Troy

    For both good reasons and bad, with both positive intentions and potentially offensive ones, the film “Troy” is not Homer’s “The Iliad.” The creators of “Troy,” as expected, have taken liberties with the great story and gone so far as to completely remove some key elements of Homer’s epic tale, most important of which is the fact that the gods are nowhere to be seen. Homer’s story begins with a feud among the greater goddesses that sparks the kidnapping of Helen of Sparta (later Helen of Troy) and the ensuing war. In the Warner Bros. version, the gods play a purely mythic role as they are mentioned only by those who are portrayed as not in tune with the real world. All major conflicts and disruptions are caused by human beings without the safety net of divine intervention — a bold choice for the filmmakers, and a good one.

    This film aims to be an epic story about people, characters with flaws and desires and dreams, and how they are destroyed by the greed of presidents, er, kings and their will to dominate the earth. And despite the film’s many successes, they just had to add one of those made-for-Hollywood love stories that of course does what it always does: distract not only from the plot but from the heroes that we all paid to see. Overall, the battle scenes are dynamic, effective and violent without being terribly bloody. Audiences see the war ebb and flow, and the computer generated folk really stick to the background, which is refreshing. It’s nice to see a large portion of real dudes with real spears on real sand on a real beach, and it just made the entire film that much more powerful.

    “Troy” is the story of the great Greek warrior Achilles (Brad Pitt) and how he learns to find love and humanity in a world to which he once swore off any allegiance. Pitt holds his own in the role, though he just reeks with contemporary voice and attitude. Achilles is half-immortal (his mother is a sea nymph), and at times it appears that his father must have been Tyler Durden from “Fight Club.” Overall, the character of Achilles was brilliantly crafted — when he fights, he moves faster and more fluidly than anyone else on the battlefield, as if his weapons weigh only ounces. Though it is never explicitly explained, we get the picture that Achilles just isn’t on the same plane as any of the other soldiers … and yes, Achilles does find love in the visage of a Trojan priestess (Rose Byrne) — a virgin of Apollo (and also the cousin of his mortal enemy). The priestess teaches him of love and life and a fondness for sorbet, blah blah blah. But he should have let his men kill her and figured out life on his own.

    Achilles’ main opposition lies in the body of Hector (Eric Bana), the greatest Trojan warrior and heir to the throne of Troy. We see great contrasts in the two combatants: Hector is a great swordsman, natural leader and patriot, and also a father, son and brother. He is presented in a stoic and matter-of-fact nature that rings true given his great pressures and his humanity. Achilles is a prima donna recluse who holds allegiance to no one but his own small band of men, which he leads with great zeal. And he is, of course, the greatest warrior that ever lived.

    Watching these two leaders-of-men square off — their course of action creates their decision without the fallback of the gods — is a pleasure. Bana is truly impressive and most definitely makes up for some of his disappointing earlier roles. Orlando Bloom is fine in the expanded-just-for-him role of Paris, but it seems like the writers didn’t know exactly how to handle him. Was he courageous or passionate or a lothario or what? He has a little bit of everything, and he has inner-conflict, which is nice, but how were the choices that he inevitably made influenced by his entire journey? It is difficult to buy the character. Peter O’Toole is tremendous in his limited role of Priam, Hector’s and Paris’ father; he delivers the greatest scene of the film, truly touching.

    In addition to the spew-worthy counter-love story, there was one other annoying element of the film: The story of Achilles has been around forever, but for some reason, the screenwriters and directors just had to beat that over our poor little heads a thousand times before launching into the story of the film. Please forgive them, they’re just trying to do their job. And there may be more than a few things in this film that seem awfully familiar, like something we all saw in the Battle of Helm’s Deep in Peter Jackson’s “The Two Towers”… just remember that Homer came first.

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