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Troy on DVD

In this age of the new Hollywood action epic, Troy suffers the same fate as pretty much every other recent entry.

Like The Alamo, King Arthur, The Last Samurai, and Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World, the filmmakers of Troy spent so much money making everything look and feel authentic that they couldn’t afford to make the story any more than average.

Troy is, of course, the story of Troy, the ancient city on the coast of the Aegean Sea. It’s a beautiful, powerful city that is the only thing standing in the way of the Greeks controlling the entire Aegean region. Led by Achilles (Brad Pitt) and Agamemnon (Brian Cox), the Greek army is quite a force to be reckoned with. But the Trojans, led by Hector (Eric Bana), are no slouches, and will not go quietly into the night.

Thus we have a series of intense battles leading up to the inevitable conclusion (which we won’t spoil for you in case you’re unfamiliar with the Trojan War). We delve deeply into the characters and examine the circumstances that had a hand in starting the war.

Agamemnon was already a power-hungry Greek commander. But when Helen of Sparta (Diane Kruger) runs off with Paris (Orlando Bloom) and becomes Helen of Troy, the Greeks decide they want her back and use it as an excuse to invade. They recruit the greatest fighter in the world, Achilles, and his men, and send the entire Greek fleet/army across the sea to the beach of Troy.

This $175 million epic definitely looks like a $175 million epic. There are huge sets, authentic-looking costumes and weapons, and CG pretty much everywhere. If you pay more attention to the visuals than to the plot, you’re much more likely to enjoy the film.

Director Wolfgang Petersen does his best to take us back 3200 years and bring us into the excitement. Unfortunately, writer David Benioff has crafted an entirely formulaic epic story and clichéd characters we find it hard to feel for. In his defense, however, the task was not an easy one. He had to establish the good guys and the bad guys, while making sure that even some of the bad guys are good guys. And he had to fill 162 minutes with endless talking.

The battle scenes are pretty hardcore. Like other epics, it doesn’t shield us from the violence and even uses it to display the brutality of war (but it never gets all preachy and anti-war on us). Everything is perfectly choreographed and realistic; you’re more than willing to believe that this is how these battles actually went. And you might even cringe once in awhile if you feel your favorite fighter is about to kick the proverbial bucket (a prime example is the fight between Hector and Achilles – man, that’s intense).

For the first time in his career, Brad Pitt has been miscast. He’s a fine actor, and we’re large fans of his, but he just didn’t seem at all right for Achilles. An actor a little bit more talented and a little bit less pretty would have been a much better choice (and could have knocked the budget down by a cool $20 million – but of course, then the chicks wouldn’t get to ogle Brad Pitt in his battle gear). Eric Bana, however, is about as perfect a Hector as one could ask for. We also get a typically intense Orlando Bloom, great performances from Sean Bean, Brian Cox and Brendan Gleeson, and a few scenes with legendary Peter O’Toole, playing Priam, King of Troy.

Troy does its darndest, and succeeds on many points. Unfortunately, like other similar action epics, it just never really grabs you, leaving you ultimately dissatisfied. Our guess is that it would hold up better during multiple viewings after you know what to expect. But however many times you’ve seen it, you’re still getting a great looking movie with some awesome action. If that’s what you’re looking for, then by all means check out Troy.

Or, better still, watch The Lord of the Rings The Return of the King.

The DVD presentation of Troy is both good and bad. The video, presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen is astounding in some parts, and unacceptably bad in others. During most of the outdoor scenes, it looks lush and beautiful, with sparkling detail and dull colors that don’t look dull at all. Then, however, you get to some of the indoor scenes, in which it appears as though they felt we wouldn’t notice if they didn’t bother to work on the video. It’s grainy and messy and insanely pixilated, but fortunately they save it for when nothing is really happening (not that that makes it okay).

The audio makes up for it with a powerful, engrossing Dolby Digital 5.1 track. During the talking, we can hear all three front channels separating characters and music and background effects. But when the action heats up, so do the speakers: the shouts of war, clanging of swords, whizzing of arrows and running of feet are all distinguishable from each other and coming from all different directions.

Disc one features the feature, while disc two is chock full of supplements. Three documentaries examine the film’s “thrilling action sequences,” production design, and the “miraculous special effects.” These are not as good as one all-out making-of documentary, but they spend enough time on each subject to be really informative. We learn about the grueling process of building these vast sets, and choreographing action scenes that feature thousands of warriors. Fun stuff. We also get the film’s theatrical trailer included.

Troy, from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
162 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 5.1
Starring Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Diane Kruger, Brian Cox, Sean Bean, Brendan Gleeson, Peter O’Toole
Produced by Wolfgang Petersen, Diana Rathbun, Colin Wilson
Screenplay by David Benioff, Directed by Wolfgang Petersen


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