From: Subject: Date: April 21, 2005 3:53:51 PM CDT Hankblog

Monday, May 17, 2004

Movie Review: Troy
Director - Wolfgang Petersen; Starring - Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Diane Kruger, Peter O'Toole, Brian Cox, Brendan Gleeson; Screenplay - David Benioff, inspired by The Iliad by Homer; Rated R for violence, some nudity and sexual situations.

Intro - My Spartan knowledge of the subject matter
I was married to a classicist. One of my closest friends is also well versed in the classics. Despite this learned company, I must confess to a very limited knowledge of the source material that ostensibly is the basis for Troy. I confess that my knowledge of Homer is more extensive in baseball and The Simpsons than with the poet. I hoped that this might dull any bias I might have for or against the film. Having seen enough advance press to know that this script might have about as much association with Homer as Rafael Belliard, I knew not to expect something epic. The film easily lived down to my expectations and then some.

Is this thing going to be peppered with more bad puns?
Considering the cheese factor of this movie, I would consider that feta-ccompli.

The story of Agamemnon: They're all Greeks to him
The movie opens with a brief history lesson. The Greek King Agamemnon (Brian Cox) has been successful in a drive to unite the various kingdoms of ancient Greece under his leadership. He has done this by hook and by crook, utilizing the strongarm power of Achilles (Brad Pitt), the fiercest warrior the world has ever known.

The forced peace Agamemnon has fashioned is threatened when Trojan Prince Paris (Orlando Bloom) absconds with the wife of Spartan King Menelaus (Brenden Gleeson). Paris convinces brother Hector (Eric Bana) to continue on to Troy with his love Helen (Diane Kruger) aboard. His hope is that their father Priam (Peter O'Toole) may be able to advise on whether their love may be held together or torn asunder. The threat level is higher than Paris realizes, as Agamemnon sees this love affair as the key to being able to attack Troy to bring the last rogue state under his purview.

I think Aeneid more background than that
Maybe so, but this is not the place to find it. Nothing about this movie has any measure of subtlety or attention to important details at all. Instead it seems more fixated on the flash and dash. The spectacle is the thing.

Take Achilles for example (warning, minor spoiler territory ahead). In the opening scenes of the film, we get to see Agamemnon getting set to bring one more army under his umbrella. Rather than engage in wholesale slaughter, he talks the opposing King Triopas into a one-on-one matchup: Agamemnon's best warrior, against the top dog from Triopas' men. Triopas' champion is a big hulking brute of a man named Boagrius. Agamemnon calls upon Achilles, but he's not there. He has to be summoned from camp, where he's sleeping off the afterglow of a night spent in the throes of passion with not one, but two lovely ladies (see how masculine our hero is).

After gratuitous flash of Pitt's ass and abs (did we mention he was masculine?), he shows up for the fight. Then we get treated to a fight that is over before it even begins, with Pitt delivering this ridiculous looking side jump/kick and stab move that looks like he should be singing "Skip to M'Lou" as he does it. Boagrius dies from the one cut. All I could think was that Achilles had nothing left after the two ladies, having shot his wad in 10 seconds. Crude analogy? Absolutely, but that's exactly how it plays.

Gyros and Villains
All of the male leads save one have that kind of bluster going on through most of the movie, with very little to back it up. Eric Bana's Hector may be the most balanced of the lot (it's a close call between him and Sean Bean's Odysseus). Even he's prone to the overdone swagger. There's a speech he gives laying into Paris on the boat back to Troy after Paris has revealed that Helen's tagging along for the ride. The whole speech immediately called to mind for me Jack Nicholson's over the top ranting in A Few Good Men. "I eat breakfast 25 miles from 10,000 Spartans who are trained to kill me, blah, blah, blah."

Helen and Paris have a less convincing romance than anything I've seen on the worst soap opera imaginable. With all due respect to Diane Kruger as Helen, she's pretty enough, but she couldn't launch a dinghy, let alone a thousand ships. The moment she starts spitting up some self pitying crap about all the trouble she's caused, you just want to say "So go BACK already, jeez! Anything to keep you quiet." Of course she looks prettier than the other women in the movie. I think she was the only one allowed to bathe during the shoot. On top of that, it looked like Orlando Bloom stole Johnny Depp's eyeliner from Pirates of the Caribbean, and she went nuts with it.

Brian Cox's Agamemnon is so in love with his abilities as a leader, I thought "When did Narcissus make his way into the Iliad?" He's chewing up so much scenery I thought he'd eat his way through the Trojan walls.

Paris is pretty much just a silly little git. Orlando is well on his way to being the Mark Hammil of a new generation, starring in box office giants, and then never being heard from again. The moment he appears in something that doesn't require him to handle a sword or a bow, he's going to disappear into obscurity I think. He just doesn't have any weight as an actor to me.

The only performance that warrants any really serious consideration is O'Toole as Priam. He has a few quiet moments where he shows just how far above all the fray he really is. It's almost as though he watches the other actors, and then in full Master Thespian mode says to the others, "Now in my day, we did something called ACTING!" And then burst out elevating the material as much as he can. He's a truly amazing man to watch work. And he gets maybe 20 minutes of real screen time in a near three hour film.

Sounds like Benioff Styx it to them badly
That's an understatement. My friend Evil Mike mentioned long before the movie came out that he just figured it would be serviceable if they got the angst down right. "Homer is all about the angst," he told me. I don't know if he wanted soap opera angst, but that's what he got in spades.

I mean, how many times do we need to hear the leads tell us how they will live in history for what they do in this war? I mean, if advertisers have to tell us how cool certain clothes are, are they really cool? If you have to tell me how important a person you are, are you really that important? Wouldn't I know that already, without you having to tell me? So why do the characters have to keep telling us how important they are? Because in this drama, they're not really all that.

I really think the whole enterprise was undermined by trying to condense everything. The interplay with the Gods that is so significant in the book is completely thrown out the window. They've condensed a war that happened over 10 or more years if I remember right into what looks like a month at the beach. Three to four weeks isn't a war. That's Reagan invading Grenada. No one holds that up in the history books as one of the great military campaigns of all time. It's a footnote. How are we supposed to get involved in a movie about a footnote?

Nice Horse. But do you have one in another color?
By the time we get to the big finish with the legendary horse, there's just nothing in there that really makes me want to care. If this is going to be crossed up into an epic love story (which The Iliad is most definitely not, from what I do know), then Kruger and Bloom have to carry all the weight and make us care about their relationship. We have to believe that all this hulabaloo has been for something bigger than life. What we get is luke warm puppy love at best.

So let's say instead this is supposed to be a great historical epic, with sweeping action and heroic deeds. What we get posturing, mediocre battles, ham handed dialogue, and a really horrific ending that just keeps going and going and going. If a movie is going to be self important, it damn well better not be boring. And this movie is really dreadfully dull a lot of the time, when it's not ridiculously silly.

So you wouldn't recommend it?
I would be Iliad ease doing so.

The puns have been awful.

Hades are the jokes, folks. I suffered through the movie, you can suffer through me making fun of same.