I'm astonished at the level of vitriol being dumped on this movie. Yes, we all know it's more fun to write a negative review, but while Troy is hardly a perfect film, it certainly doesn't deserve the scorn being heaped upon it by people who should know better (I'm looking at you, Ebert.) In fact, if I were to damn the enterprise with faint praise, the least I could say for it is that it beats the hell out of Gladiator, which travesty of history was greeted with swooning delight by critics and the public at large. Still, the audience will judge a work as they see fit. But there are a few points I'd like to make in defense of the film:

The film isn't called The Iliad for a reason, and that reason is that it's not a direct adaptation of The Iliad. Homer didn't originate the story of the Trojan war. He wrote the best-known versions of two parts of the saga in the Iliad and the Odyssey, but these are not the only source materials. The choice of Paris (i.e., the selection of the most beautiful among Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite and subsequent awarding of Helen) does not appear in the Iliad. Neither does the abduction of Helen. Neither does the Trojan horse. Neither do the deaths of Achilles, nor Paris, nor Agamemnon. Criticisms based on a supposed lack of fidelity to the Iliad would seem to miss the point in this regard.

For those waxing wroth over the fact that Troy compresses the timeline and doesn't present the story as a ten-year seige: I'm absolutely agog to hear suggestions as to how to keep the narrative on point and cover ten years in a three hour movie. Hell, it took Peter Jackson THREE MOVIES and something like TWELVE HOURS to adequately cover the events of a single year in the Lord of the Rings saga, and even with that much space to spread out in he completely hosed up the pacing in the third film so that it appears to be a 15-minute ride to the Morannon from Minas Tirith, despite the fact that the same journey took Frodo half the length of the film. (Granted, he was walking/staggering.) The narrowing of the scope of the film seems an entirely sensible compromise.

For those further waxing wroth over the absence of the gods: you've got to be joking. Has it really been so long since Clash of the Titans that you're actually prepared to swear you'd treat the movie seriously if you'd seen Paris being wafted away in the middle of his fight with Menelaus on Aphrodite's cloud? Because that's precisely how he escapes being butchered in the text, and I frankly can't imagine not snickering. The film isn't being presented as mythology; it's being presented as a quasi-historical version of events--much as King Arthur is purported to be (the critical drubbing being extended to Troy doesn't bode well for this film. I can already hear the weeping over the abandonment of Mallory's text. Gad.) Besides, apart from the issue of believability, the movie already has a large cast; adding the gods to the script would only further diffuse the focus of the story.

Having seen it twice I find some of the casting criticisms bizarre, but I won't argue with subjective opinion. I think Brad Pitt is just fine as Achilles. Eric Bana is as steady and somber as Hector ought to be. Orlando Bloom is perfectly-cast as Paris (the worst character in Western literature); he's a doe-eyed prettyboy--which is kinda the point--if a bit too much of a thickie as written. As a bonus, he and Bana also actually looked quite a bit like brothers on-screen. Brian Cox is gloriously hammy as Agamemnon; Brendan Gleeson is good as Menelaus (my personal favorite scene in the film is the ass-kicking he gives Paris. He just looks completely nuts from the helmet-cam perspective. Sure, it's cheesy. But it adds an indefinable something.) I'm pleased to say Peter O'Toole brought his screen presence with him, and as an added bonus you get Nigel Terry as his spiritual advisor. All the women are fine in their parts, under-written as they are; even Helen doesn't get a lot of dialog, but the film never purported to be an exploration of her tormented soul, and I'm good with that.

In all, it's not the greatest film I've ever seen and it didn't force me to reevaluate my entire existence, but I don't generally require that of a film. It's just an engrossing story competently written, shot, acted, and directed. I wouldn't think to ask for more.

Addendum: Bill McCabe may never forgive me if I don't point out that the legendary Sean Bean is excellent as Odysseus.


Anonymous said...

Despite the negative reviews, I plan to take it in sometime next week. And I have no doubt as to the caliber of the underappreciated Bean's performance.


Anonymous said...

I just saw it on Saturday, Kerry, and I have to agree. I don't think it was quite the epic it was trying to be, but it was a good movie. As for Bloom's performance being described in various outlets as a "career-killer", all I can say is "jealous much?" Hardly something that will be remembered come awards season, but he did the job just fine.