Release Date: September 18, 2007



    The Film

    Troy adapts Homer's "Iliad" (mixing in a bit of Virgil's "Aeneid", other classical sources, and wholesale Hollywood invention) into a story about the siege of Troy by Greek forces. A fragile peace between Greek city-state Sparta and rival nation Troy is broken when Paris (Bloom), son of Trojan King Priam (O'Toole), falls in love with Helen (Kruger), the wife of Spartan King Menelaus (Gleeson). Defying a direct command from his brother, Hector (Bana), the greatest warrior in Troy, Paris steals Helen away from Sparta. Menelaus prevails on his brother, Agamemnon (Cox), to aid him in seeking revenge. Agamemnon, who has just succeeded in conquering and uniting all of the Greek city-states jumps at the chance to expand his empire and control of the seas by waging war against Troy. Achilles (Pitt), the greatest of the Greek warriors is, initially reluctant to participate due to a mutual dislike of Agamemnon, but he is eventually convinced to join in the siege when his friend, Aegean King Odysseus (Bean), appeals to his desire for personal glory. Personal and political conflicts intertwine as a thousand ships full of Greek soldiers lay siege to the massive walls of the city of Troy.

    Despite the modern levels of sex and violence, director Wolfgang Petersen has assembled a film that feels very much like an old-fashioned epic. The dialog is decidedly un-modern to the point that it usually sounds best when delivered by the actors with the strongest backgrounds in classical drama (O'Toole fares particularly well). While a good deal of the spectacle is aided by computer graphics, shots are designed to look like they would have been expensive to do practically rather than physically impossible. The plot is streamlined to the point that just about every major character has a clear arc that resolves in a dramatically satisfying way by the film's end.

    The adaptation keeps the form of classical drama, but removes all of the direct intervention from the gods from the storyline. Comparing film adaptations of classical texts, Petersen's "Troy" takes a highly mythological epic poem and pushes it in the direction of a more straightforward historical epic. In last year's "300", Zach Snyder, following writer Frank Miller's template, took the early historical text of Herodotus, and pushed the drama in a more mythic/fantastic direction.

    Brad Pitt makes an impressive Achilles when he is in his aggressive killing machine or insubordinate Agamemnon-baiting mode, but seems much less convincing in scenes advancing a romantic subplot between Achilles and Briseis. This could be partly due to it being underwritten, but according to Petersen in the disc's supplements, this subplot has been expanded in the director's cut. This undermines the climax somewhat when the audience is expected to believe that Achilles wants nothing more than to find Briseis during a chaotic siege. Bana's Hector is both the most sympathetic and interesting character in the film, as he convincingly plays a reluctant warrior forced into circumstances he would rather avoid due to loyalty and love for his religious father and impulsive brother.

    While those looking for more complex plot or characterizations will no doubt be disappointed, Petersen has assembled a straightforward epic that, despite its simplification, touches on many of Homer's themes about the nature of warfare. The film is meticulously designed from the detailed sets expanded by computer graphics to the fighting styles of major character that are tailored to their personalities.

    The Video

    The 16:9 enhanced 2.35:1 transfer offers an impressive rendering of the film's elaborately detailed production design. The film is split over two discs with the first 117 minutes on disc one and the concluding 79 minutes on disc two (along with most of the extras) allowing for a consistently high bitrate. Digital grain intrudes once in a while, usually in finely detailed shots captured by a moving camera, but these instances are slight and infrequent. The contrast range offers deep blacks and bright but never blooming whites, and the color palette is rendered pleasingly vivid.

    The Audio

    The Dolby Digital (DD) 5.1 soundtrack offers an impressively dynamic and dimensional soundscape. Alternate Frenchh and Spanish DD 5.1 tracks are also available.

    The Extras

    All of the extras are presented with DD 2.0 audio, and most of them have optional Spanish or French subtitles.

