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HD DVD Reviews

HTF HD DVD REVIEW: Troy - Director's Cut



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#1 of 11 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted September 09 2007 - 07:43 AM

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Troy - Director's Cut
Release Date: September 18, 2007
Studio: Warner Home Video
Packaging/Materials: Not available (see note)
Year: 2004
Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 3h12m
Video (Feature): 1080p high definition 16x9 2.35:1
Audio (Feature): Dolby TrueHD: English 5.1; Dolby Digital Plus: English 5.1, French 5.1, Spanish 5.1
Video (Special Features): Partially 1080i high definition, partially 480i or 480p standard definition
Audio (Special Features): Stereo
Subtitles: English, English for the hearing impaired, French, Chinese, Korean, Spanish, Portuguese
MSRP: $34.99

Note: This review is based on an advance test disc or "check disc.
The Feature: 3/5
Of all the sword and sandal flicks that have been made, Wolfgang Peterson's "Troy" is neither as audacious as Zack Snyder's "300" nor as timeless as Stanley Kubrick's "Spartacus." The film is situated firmly in the middle of the genre's continuum, which ultimately amounts to a disappointment with its undeniable big budget casting, look and scope. The action and battle sequences are sufficiently gripping (and gory), but the story never quite comes together to make it more than filler between several bloody battles. Given the varying dynamics between characters, there's potential to explore themes like the fraternal bond and corruptive qualities of power, but much of that gets lost or diminished amidst the clamor of war.

Initially it seems the days of fighting between the Greek tribes are coming to an end. Agamemnon (Brian Cox) has just defeated the final tribe on the Greek mainland (courtesy of Achilles, played by Brad Pitt). His brother Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson) has brokered a peace with Troy through its princes Hector (Erica Bana) and Paris (Orlando Bloom). But the treaty gets upended when Paris takes up with Menelaus's wife, Helen (Diane Kruger), and smuggles her back to his home. The response by the Greek Alliance is swift and uncompromising - Agamemnon and Menelaus lead a thousand ships across the Aegean Sea to lay waste to the city.

But Troy is renowned for being impenetrable to outside attack, a reputation for invincibility exceeded only by the Greek Alliance's star warrior, Achilles. Yet Achilles despises Agamemnon, persuaded to join in the fight only after an appeal to his ego by Odysseus, King of Ithaca (Sean Bean). In every battle Achilles and his soldiers decimate their Trojan opponents but his respect for Agamemnon continues to decline as the war progresses, moving him to abandon the war and return home. A personal loss keeps him in the fight however, and the fall of Troy seems more than assured as he moves to the front lines to battle Hector, Troy's favored prince and champion.

Pitt's portrayal of Achilles is one part rock star, one part "Gladiator" and his star power never gets sufficiently diminished to make him convincing in the part. His casting feels the most anachronistic, though Peter O'Toole's as King Priam of Troy is similarly unsettling. Interestingly enough, the two's only scene together is the most compelling character moment in the whole film, but it's ultimately not enough to counterbalance the rest of it. The other cast members do well enough for the material, though Bloom definitely gets the biggest challenge with a character written as so weak and immature. When Menelaus bellows, "You left me for this?" we're wondering the same thing even though Menelaus is little more than a thug. I did find such a human characterization interesting though, and would have appreciated some degree of examination of Paris's flawed personality, alongside some exploration of the fraternal bond mirrored by brothers Hector-Paris and Agamemnon-Menelaus. And even a deeper look at the antagonistic Achilles-Agamemnon relationship. As it is, my suggestions mean a wholly different film than "Troy" was probably conceived to be and obviously became.

The director's cut adds 30 minutes of footage to make the total runtime over three hours long. I never saw the original release and can't speak to whether the film is improved by the extension, though there are some obvious scenes and levels of combat brutality that I'm guessing weren't in the theatrical cut. If it's true the characters needed more room to breathe, then the director's cut is probably the superior version, though even with the added space the narrative remains unsatisfying.


Video Quality: 4/5
The film is correctly framed at 2.35:1, is VC-1 encoded and free of edge halos, dust, dirt and print damage. Fine object detail is a bit lacking compared to reference transfers and the film image overall has a smoothness to it that suggests some degree of noise/grain reduction or filtering. The problem is not egregious however; it simply lacks a certain clarity one can easily get used to with the best high definition transfers. Contrast and depth of black levels are also a tad inconsistent, with some shots looking a bit on the flat side. Color depth is satisfying though, the richness of the cobalt blue Greek garments and Pitt's and O'Toole's baby blues coming through nicely.


