Saturday, March 19, 2011


ACTING: “Troy” is a showcase for Brad Pitt as Achilles. However, the rest of the cast is strong and in some cases do a better job than Pitt (Eric Bana as Hector, for one). Each of the main actors portrays the personality of their character in a manner true to Homer. Even Orlando Bloom comes off well as the wimpy ladies’ man Paris. The female characters are weaker. “Master and Commander” is similarly set-up as a showcase for Russell Crowe as Capt. Jack Aubrey. His is ably balanced by Paul Bettany as the doctor and naturalist Stephen Maturin. The rest of the crew is outstanding. There is no scene chewing, which cannot be said for Troy.

Score at the end of one period: Master – 9 Troy – 7

REALISM: “Troy” is of course based on a legend, but in a bow to reality, the Greek gods are taken out of the story. The humans are more real than in Homer’s tale. Pitt’s Achilles may be the best killer, but he does not kill thousands. Achilles relationship with Breisias does not ring true. It’s your typical Hollywood “they hate each other so you know they will fall in love” relationship. Also, Helen is not beautiful enough to have sacrificed a city for. (Apparently Pitt’s contract insisted no one be more beautiful than him.) The armies are obviously CGI. “Master and Commander” is very authentic to life on board a warship during the Napoleonic War. Even the smallest touches are real. Aubrey is one type of British naval commander – the strict, but fair disciplinarian. The friendship of Aubrey and Maturin withstand their differences of opinions. There is no CGI, they used a real wooden ship. They even filmed scenes at the Galapagos Islands

Halftime score: Master – 18 Troy – 14

ACCURACY: The source of Troy is Homer’s “Iliad”, but keep in mind Homer only covers about six months of the war. The movie is more a retelling of the whole war than of just the Iliad. No matter how you look at it, the screenwriters took major liberties with Homer and the legend. Leaving the gods out is acceptable, but changing the deaths of several famous characters is an insult to intelligent viewers. The ridiculous inclusion of a fire ball scene ala “Spartacus” hurts credibility. In fact, most of the combat is inaccurate as “The Iliad” has most of the fighting as duels between warriors whereas the movie shows mainly phalanx battles. “Master” is also based on fiction, but is much truer to the books than Troy is to the legend. Its depiction of naval life and tactics is very accurate. Particularly noteworthy is the separate lives of the officers and the crew. I could find nothing that was not plausible and I have read a lot on Napoleonic naval warfare.

Score at the end of three periods: Master – 28 Troy – 20

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: If you are not familiar with Homer or don’t care about Menelaus not surviving to bring Helen home (for instance), you will probably find Troy enjoyable. I guess you could argue that the “alterations” to the legend improve the story. Purists beware, however. It is definitely epic and it is probably more female friendly than Master and I’m not just talking about Brad Pitt’s ass. “Master” is more of a male-oriented movie. There are no female characters. However, it is not just action. The film has some terrific battle scenes, but it intersperses them with quieter moments of character development. It is well-rounded which actually means it’s slower moments might turn off action war movie fans. You cannot say that Troy is the best historical epic ever made, but you could argue that Master and Commander is the best movie about wooden warship combat ever made.

FINAL SCORE: Master and Commander – 37 Troy - 28


  1. I think it depends who watches the movies whether it's female or male-oriented. Since I think many women consider Russell Crowe to be one of the best looking actors alive I would say Master and Commander is more female-oriented. Brad Pitt is plain and boring looking. I agree that the other actors, in particular Eric Bana are better.
    All in all, I agree, Master and Commander is by far the better movie.

  2. I'm not sure if most women would agree with your assessment of Pitt. Both Pitt and Crowe are sex symbols, but I think Crowe is the better actor. He has the awards to prove it.

    It is obvious that unlike Troy where everything was geared to show off Pitt, Crowe was comfortable with sharing the spotlight. He even has scraggly hair. I will say that a sword fight between Achilles and Aubrey would be awesome!

