2004Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Cast: Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom
roy vexes me; I am terribly vexed.”
A slight modification of the most unintentionally hilarious line from Troy’s Roman cousin Gladiator evokes both my disappointment in the new historically themed blockbuster and the obvious comparison to its Oscar-winning predecessor. Both films claim to have been inspired by classic literature and history, but at least Gladiator had the decency to appear crafted by Hollywood laptops rather than the pen of an epic poet. Troy, that sneaky bastard, hid itself like a craptastic bomb in The Iliad’s clothing.
The warriors fall into stunned silence as they are informed this is not just an overly realistic Renaissance Fair...
When making a film “inspired by” (which is actually to say “the raped leavings of”) classic literature, accuracy is not essential so long as the filmmakers and studio are up-front with their changes. Instead Warner decided to promote the film with these words: “There is a legend 28 centuries old that tells of a queen who betrayed her king, and the warrior he called upon to lead a war for vengeance. If love is worth fighting for, it has known no greater battle than this.” That statement is all true so we can’t sue for false advertising, but the legend told in Troy is closer to 28 months old than 28 centuries. What’s more, the fucks give Homer lead credit in the writing department (according to IMDB), just to ensure thousands of people walk around for the next couple months talking about Homer’s depiction of the battle of Troy from a position of authority without having read his work.
For all the classics majors out there, more than one important character dies in Troy whilst surviving the battle in both The Iliad and The Odyssey, Gods are completely written out of the story unless a human’s faith in religion produces poor decisions, the war seems to last about sixteen days as far as the viewer can tell (ten years in the books), and Aeneas, one of the most famous warriors of Troy, has one line and is represented as a civilian adolescent.
"OK, I'm in another movie in which I carry a sword, wear armor, and furrow my brow sensitively at regular intervals. I'm riding this gravy train as far as it'll take me—do you realize how many chicks I get?"
These changes are forgivable, the changes to the nature of the characters are not. Troy’s heroes and villains are too easily identified. King Agamemnon (Brian Cox ending his prolific string of good films) is one or two strokes of the pen away from sprouting horns and ditching his royal scepter for a pitchfork. Hector (Eric Bana in a wasted performance) is basically the male fantasy character; great warrior, smart, honorable, hot wife, loving husband and father, gleaming halo suspended above his head.
Helen (Diane Kruger), whose elopement with Paris (Orlando Bloom) sets off the conflict, undergoes the most egregious transformation. In passing from print to screen her character turns from a fickle, self-absorbed strumpet to a faithful, loving companion, freed from a failed marriage. In a scene where Paris exhibits his trademark cowardice, Helen comforts him, explaining that she’d rather have a husband to grow old with than a dead hero. When the same situation arose in The Iliad, Helen taunted her lover for his weakness. The overemphasis on minor character Briseis (Rose Byrne) as a love interest for Achilles (Brad Pitt) and the softening of Helen come across as shameless attempts by the filmmakers to attract a female audience to a war film. C’mon ladies, isn’t the man-meat enough?
Performances across the board are mediocre, with the positive exceptions of Bana and Peter O’Toole as King Priam and the negative exception of Kruger, who at times was painful to watch. One hesitates to delve further into evaluation of the acting because the characters require no subtlety and face no real conflict (outside of Achilles).
Troy is generally not recommended, but under certain conditions it would serve the audience member well. For instance, if you thought Gladiator was Oscar-worthy, you’ll probably at least like Troy, jerk. If you don’t know or more importantly don’t care about Homer’s work, like characters that are strictly black or white (LOTR fans, HO!), and enjoy watching big, sweaty, leather clad men battle it out, go see Troy now. Otherwise, stay home and wait for The Chronicles of Riddick, a guaranteed winner, you heard it here first.
By: Kevin Worrall
Published on: 2004-05-19