H D - S E L E C T

A view on HD DVDs by Yunda Eddie Feng

 

Introduction: Hello, Beaver readers! I became a serious cineophile in 1994 when I saw Schindler's List on my birthday. I realized that movies weren't just for fun--they could be serious art, too (even mainstream popcorn flicks if they're made with skill). Although I have a BA in English, I went to grad school for an MA in Film Studies. There, I met my mentor Dr. Warren Buckland, who shares my interest in Steven Spielberg's artistry (Spielberg and art aren't mutually exclusive). I helped edit Dr. Buckland's book Directed by Steven Spielberg: Poetics of the Contemporary Hollywood Blockbuster. I also contributed a chapter to Dr. Buckland's forthcoming anthology of essays about "complex storytelling" movies--movies that avoid classical linear storylines in favor of temporal disruptions, unreliable narrators, metatheatrical/"self-aware" references, etc.

Eddie's Home Theatre:
Sharp 30-inch LCD TV (1280x768 resolution)
Toshiba HD-A2 HD-DVD player
Oppo OPDV971H SD-DVD player
Pioneer 7.1 DD/DTS receiver
Harmon Kardon speakers (5.1)

(I'm using the HD-A2's optical audio connection to obtain DTS 5.1 downmixes.)

Yunda Eddie Feng

 

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Troy (Theatrical) vs. Troy (Director's Cut) HD-DVD

(Wolfgang Petersen, 2004, 2007)

 

Theatrical Cut

Warner (USA)

2.40:1 1080p

162 minutes

Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English, DD Plus 5.1 English, DD Plus, DUBs: 5.1 French, DD 2.0 surround Spanish

Subtitles: Optional English, French, Spanish, none

Extras: In-Movie Experience video stream; In the Thick of Battle; From Ruins to Reality; Troy: An Effects Odyssey; Gallery of the Gods; Pre-visualizations; trailer

 

Released: September 12th, 2006

HD DVD case

44 chapters

 

Director’s Cut

Warner (USA)

2.40:1 1080p

196 minutes

Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English, DD Plus 5.1 English, DD Plus

5.1 French, DD Plus 5.1 Spanish

Subtitles: Optional English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean

Extras: Troy Revisited: An Introduction by Wolfgang Petersen; Troy in Focus; In the Thick of Battle; From Ruins to Reality; Troy: An Effects Odyssey; Attacking Troy: Gearing Up for an On-screen Siege; Pre-visualizations; trailer

 

Released: September 18th, 2007

HD DVD case

45 chapters

 

I saw Troy in a movie theatre back in 2004 because director Wolfgang Petersen still has some goodwill left with me from Das Boot, even if his Hollywood efforts have constituted a string of disasters.  While Troy is nowhere near as powerful as Das Boot, it is surprisingly enjoyable.  Some viewers complained about the fact that the movie removed the Greek gods from Homer’s equation, but this is one of the reasons why I like Petersen’s interpretation.  The characters keep referring to the gods, but there are no gods.  This makes Troy similar to works like United 93 (Paul Greengrass) and Kingdom of Heaven (Ridley Scott).  For all the appeals to God for salvation or victory, there is no God; there is only our very human reality.

 

 

 

The movie is also a departure for a major Hollywood production.  The biggest star, Brad Pitt, is also the biggest jerk, forcing viewers to take sides with the lesser-known Eric Bana.  It helps that Bana delivers the best performance in the movie, followed by Sean Bean.  The winners (the Greeks) are actually the bad guys, so the movie is a bit of a downer.  (This is in keeping with Homer, who portrayed Hector as the true hero of The Iliad.)  Finally, there is the religion thing again.  Troy depends too much on its religious leaders’ advice, so the Trojans bite the dust big time.  Meanwhile, the Greeks rely on secular wits (Odysseus’s) and prevail.

 

The theatrical cut was released on HD DVD on 12 September 2006.  A year later, on 18 September 2007, Warner has released the Director’s Cut.  The major additions include a bit more nudity and quite a bit more gore, though character moments involving Hector and Odysseus enhance their personalities.  There are also grace-note elements (such as a new opening with a dog trying to wake his dead master on the battlefield).  Music cues and color timing have been re-done.  These changes are on the scale of what was done to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings cycle and are not simple insertions of deleted scenes.

 

Video:

Both HD DVDs present the movie in 2.40:1 1080p.  Both offer rich hues and a vivid sense of depth.  However, even though both are in 1080p, the Director’s Cut looks slightly sharper and better detailed.  It’s amazing how compression techniques can be improved in a year’s time.

 

 

 

Audio:

The audio specs are nearly identical, with the Director’s Cut upgrading the Spanish track from 2.0 surround to 5.1.  The primary Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English tracks are transparent and thunderous when appropriate, though the DD Plus 5.1 mixes are no slouches, either.

 

Theatrical: Optional English, French, and Spanish subtitles support the audio.

 

Director’s: Optional English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, and Korean subtitles support the audio.

 

 

 

Extras:

The two editions share most of their extras, though the theatrical cut boasts one of Warner’s “In-Movie Experience” PIP video streams.  The IME is the major reason why the theatrical cut and several other movies (Batman Begins, V for Vendetta, the Matrix Trilogy, etc.) have not appeared on Blu-ray yet.  (Terminator 3 Blu-ray will have the IME hard-coded and accessed via branching instead of as a live second video stream.)

 

 

Other differences:

The theatrical cut HD DVD has a “Gallery of the Gods” interactive guide to the Greek gods.

 

Wolfgang Petersen provided an introduction to the Director’s Cut HD DVD.  The Director’s Cut HD DVD has three featurettes under the “Attacking Troy” umbrella, though they’re so brief (and repeated elsewhere) that they don’t really add anything to your appreciation of the production.  The Director’s Cut HD DVD also breaks the featurettes into small pieces, though the “Play All” function lets you watch the featurettes in exactly the same way as you would with the theatrical cut HD DVD.

 

--Miscellaneous--

Inserts advertise other Warner HD DVDs.

Summary:

The Director’s Cut has nice moments involving Hector and Odysseus, but the theatrical cut is already too long.  I’m of the opinion that Troy should be shorter with some scenes from the Director’s Cut replacing others in the theatrical cut.  As things stand, fans should hang on to both HD DVDs.

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

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