Sunday, July 26, 2009
Troy: Director's Cut Review
A few weeks back, a buddy lent me his copy of Troy: Director's Cut to watch while I was on vacation. Many of you may remember the theatrical release of Troy from 2004, and I know I was psyched for it based on the epic battle scenes previewed in the trailers. The actual film though, left much to be desired. While not a bad film, Troy lacked the strong character development that I believe is crucial in a historical fantasy epic, and the film really did feel rushed. The same could be said for the theatrical release of Kingdom of Heaven, and these days, that's what director's cuts are for.
Most pacing and character development issues arise from studios forcing directors to trim films down, keeping in the action scenes at the expense of character moments to (hopefully) better entertain your traditional audience. At least with DVD releases, director's tend to have an option to re-release the film the way they had mainly intended. For Kingdom of Heaven, this worked extremely well, as the theatrical version compared to its director's cut is like night and day; a completely different film. Does the same hold true for Troy, however?
Many of us know the basic story of the legend of the Golden City and the great Trojan War, as well as the heroes that dominate the tale. The legendary warriors Achilles (Brad Pitt) and Hector (Eric Bana), the kings Agamemnon (Brian Cox) and Priam (Peter O'Toole), and of course the main reason for the war, Helen (Diane Kruger) and her lover, Prince Paris (Orlando Bloom).
For the purpose of the film, Paris, the youngest prince of Troy, falls in love with Helen of Sparta and takes her to Troy to live with him. Helen's husband, Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson) the king of Sparta, convinces his brother Agamemnon, the king of Mycenae and of all Greece, to wage war against Troy to get her back, and thus the war and siege of Troy begins. Achilles, the greatest warrior of his day, is the champion of the Greeks and Hector, the eldest son of Priam and heir to the Trojan throne, serves as the champion of Troy.
With Troy: Director's Cut, director Wolfgang Petersen worked very hard to try and properly complete his film. The movie was re-cut and an additional 30 minutes of footage has been added, expanding the love story between Helen and Paris, providing a more fitting introduction for Odysseus (Sean Bean), and providing a little more insight into King Priam of Troy. Even the entire musical score of the film was revamped to better compliment the new footage. Overall, a great deal of credit and respect must be paid to such an undertaking, as this director's cut was no small feet.
The film depicts the Trojan War in all it's glory, with many dazzling CGI battles of epic scale, mainly featuring titanic infantry clashes. Many of the soldiers in these battles are created via CGI, but admittedly, the effects used have not aged as well as those employed by some other films (The Lord of the Rings, for instance). I digress, however, and the main thing you want to know is how does the director's cut stacks up to the theatrical film. Well, as mentioned, there are more character moments, there are more action scenes (The sack of Troy itself is nicely expanded), and there's even some more nudity, but the truth is that the 30 minutes of additional footage is no where near as drastic or altering as what I've found in other comparable films; despite all these efforts, Troy: Director's Cut only marginally improved the film. The character's themselves still needed more development, more motivation, and it's a shame that we won't find it here, as that's truly what Troy lacks the most.
I know it's not an easy task. The legend of Troy has a great number of essential characters, as does the film, but even with more time, three and a half hours simply was not enough to properly cover such an epic piece in historical fiction. The overall story, the characters, and the legend is just far too complex to compress into such a short space of time.
Overall, Troy: Director's Cut is an entertaining film, but it doesn't live up to the epic standard of some of its competitors. My advice would be to experience the film as a weekend rental, spreading it out across two days (it comes on two discs).