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May 26, 2004
Review by definition
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Very entertaining, spectacular battles and fights, reworking of a classic tale
Cons:A long film, acting gripes, you may dislike it if you are a Homer purist
The Bottom Line: An exciting, entertaining film that may very well revive interest in the classical world. Battles abound.
Warning - some spoilers
Recommend this product?
Troy is based loosely on 'The Iliad' by Homer and tells the story of the Trojan war. This war started because Paris (Orlando Bloom), a Trojan Prince, stole away Helen (Diane Kruger) the wife of Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson), a Greek King, whilst staying as Menelaus' guest. Paris took her back to Troy and she became 'Helen of Troy'. Helen was reputed to have been the most beautiful mortal woman that ever lived.
Agamemnon (Brian Cox) is the King of all the Greeks, and he seizes upon this excuse to encourage Menelaus to go to war. Agamemnon of course only uses Helen's 'kidnap' as an excuse to attack Troy, which if he conquers will give him control over the whole of the Aegaen Sea (the sea which separates Greece and what is now Turkey).
Fighting for the Greeks is the warrior Achilles (Brad Pitt), and the story focuses largely on him. He is an unbeatable fighter and the Greeks would rely on his help to win the war. He leads a host of 'Myrmidons', a small band of veteran warriors, and this group can sway battles. Troy also has a mighty warrior, Hector (Eric Bana), the brother of Paris and so a Trojan Prince, son of Priam the king (Peter O'Toole). It is stressed that without these warriors each side would be at a serious disadvantage.
The filmmakers decided to change the story quite a bit. For one, in 'The Iliad' the Gods play a very active role in the course of events. They kill people, bully people and generally meddle in everything. In 'Troy' we never see the Gods and although we are treated to several references to them. I think this was a good idea. For a start it lifts the film out of the realm of 'fantasy' and makes it a more realistic portrayal of what would have happened if the seige of Troy actually took place. There were no Gods helping them in reality - they just thought there were.
In a similar fashion, no mention is made of Achilles semi-invulnarability. In 'The Iliad', he was a warrior who as a baby was dipped into the River Styx, leaving only his heel untouched by the waters. This was his only vulnerable point, as the magical waters made the rest of him invincible. In 'Troy', it is easy to imagine he was simply a gifted fighter who was renowned throughout the lands. There is a reference to his heel but throughout the film there is no actual depiction of magic or gods or myths. For me it made the film much more enjoyable as an historical 'document' of what life would have been like in a Trojan war.
Another thing I like about this film was the filmmakers attempt to make minimal use of CGI (computer graphics). Yes, they are used a fair bit. For example, the Greek army sends 1000 ships to Troy - there is absolutely no way to show this other than through CGI. Similarly, the Greek army has in excess of 50,000 warriors. This leads to very entertaining battle scenes, and there would be no way to show this without generating thousands of computer people to make up the army.
The battles are truly spectacular. I read in a review somewhere that "Peter Jackson will be left wondering if he couldn't have gone just that little but further in the battle scenes in Lord of the Rings". It's true, the battle scenes are thrilling. I wouldn't compare this film to the Lord of the Rings films, but in terms of the battle scenes it clearly takes a lot from them. There is one shot where the camera swoops along the battle line as thousands of warriors are racing towards each other and they clash as we fly overhead. Scenes like that are so entertaining, it's worth going to the film just to see them. And of course it's better to see them in a cinema than to wait for the DVD to come out.
Back to CGI - yes, I read that they tried to make minimal use of it. The famous Wooden Horse (which does not appear in 'The Iliad', but they included it in Troy just for the sake of continuity and a sense of closure, which incidentaly I think was a good idea) is real, as are (I believe) most of the massive set pieces. Apparently they were trying to get back to the way epice used to be made, and 'you can't get realer than reality'. Overall I think their minimal use of CGI made this a more enjoyable and convincing film.
The film, as I mentioned before, does take many liberties with the plot of 'The Iliad'. Several characters are killed where they were not in the Iliad, or meet their end in different ways. I don't mark the film down for this, whereas it seems a lot of people do. What they don't understand is, of course the filmmakers could have filmed it so that it was true to the Iliad! Do you think they didn't read the Iliad before making a film based on it? The point is, they changed things for a reason. For example, (spolier alert)Menelaus is killed by Hector whilst trying to kill Paris in a duel to the death the both agreed to.
This doesn't happen in the Iliad. But why did they change it then? Well, in the Iliad a God comes and spirits Paris away. Menalaus also doesn't die, but I think the decision to have Hector kill him dirtily while he was not prepared was also a very good one. It fittingly confuses the audience and muddles our allegiance. The Greeks are seen as 'the bad guys' - they want to sack Troy just because filthy old King Menelaus wants his wife, who never loved him and has left him for her true love, back. But Menelaus has now been killed unfairly, and Paris turns out to be a snivelling coward. Hector does what he feels he must to save his brother's life, but now the Greeks have even more of an excuse to attack Troy. Add to this the fact that the main protagonist Achilles is fighting for the Greeks, and the issue of who is 'good' and who is 'bad' becomes more tricky.
In my opinion one of the main centrepieces of the film is the duel between Achilles and Hector. They are both built up to be the best warriors of their respective sides. The duel is also built up with suitable tension. And it delivers - Pitt is excellent when he is fighting as Achilles, and the duel is a very entertaining watch. I won't say who wins in case you are not familiar with the story, but it is worth the wait to find out.
Pitt is fine when he is fighting, but some people have gripes with his acting abilities. It's true that sometimes he is not the greatest actor in this film, but I think he did an okay job as Achilles and as long as you buy into his role and just try ot enjoy the film I don't think he will present too many problems.
Eric Bana as Hector also did a good job in my opinion, and Peter O'Toole leant suitable gravitas to Priam, the Trojan king. Another of my favourite actors in this film was Sean Bean (who played Boromir in the Lord of the Rings) as Odysseus, king of Ithaca, but still servant of Agamemnon who is King of all the Greeks. He doesn't get much screen time but that is because his story is told in 'The Odyssey', another book by Homer. I thought he fitted his role very well though. He is the man who originated the Trojan Horse plan. I am unaware if they are going to make a film based on the Odyssey, but if they did it would be very different from this film.
'Troy' is a long film lasting for 165 minutes. It's entertaining enough to watch for this length of time though, and I thought the ending was suitably bitter. The director Wolfgang Petersen did a good job in the end, despite what many people say. The dialogue could have been much better, but there are still a few memorable lines ("Then every son of Troy....shall DIE!" etc). It's a bit like 'Gladiator' (2000, directed by Ridley Scott with Russel Crowe as the eponymous hero) only on a much, much grander scale.
I'll mention the violence - yes, there is a LOT of violence in this film. However it's not like Kill Bill violence or anything. It's trying to depict the reality and brutality of war 2500 years ago. It isn't something I would have a problem with younger children seeing although obviously this film is unsuitable for very young children.
Overall I think this will be a DVD I will be adding to my collection when it comes out.
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