    Master and Commander will definitely be in my top 20. It reminds me of Glory. The combat, the acting, the character development. I am very appreciative of the enormous effort that went into making it as accurate as possible. This was the opposite of Troy. Petersen took the attitude of to Hell with Homer, whereas Weir did not want to offend any O'Brien fans. They even segregated the actors portraying the officers from the actors playing the crew. Crowe learned to play the violin. Nautical terms were used. One of the crew carried one of those multi-barreled shotguns in the boarding. That's the gun Patrick Harper carries in the Sharpe novels.

  3. I think you would find a s many Crowe as Pitt fans.
    Master and Commander is a movie that works on a lot of levels and is also a movie one can easily re-watch more than once without being bored. I agree, Russell Crowe is a great actor. I don't think Academy Awards prove anything. I have seen average actors get it.

  4. good matchup. CGI heavy history vs. Old School (enhanced)FX. Ever since Lord of the Rings (especially Return in 2003)big CGI armies attacking have become accepted excitement in war movies. That and sweeping camerawork. I prefer the "place you onboard the real wooden ship" approach of Master. CGI is not nearly as bad as Motion Capture, but it just seems a touch to fake to me. The best scenes in Troy are the one on one sword duels between Pitt and various which involve less CGI and more choreography.
    Weir is an excellent director. I look forward to seeing what his next movie is each year. Always something different and interesting. Petersen is good, but he has the "Terry Gilliam" syndrome to me: his earlier movies when his FX were more "handmade" are much better. Look at Das Boot. One of the best war movies ever made. Talk about putting you in the center of the action. That is exactly what Weir is trying to do and succeeding in Master.
    Crowe is the better actor here. He lives this part. I actually think Pitt does a good job in Troy. He's like Cruise and Roberts however. You have to get past the STAR factor to the acting. Crowe is just as big a star but he projects a down to earth quality. Plus he had a whole series of books to fall back on for character research. I also think his relationship with the doctor helps the movie alot.
    A movie i find better then Troy that has a similar scope is Kingdom of Heaven. That kinda got a bum rap. CGI is much better used there. And Bloom is much better. I need to see the directors cut of that one someday.
    I did love how Pitt leaps into the air to stab his opponent in the neck. You know he did some research to come up with that move.
    Im not sure who could have played Helen. Your right the actress was not good looking enuff. I mean come on...not worth going to war over. Maybe Pitt in a wig?
    Good final score.

  5. The effort put into Master by Weir and everyone associated was incredible. It is derpressing to realize it did not pay off at the box office. They did not dumb-down the movie for a mass audience like Troy did. Significantly, Troy keeps Achilles alive to the end which is contrary to the legend.

    I disagree a bit with regard to your choreographed fights comment. I found the duel between Achilles and Hector was too obviously choreographed. It looked like they knew what the other was going to do next (which, of course, the actors did know).

    Anna Faris for Helen. LOL

  6. I'm a woman and Master and Commander is my favorite movie EVER. So I disagree that it is a male-oriented movie just because the only woman in the film is a Brazilian girl in a boat who Jack smiles at while they're reprovisioning, as the one nod to the fact from the book series that Jack is a ho in a major way. I think it's a fallacy that there needs to be female characters in a film for it to appeal to a female audience. Many of my female friends think the movie is incredible too.

    I didn't dislike Troy. It was merely 'okay.' I think Diane Kruger is beautiful as Helen, so I disagree that she was a bad choice for the part. I agree that Master and Commander was far and away the better film.

  7. Thanks Rachael. I apologize if my sexist comments offended you. Please feel free to set me straight in future reviews. As a guy, I was not impressed by Kruger, she is a good actress, but does not have a face that would launch a thousand ships (seemingly a requirement for the role).

  8. i agree, Rachel. I'm a girl and loved the movie too. just finished watching it again. never fails to impress. i keep getting more and more from it. wonderful character development as well as great action and suspense.


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