Audio Quality: 5/5
The film's Dolby Digital Plus option will certainly please listeners, but if one has the capability the Dolby TrueHD track is preferable for its wider soundstage and greater channel separation. Surround activity is not aggressive, but provides good support during battle scenes that are filled with flying arrows and spears and general combat mayhem. LFE is also satisfying with the thunder of marching soldiers and bone-rattling sword hits on shields. Center channel dialogue is consistently clear and intelligible.


Special Features: 3/5
The director's cut release adds "Troy in Focus" to the menu, but the piece is rather unremarkable. Those looking to upgrade from either the SD or HD theatrical versions will not find reasons to do so in the special features package. This release in fact drops the "In Movie Experience" video commentary from the HD theatrical version.

Introduction by Wolfgang Peterson (2m30s): Peterson describes the benefits of getting a director's cut.

Troy in Focus: Peterson does all the talking in this series of clips, which are somewhat interesting as a whole, but he frequently restates how much better the film is with the extended character moments. Ultimately it feels like an extended version of his introductory remarks. Scenes from the film, casting tapes and various production artifacts are intercut with his interview. The "Play All" option has total time information but it only reflects the length of the first clip. This may be fixed in the final product release.

Adapting Homer (2m43s): Peterson's love of The Iliad and decisions made for the adaptation to film.

On Set with Brad Pitt (2m01s): Anecdotes about working with paparazzi target Pitt.

Casting Helen (1m25s): How Kruger came to be cast as Helen.

Agamemnon vs. Achilles (3m37s): The cause of tension between the two characters.

From Malta to Mexico (3m07s): The challenges of the location shoots.

Troy: Battles and Weapons (1m55s): Peterson again talks more about the benefits of an extended cut of a film rather than shooting battle scenes.

Hector and Ajax (1m03s): The expansion of the Ajax character.

Briseis and Achilles: A Love Story (2m12s): The significance of the love story and how Rose Byrne was cast as Briseis.

Two Great Warriors: Hector and Achilles (56s): The significance of the battle between the two characters.

A King's Request: Priam and Achilles (1m53s): Remarks about the scene between the two characters.

Troy: The Trojan Horse (2m08s): Constructing and moving the prop horse.


In the Thick of Battle: Weapons and prop masters and stunt coordinators discuss their work and provide behind-the-scenes footage in an informative and interesting piece. Though there is a "Play All" chapters option, some of the content is cut off abruptly when moving to the next segment. The "Play All" option also has total time information but it only reflects the length of the first clip. This may be fixed in the final product release.

The Weapons of Troy (4m39s): Making functional weapons for the film and creating realistic action.

Creating An Army (3m13s): Recruiting, organizing and training extras to play an army of soldiers.

Beach Battle (3m32s): The rigors and challenges of shooting battle sequences.

The Achilles Heel (34s): Pitt's foot injury and the effect on the production.

Achilles vs. Hector (5m12s): Creating and executing the one-on-one battle.


From Ruins to Reality: The production crew talks about recreating ancient Greek architecture and settings in an interesting and informative documentary. As with the previous piece, the transition between chapters is sometimes abrupt. The "Play All" option also has total time information but it only reflects the length of the first clip. This may be fixed in the final product release.

The Real Troy (5m12s): How known history of Troy influenced the production design.

From History to Film (2m45s): The details of the Troy sets.

Battle on the Baja (2m38s): Moving to production to the Baja Peninsula and its challenges.

Making A Decoy (1m40s): Making the Trojan horse prop.

Hurricane Marty (52s): A hurricane destroys the set on the Baja beach.

Burning A Kingdom (2m54s): The logistics of burning up the rebuilt set.


Troy: An Effects Odyssey: The visual effects crew talks about its work in an interesting and informative documentary. As with the previous piece, the transition between chapters is sometimes abrupt. The "Play All" option also has total time information but it only reflects the length of the first clip. This may be fixed in the final product release.

Creating an Armada (2m30s): How two ships turn into hundreds.

View from Above (1m28s): Executing the cable camera tracking shots.

Filling the Gaps: CG Soldiers (3m20s): Using software to control and manage individual CG combatants.

Sounds of Fire (1m35s): Creating the sound for the flaming balls of hay.

Sounds of Battle (38s): Creating the sound for flying arrows.

Sounds of Force (27s): Creating the sound for swordplay.

Sounds of Destruction (51s): More a conclusion to the segment than any new information.


Attacking Troy: The production crew talk about adapting classic Greek literature for film. As with the previous piece, the transition between chapters is sometimes abrupt. The "Play All" option also has total time information but it only reflects the length of the first clip. This may be fixed in the final product release.

