May 17, 2004


Saw the movie Troy Saturday night and, man, what a wild fun ride that flick was. It was also incredibly depressing at times but, wow. . . just. . . wow.

I'm a sucker for Greek mythology, and I've read the Iliad and Odyssey several times each and, yeah, the movie condences the Iliad down considerably and plays with the story line and basically gives it the usual Hollywood treatment that no doubt would have Homer spinning in Hades.


I didn't expect great acting, but, you know what? The acting was great. Peter O'Toole, obviously, was great. But, so was Brad Pitt, and so was everyone, really. And, the woman chosen to play Helen of Troy? Grroowwwlll! The movie, I think, would have suffered immesurably if the likes of Julia Roberts had been selected to play Helen.

But, it was the power of some of the scenes that struck me the most. This was not some sort of hack and slash glorification of an ancient war. Troy brought a level of humanity to the epic tale that I really didn't expect. When Hector said goodbye to his wife and child and father, knowing full well he was going to be overmatched by a blindingly angry Achilles, that was tough to watch. Follow that up with an incredible fight between Hector and Achilles, in which Achilles proves to be one badass Greek creation, even though he had proven it many times previously in the movie.

It was the scene between Priam and Achilles, with Priam begging for the body of his son that pretty much choked me right up. That was some powerful cinematic shit right there.

I'm not a movie critic, so this, in retrospect, reads pretty lame, but I've been thinking about the movie ever since I watched it, and I'm not sure why. The last time a movie left a impression like that on me was Schindler's List.

Posted by Ryan at May 17, 2004 11:09 AM

The last time a movie left a impression like that on me was Schindler's List.

Good lord, Ryan.

Posted by: Joshua at May 17, 2004 11:17 AM


I suppose, Joshua, you'd tell me that Mystic River deserves more accolades than Schindler's List, despite the fact that the closing of Mystic River left holes big enough to drive Humvees though?

Posted by: Ryan at May 17, 2004 11:46 AM

i read most of Homer's works ... oh, 10 years ago my freshman year of college, and barely remember any of it, so i've been looking forward to it as a refresher course. i'm glad to hear that you thought it was striking; of course i was also going to see it just to stare at Brad for 2+ hours, but if it's a good movie too .... sweet!

Posted by: leblanc at May 17, 2004 12:28 PM

Yeah, leblanc, Brad looks, um, pretty damned good. I may not be gay, but even I had to appreciate how chiseled and good looking he was. That, and he was a total ass kickin' machine, so there was that.

Posted by: Ryan at May 17, 2004 12:39 PM

I am supposed to see "Troy" this weekend. I have always loved the story, but adding Brad & Orlando has most chicks running to the theatre.

Posted by: Mandy at May 17, 2004 01:06 PM

I'm sure you're aware of this, but the punchline for me wanting you to see Mystic River had much more to do with our long-standing argument about the necessity of the rule of law than it had to do with the quality of the movie-- though I really like the part where Tim Robbins is being interrogated by the two cops.

I saw Troy this week and thought it was overblown and badly written. The dialogue was wooden and the accents were embarrassing— why is it that, in any "historical" epic, the actors are expected to speak with this goofy classical received pronunciation? Fuck's sake, the historical figures were all speaking god-knows-what obscure variation of Greek or Phoenician or whatever. If we're going to translate it, why not translate it. Contrary to popular opinion, "Holy shit!" conveys exactly the same meaning as "By the gods!" and a soldier in the field is much more likely to say the first than the second. Obviously you'd want to avoid injecting too much levity into the dialogue, but asking an international cast to fake English accents takes all the humanity out of the acting. They're all concentrating so hard on rounding their "a" sounds, they forget to move their faces.

It's a good story, but it was also obviously a rip-off of Gladiator and, as often happens in movie rip-offs, Wolfgang Peterson didn't understand enough about the movie he was aping to convey the merits of the film into a thematic sequel. So he used the same color pallet and the same costuming, the same CGI cities and the same whiny faux-Arabic singing. But he didn't capture any of the grit, or the desperation or the cruelty. The characters came off as caricatures.

I will say this for it: Troy is the only movie I can remember, set in a pre-Mongol-invasion environment, where the fucking horsemen didn't have stirrups. Riders in Troy have heir feet dangling at the sides of their horses.

Other than that, and the excellent Brad Pitt fight scenes (which were really really good), the movie was a complete wash.

Posted by: Joshua at May 17, 2004 01:59 PM

but it was also obviously a rip-off of Gladiator

To be clear: I mean TROY is a stylistic rip-off of GLADIATOR.

Posted by: Joshua at May 17, 2004 03:23 PM

Sometimes, Joshua, I find that it's helpful to disconnect from the purely historical realities of a story and just say "fuck it" when it comes to Hollywood bastardization of a story. I guess I can kinda, sorta see the similarities between Troy and Gladiator, but Troy largely stuck to the Iliad storyline, at least through the beginning and the end, with the exception of Achilles falling in love with the priestess chick. As for the dialects, I was willing to give that a pass as well because, honestly, who would really want to read sub-titles for a movie like Troy? Not I, said the cat. Obviously, you dissected the flick with a far harsher scalpel than I did, which is fine. I gave a lot of it a pass, because it was just enjoyable to see the Iliad finally come to life on the big screen, even if it wasn't exactly true to the story.

Posted by: Ryan at May 18, 2004 09:28 AM

Re: Achilles being a bad ass super warrior. Yeah, being nearly impervious to injury tends to make people into studs, I guess.

Ryan makes a good point in his last comment there. Sure, there are movies that are supposed to make you think and ponder but most of the time, when I go to the movies, I don't want to think. I want to take my thinker offline and just enjoy some entertainment.

Apparently Troy works for that. And it doesn't hurt that Brad Pitt's just a hunka, hunka burning hotness. I like Brad Pitt alot, he makes good movies, good entertaining movies. A River Runs Through It was gorgeous, same thing for Legends of the Fall. Fight Club for other reasons. The guy's got some pretty impressive credentials and talent.

Posted by: Johnny Huh? at May 18, 2004 11:59 AM

Look, not to climb out of my pigeon hole or anything, but my gripe with Troy wasn't that it wasn't cerebral enough. I watched my copy of The Last Boyscout so many times the tape wore out, for god sakes. I like a bubblegum action movie as much as the next person. Probably more.

My gripe with Troy was that it clearly had a mission (Big! Loud! Action! Drama! Art! History!) and it failed (stumbling across the finish line with only Big! Loud! and Action! still intact— which is a fairly small yield for a 3 hour long movie). I compare it to Gladiator because Gladiator was, (A) clearly the stylistic model for Troy and (B) Gladiator did everything it promised to do. The action scenes in Gladiator blow you out of your seat. The personal drama makes your blood boil. And the end somehow manages to convey something like genuinely meaningful drama, in spite of the bubblegum flavor of the endeavor as a whole. Troy-- not so much.

That's all I'm saying.

Posted by: Joshua at May 19, 2004 05:08 PM
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