Helen of Troy (2003)

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Released 16-Apr-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Audio
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 167:32
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (83:06) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By John Kent Harrison
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Sienna Guillory
Matthew Marsden
Rufus Sewell
Stellan Skarsgård
John Rhys-Davies
Maryam d'Abo
Emilia Fox
James Callis
Daniel Lapaine
Nigel Whitmey
Joe Montana
Katie Blake
Craig Kelly
Case 4 Arrow-Quad-Opaque
RPI $19.95 Music Joel Goldsmith


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
French
German
Dutch
Czech
Greek
Hungarian
Polish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Helen of Troy is going to polarise audiences. As with any film based on a well-known work, there are always going to be those that have a problem with the particular interpretation. The Greek legends as told in the Iliad are some of the most enduring stories ever told. They are part of our everyday language. The character Achilles and his famous heel have given us the name for a part of the human body and an expression for a single weakness. The Trojan horse is also very well known, as is the face that launched a thousand ships, none other than Helen herself.

    They have used the legend as a basis for this story but in my opinion have strayed a fair distance from the original. The Gods, who always played a very prominent role in the Greek legends, are almost completely absent. There are other major differences, such as the portrayal of Achilles. If I remember correctly, he was supposed to be wearing a complete set of armour that left only one weakness. Wearing what he does in this film, it seems a little pointless when he gets shot in the heel. Also, his character does not follow the original either.

    This is the story of Helen of Troy, but it is told from just about every side except Helen's. The story is told by focusing on the other characters around her, the effect she has on them and the actions they take because of her. This leaves the character of Helen with what appears to be almost a minor part in a film about her. Whether she is the beauty that would launch a thousand ships I will leave up to the viewer, but I reckon that she could launch at least seven to eight hundred.

    Originally filmed for TV as a two part mini-series, the acting and story are definitely a notch above the usual TV fare. The special effects do leave a little to be desired, but this does not detract from what is a character driven film. The two halves are on the one disc with a total running time of 167 minutes. The scenery is spectacular and the sets and towns very good considering the budget.

    Paris is the son of the King of Troy. As he is born, his older sister, Cassandra, who has visions of the future, tells the King that if the boy lives then Troy will be destroyed. The King orders the baby taken to the mountains and there to be left to die. He is rescued by a passing goat herder who raises the boy as his own. After the passing of time, the boy has grown into a man and while searching for a lost goat he enters a cave and there meets three beautiful women - three goddesses. They offer him the choice of love, power or riches. He chooses love and is shown an image of the lovely Helen.

    Meanwhile, young Helen has been kidnapped from her home and during her rescue, her brother, the only heir to the throne of Sparta is killed. The King of Sparta blames Helen for this and throws her out of his household. There to pay tribute to the death of the heir are many other Kings from the surrounding area. They are all captivated by Helen's beauty, but worried by the curse that appears to follow her. Agamemnon, who is married to Helen's sister, desires Helen but the others prevent him from making a claim. His younger brother is also completely smitten by Helen. The kings all decide to make a pact. They will all place their rings in a jar and the one that wins will get Helen. To counter what appears to be the bad side of association with this woman, they swear that if anything takes Helen from the winner that they will all band together with their armies and go to any lengths to ensure her return.

    Helen is treated atrociously by her new husband - he makes her walk naked through parties to show her off. Paris appears on the scene during one of these parties - he has been reunited with his family and sent as an emissary. Helen and Paris instantly recognize each other from the visions shown to them by the Goddesses and fall deeply in love. They escape and return to Troy, thus triggering the siege of Troy by the other kings who are driven by the pact that they have made. Of course, no Greek tragedy would have such a simple story and each of the characters has more motivation than appears on the surface.

    Overall, I really enjoyed this film. The acting is very good and the story is very well told. The battle scenes are a little disappointing as are the CGI of the thousand ships, but these don't really spoil what is a rollicking good tale.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Overall, we have a nice transfer with no real problems.

    Presented at what is probably its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio, this transfer is 16x9 enhanced.

    The image is reasonably sharp and the shadow detail is good. There is no low level noise present.

     The colours are very nicely rendered with good saturation. The occasional scene in bright sunlight is a little washed out but this is fairly rare.

    There are no MPEG artefacts present and no film to video artefacts either. There is some minor grain present that occasionally is a little distracting. There are no other major film artefacts.

    The subtitles are easy to read and accurate to what is being said. They include some audio cues as well.

    This is an RSDL disc with the layer change at 83:06. It occurs in a fade to black between the two halves of the film and is thus invisible.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     There are three Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks on this disc. The first is in English and the remaining two are in French and German.

    There are no problems with the dialogue quality nor with the audio sync.

    The music is a lush orchestral score which I found worked very well with the film.

    The surrounds were very disappointing. Other than the arrows used in the battle for Troy that made an appearance in the surrounds, the soundtrack is very front-heavy.

    The subwoofer supports the soundtrack well but there is nothing spectacular that would shake the floor.



Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The menu is a composite of three of the main characters against an ocean backdrop with some of the thousand ships visible. It is presented at 1.78:1 and 16x9 enhanced and accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Region 1 gets a two disc set with this film. One of the discs is dual layered and the other single layered. Reviews of this set mention the difference in picture quality with the same length of material spread over two layers on the first disc and one on the second.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on:

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on:

    This gives us a very clear R1 winner.

Summary

    Like Titanic, you know the ending to this story but that is not a problem - it is how they get to the ending that is important in these films. With a good cast and the focus on the human emotions surrounding the great legend, this is a enjoyable film to watch. My only regret is that they left out so much by eliminating the Gods and Goddesses from the plot.

    The video is good.

    The audio is a little disappointing.

    The extras are missing.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Terry McCracken (read my bio)
Thursday, January 01, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDSkyworth 1050p progressive scan, using RGB output
DisplaySony 1252q CRT Projector, Screen Technics matte white screen 16:9 (223cm). Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR800
SpeakersB&W DM305 (mains); CC3 (centre); S100 (surrounds); custom Adire Audio Tempest with Redgum plate amp (subwoofer)

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