Homer: A Story for the Ages (7m26s): Screenwriter David Benioff and Peterson talk about adapting the Iliad and other sources for film. Cast members also share their thoughts on their respective characters.

Designing A Fighting Style (6m03s): Adapting and interpreting Homeric fighting styles and descriptions.

Flipping the Chariot (1m43s): The challenge of doing a chariot stunt and conclusion to the documentary.


Greek Ship Towing (1m25s): The visual effects department has fun with pre-visualization CGI.

Theatrical Trailer (2m07s)


Recap

The Feature: 3/5
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 5/5
Special Features: 3/5
Overall Score (not an average): 3.5/5

A big budget movie long on action and shorter on character development gets very good audio and video transfers and a decent special features package, though the new "Troy in Focus" is ultimately unremarkable. Current owners of the HD theatrical release would gain the extra 30 minutes of feature material but give up the "In Movie Experience" video commentary. SD owners would get an improvement in audio and video options and the extended cut. But I imagine both groups will not find the director's cut worth a double-dip and the theatrical release may even be preferable for new purchasers. In all cases, I recommend a rental first.
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#2 of 11 OFFLINE   Averry

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Posted September 09 2007 - 08:31 AM

The Fall of Troy is my favorite band.


I dont' think Troy would be worth repeat viewings but I haven't seen it since it was in theaters.



Sounds like a decent release.
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#3 of 11 OFFLINE   Rachael B

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Posted September 09 2007 - 12:54 PM

You have me convinced that I want this edition. The hardest thing about buying it will be deciding which format to buy it on.
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#4 of 11 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted September 09 2007 - 02:22 PM

Quote:
You have me convinced that I want this edition. The hardest thing about buying it will be deciding which format to buy it on.
Hmm...that's interesting. I didn't think I was especially persuasive about getting it at all. Posted Image
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#5 of 11 OFFLINE   Rachael B

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Posted September 09 2007 - 02:29 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cameron Yee
Hmm...that's interesting. I didn't think I was especially persuasive about getting it at all. Posted Image

Well. really. you didn't have to be too particularly persuasive. I just like films about the ancients. It's not like they added 3 minutes and called it a new cut like so many director's cuts.
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#6 of 11 OFFLINE   Chris S

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Posted September 09 2007 - 02:54 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cameron Yee
But I imagine both groups will not find the director's cut worth a double-dip and the theatrical release may even be preferable for new purchasers. In all cases, I recommend a rental first.

Thanks for the review! I was going to pick this HD-DVD up on release day but based on your recommendations I think I'll add it to my Netflix list first.
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#7 of 11 OFFLINE   Michel_Hafner

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Posted September 10 2007 - 12:12 AM

Quote:
Fine object detail is a bit lacking compared to reference transfers and the film image overall has a smoothness to it that suggests some degree of noise/grain reduction or filtering.
Have you considered the average bit rate and VC-1 filtering to avoid blocking? This film plus supplements is too long for a high average bit rate.

#8 of 11 OFFLINE   Southpaw

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Posted September 10 2007 - 03:12 AM

Thanks for the review. I wasn't going to double-dip Troy but after reading the various reviews of the DC, I'm going to. Looks like improved PQ and with the add'l footage getting high marks, this looks like the right time to make this my first HD double.

#9 of 11 OFFLINE   Neil Joseph

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Posted September 10 2007 - 04:24 AM

I was wondering if the BR version takes use of the 50GB of space and/or if the encode is vc1 or avc. I do not imagine it is a high bitrate vc1 encode used on this particular disk because of the space and movie length. Time will tell but I am interested in how Warner handles a situation such as this.
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#10 of 11 OFFLINE   Nick Laslett

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Posted September 11 2007 - 10:49 PM

I have this pre-order on Blu-Ray.

I skipped the Cinema release due to all the bad press and not being much of a fan of Wolfgang. But when viewing the DVD was thrilled and excited by the film. Of the recent crop of sword and sandle epics, it is my favourite.

For what it is worth Orson Scott Card was one of the few people to give Troy a good review when it came out in the cinema.

http://www.hatrack.c....04-05-16.shtml

It is a little disappointing that the HTF review was not familiar with the original version.

#11 of 11 OFFLINE   Mark Zimmer

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Posted September 12 2007 - 02:49 AM

It is pretty amazing how much Warner has crammed onto this disc: 3h12m of HD content, plus Peterson's 2m30s intro is HD too. And then there are what adds up to close to a couple hours of SD extras. The video quality really doesn't suffer much either, other than some compression noise on the opening titles. They're getting pretty good at VC-1 compression.


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