    The only extra on the first disc is "Troy Revisited: An Introduction by Wolfgang Petersen". It runs two minutes and 28 seconds, and is presented in 16:9 enhanced video. As expected, Petersen offers a brief introduction to this new cut of the film and explains the reasons for coming back and adding an additional half-hour of material to the theatrical release. They include the usual suspects including not having to worry about how sex and violence affect the film's rating or about time constraints for a wide theatrical release.

    Moving to the second disc, we find "Troy in Focus" which runs 23 minutes and six seconds if "Play All" is selected, and is presented in 16:9 enhanced video. This featurette consists of interviews with Director Wolfgang Petersen on a variety of topics and is newly created for the extended Director's Cut release. It is broken up into eleven chapters with the following titles: "Adapting Homer", "On Set with Brad Pitt", "Casting Helen", "Agamemnon vs. Achilles", "From Malta to Mexico", "Troy: Battles and Weapons", "Hector and Ajax", "Briseis and Achilles: A Love Story", "Two Great Warriors: Hector and Achilles", "A King's Request: Priam and Achilles", "Troy: The Trojan Horse". A lot of discussion relates to how certain aspects of the film are given more depth in the extended cut. There is some overlap with topics covered on the other featurettes.

    Most of the remaining featurettes are identical to ones from the previous DVD release of "Troy", beginning with "In the Thick of Battle". It focuses on the technical challenges of creating the many elaborate battle and fight scenes ranging from training of extras to designing of weapons to shooting around an injury to Brad Pitt. It runs 17 minutes and 11 seconds if the "Play All" option is chosen, and is presented in 4:3 letterboxed video. It is broken up into five chapters via the DVD Menu titled: "The Weapons of Troy", "Creating and Army", "Beach Battle", "The Achilles Heel", "Achilles vs. Hector". It mixes behind the scenes footage with interviews with 2nd Unit Director/Stunt Coordinator Simon Crane, Petersen, Bana, Chief Prosthetics Make-up Artist Daniel Parker, Pitt, Weapons Designer Simon Atherton, Special Effects Supervisor Joss Williams, Sword Master Richard Ryan, and Military Technical Advisor Richard Smedley.

    "From Ruins to Reality" looks at how the world of Troy was created, covering topics relating to production design to issues associated with the location work in Malta and the Baja peninsula of Mexico. It runs thirteen minutes and 59 seconds if the "Play All" feature is chosen and is presented in 4:3 letterboxed video. It is broken up into six chapters on the DVD menu titled: "The Real Troy", "From History to Film", "Battle on the Baja", "Making a Decoy", "Hurricane Marty", and "Burning a Kingdom". Interview participants include: Petersen, Writer David Benioff, Dept. of Greek/Roman Antiquities, British Columbia Lesley Fitton, Production Designer Nigel Phelps, Bana, Diane Kruger, Supervising Art Director Kevin Phipps, Producer Diana Rathbun, Location Manager Peter Novak, Supervising Art Director Les Tomkins, Pitt, Williams, and O'Toole.

    Next up is "Troy: An Effects Odyssey" which runs ten minutes and 52 seconds if the "Play All" option is chosen and is presented in 4:3 letterboxed video. It is broken up into seven very brief chapters via the DVD menu, entitled "Creating and Armada", "View from Above", "Filling the Gaps: CG Soldiers", "Sounds of Fire", "Sounds of Battle", "Sounds of Force", and "Sounds of Destruction". While watching it, the on-screen titles break it up into a more sensible two chapters called "Part I: Visual Effects" and "Part Two: Sound Effects". The visual effects section looks at how CG was used to expand the scale of certain shots with virtual ships and extras and to marry shots from different locations into a clean pan. The sound effects section shows how a number of different sounds from the film were created on a foley stage. Interview particpants include Davis, Crane, Benioff, Petersen, and Supervising Sound Editor Wlie Stateman.

