Saturday, May 22, 2004
By Reymundo Salao
The Guardian, May 22, 2004
The first time I heard the buzz that there was going to be a film version of Homer's "Iliad" with the obvious title "Troy", I immediately jumped to the conclusion that it was another movie cashing in on ancient and/or mythological war sagas to add to the list of sure-winners like Gladiator, Lord of the Rings, and the Last Samurai. I could imagine some producer trying to jump into his library of Cliff-Notes trying to look for some classic piece of literature that has a great deal of action and war in it.
I might have guessed that it would be quite astounding to see the Iliad on film, especially with how cinema special effects nowadays have become quite flawless. I was a bit excited to see the Trojan war, and both the Greek and Trojan gods clash, on film. But there wasn't going to be any of the gods, goddesses, and freaky heroes to behold. I thought they wanted people to flock to this film with the promise of a breathtaking war scene with gods and titans throwing thunderbolts and balls of flame at each other. Instead of a CGI extravaganza to be the film's ad campaign, it resorted to an old tactic: cram as much beautiful actors and actresses into a film with a setting that involves a lot of skin exposure. Hey, it's the time of the ancient Greeks; everybody's entitled to look so vain, like they were meticulously tanned and endlessly covered with the best body lotions, not to mention, the shampoos that made each character look like a commercial model for beauty salons. With actors and actresses like Orlando "not another archer" Bloom, Diane "where have I seen this girl?" Krueger, Eric "still kinda angry" Bana, Brad "wearing a skirt" Pitt, and Rose "beat-up cute" Byrne, this film is like a fashion magazine, only with swords and gore. Even the menacing Tyler Mane, as Ajax, looks pretty. If you're a warrior, you still had to look like a member of a boyband. On the other hand, there was the rockin' Trojan official Glaucus played by James Cosmo (remember him also playing another heroic senior citizen war leader role in Braveheart and Gladiator?), the always convincingly tyrannical Brian Cox who played King Agamemnon, and the revered Peter O'Toole as King Priam of Troy which delivered a fine performance that brought this film the much needed serious critical boost. This only goes to show that you had to be over fifty or overweight to look seriously cool in this film.
Sean "Boromir" Bean was also in this film, in case you failed to see his name (in small caps) in the poster credits. As far as I can recall, this is the only film I saw where his role doesn't have a jerk factor (look him up on "Goldeneye" and "Ronin"). He plays the Greek hero, Odysseus, who devised the use of the Trojan Horse, and also one of the wiser generals of the Greeks during this war. It was an odd surprise to see him become the film's epilogue narrator all of a sudden, when his character was quite overshadowed throughout the film. The director, Wolfgang Petersen ("Das Boot" 1981, "The Perfect Storm" 2000, and "Air Force One" 1997), could have at least set him up to narrate at the beginning to make sense why he's narrating the end. And no, I don't think it's enough that just because he's Achilles' trusted friend. Even the last line made my head itch "I lived in the time of Achilles" …So what? That didn't actually make sense, did it? For a Greek Tragedy that line sounded like it was meant for either a David Lynch film or a Tom Green film. With Odysseus being played by a prominent actor, will there be a film adaptation of "Odyssey" as well?
Some may not like the film for it excludes the role of the gods and goddesses. In one way of seeing it, including the mythological aspects of the story may lessen the dramatic impact of the story; the romance of Paris and Helen, and the "War is bad" aspect of the storyline. The producers may have opted a less fantasy-driven ancient war movie that would have more of a historical feel, just like "Gladiator" and "The Last Samurai".
But then again, here we see another Hollywood habit of adulterating the classics to their own (commercially-driven) will. Little do they know that many teachers still hope to use these films to reinforce their manner of educating their students with ancient literature. Instead, children will learn to succumb to the Hollywood versions and disregard what the pioneers have originally done.
But in the long run, "Troy" is still very worth watching. It may have some little flaws that we may love to mock, but you wouldn't want to miss seeing it. You don't want to miss this summer's most action-packed war scenes, especially the exhilarating sword-fights, and the highly anticipated duel between Hector and Achilles. The ladies wouldn't want to miss Brad Pitt in a skirt, while the guys wouldn't want to miss the tease-naked scenes of Rose Byrne and Diane Kruger.