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TroyTroy - The Director's Cut 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. Or that's how we felt about the original release, before we saw the new, two disc special edition that director Wolfgang Petersen had a chance to tweak back into his original vision. Or so he tells us in an introduction before the new version starts.

The new version feels much more complete and coherent, though Petersen has also put in a lot of gore that isn't necessary and could turn off some viewers.

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. And, seemingly, all they want is peace.

Then there are the Greeks and their hero warrior Achilles (Brad Pitt). Led by King Agamemnon (Brian Cox), the Greek army is 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. They want peace, but not at any cost.

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 of Troy (Orlando Bloom) and thereby becomes Helen of Troy, the Greeks decide they want her back and use it as an excuse to invade. They enlist the greatest fighter in the world, Achilles (though he's loyal only to himself), and his men, and send the entire Greek fleet/army across the sea to the beaches of Troy.

This $175 million epic definitely looks like a $175 million epic. There are huge sets, authentic-looking costumes and weapons, and epic CG shots pretty much everywhere.

Petersen does his best to take us back 3200 years and bring us into the excitement. And though we'd written off writer David Benioff's script as formulaic and clichéd (and were the Greeks really that bad and the Trojans really that noble?), the extended version (which adds about half an hour) is much better.

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 - sometimes (as mentioned) unnecessarily so; 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 right for Achilles. An actor 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 and in the buff). 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 the legendary Peter O’Toole, playing Priam, King of Troy.

Troy succeeds on many points and at its worst is a great looking movie with some awesome action and effects.

The new DVD presentation of Troy is excellent. The video, presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen is astounding for the most part. It looks lush and beautiful overall, with sparkling detail and colors that nearly leap out of the screen.

The audio is presented in a powerful, engrossing Dolby Digital 5.1 track, though we'd have liked to hear dts as well. During the dialogue scenes, 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 first half of the movie, and a bit, while disc two finishes the film and offers the expected range of supplements, including:

  • Troy in Focus: The talent and resources an epic movie requires
  • In the Thick of Battle: The film's thrilling action sequences
  • From Ruins to Reality: The history behind the production design
  • Troy: An Effects Odyssey
  • Attacking Troy: gearing up for an on-screen siege
  • Greek Ship Towing
  • Theatrical trailer

In all, it's a compelling package, and if you found yourself wanting more on your original viewing of Troy, this one might suit you more. As long as you don't mind the extra sex and gore.

Troy, from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
196 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

Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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