    "Attacking Troy" is another new featurette which covers a hodgepodge of topics ranging from liberties taken in the film's adaptation of "The Iliad" to the intricacies of certain stunts. It runs fifteen minutes and twelve seconds and is presented in 4:3 letterboxed video. The DVD menu breaks it up into three chapters: "Homer: A Story for the Ages", "Designing a Fighting Style", and "Flipping the Chariot". Interview participants include Petersen, Benioff, Fitton, Kruger, Bloom, Bana, Crane, and Horsemaster Jordi Casares

    "Greek Ship Towing" is a collection of silly CG gags from the pre-visualization folks that runs one minute and 25 seconds and is presented in 4:3 video.

    Finally, the films original theatrical trailer (its barely over a minute and may have been a teaser trailer) is presented in 16:9 enhanced video.

    Packaging

    The film is packaged in a standard sized Amaray case with a hinged tray allowing it to accommodate two discs. The hard case is surrounded by a cardboard slipcase which duplicates the hard case cover art with added foil highlights.

    Summary

    The "Troy" Director's Cut is a somewhat old-fashioned epic for which simplicity of plot and characterization is either a vice or virtue depending on the demands and expectations of its prospective audience. A/V quality is generally very good, although there are sporadic shots that exhibit some digital artifacting. There are some decent featurettes on technical aspects of the film carried over from the previous DVD of the theatrical release with a smattering of new material expanding on this and offering some analysis of the differences between the two cuts of the film.

    I never saw the original theatrical cut of this film, but for an assessment of the DVD release of that version, check out Herb Kane's review at this link.

    Herb also reviewed the HD DVD release of the theatrical cut at this link.

    For an assessment of the HD DVD release of this Director's Cut, please check out Cameron Yee's review at this link.

    Regards,
     
  2. Travis Brashear

    Travis Brashear Screenwriter

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    Um, okay, but what about a little discussion about the director's cut itself and how it varies from the original edit? You know that's what people are dying to know...
     
  3. Nicholas Martin

    Nicholas Martin Cinematographer

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    I've watched the first hour of this new cut so far. A few differences:

    Violence is more graphic. More blunt-force impact hits, limbs sliced away, and the levels of blood are much higher.

    Occasional flashes of mild nudity, achieved simply by re-framing certain scenes that originally kept that nudity below the frame.

    Better character development. Motivations are clearer, people seem to give more thought to their decisions.

    So far, It's a better film. Some things seem a little awkward (an inserted scene or two such as one where Achilles seems to mock the gods after beheading the statue of Apollo) and some scenes feature dialogue spoken a little differently, meaning the words are the same, but emphasis and tone of voice are different.

    The entire film has been recolored to appear more vibrant and is a vast improvement over the theatrical version visually.

    The music....what have they done?

    Almost none of the music in the original film is where it should be. It comes across as extremely sloppy with no sense of continuity, and therefore no narrative structure. It just randomly plays from one scene to the next.

    Now obviously there was no way to make the music fit extended scenes when the music was so rigidly written (meaning written to fit the theatrical version exactly with no room for changes) but the edits were so poor it called attention to itself too often. The ethnic vocals are gone, (a good thing) but parts of Danny Elfman's "Planet Of The Apes", Basil Poledouris' "Starship Troopers", and Edward Shearmur's "The Count Of Monte Cristo" have been mixed around (again almost randomly) with James Horner's original score, and even Gabriel Yared's rejected music makes an appearance.

    Finally, perhaps in response to the endless criticism about the music in the theatrical version being too overpowering, the music plays at a much quieter volume throughout. I'd say at half the volume.
     
  4. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
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    I mentioned that I never saw the theatrical cut, so I will leave that to others.

    Regards,
     
  5. TheBat

    TheBat Producer

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    I have seen the first hour of the new cut. I did like the theatre version, however Ifind this cut to be much better. I agree with most of the statements from the other poster. I prefer the music from this version. doesn;t seem so overbearing.. I must say that added footage has helped alot. more character moments with all of the characters and a better understanding of the characters that I think works better in this cut then before.

    Jacob
     

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