Troy (5/10)

Copyright © 2004 by Tony Medley

Every time Achilles (Brad Pitt, who must have spent a lot of time in the gym building up his arms) utters a line in this ‘50s style Epic, I would instantly think of What’s Up, Tiger Lilly (1966), Woody Allen’s satire of dubbed Japanese films. Granted, the lines he’s given by screenwriter David Benioff are mostly monosyllabic drivel, but, bad as they are, Brad does nothing with them. Poor old probably mythical Homer must be turning over in his probably mythical grave.

For those of you who aren’t up on your Iliad, Achilles was the great warrior of the Mycenaean king Agamemnon (Brian Cox). He was invulnerable except for his Achilles heel. He didn’t know he had an Achilles heel, I mean, both of his heels were Achilles heels, belonging, as they did, to Achilles.

Paris (Orlando Bloom, who’s so pretty he might have been better cast as Helen) is the younger son of Troy’s King Priam (Peter O’Toole). While visiting Sparta he falls in love with Helen (Diane Kruger), the wife of Spartan King Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson), and convinces her to sail away with him to Troy. His older brother, Hector (Eric Bana, the best thing in this movie), finds out about it too late. Menelaus convinces Agamemnon to launch a thousand ships to get Helen back and, in the process, conquer Troy, which had never been done, due to Troy’s formidable walls and all.

The ships land early in the movie and the rest of it is huge battle scenes, lotsa blood and guts, and some pretty funny grunts by Brad, at least I thought they were funny because they were so reminiscent of Tiger Lilly. Throughout the more than 2-1/2 hours of this thing I kept listening to the lines and thinking, “They can’t be serious.” Were they? Is this a comedy?

When they made this back in 1956 (Helen of Troy) and I saw Rosanna Podestà as Helen, I didn’t believe that face could launch much more than a rowboat, much less a thousand ships. When I saw Diane Kruger tonight, if she had been mine and I had a thousand ships, I would consider launching them to get her back.

Also on the plus side is that even though there are a lot of battle scenes and there is a lot of blood, the violence is not as graphic as, say, Kill Bill 2, so you don’t have to close your eyes to miss something that might turn your stomach. There appear to be more soldiers in the battle scenes than were people in all of Greece in 1250 B.C. (The Iliad was “written” approximately 450 years later, around 800 B.C.; really it was just writing down traditional oral tales).

In homage to the old times, Julie Christie, as Thetis, Achilles’ mother, is more beautiful than she was as a youngster, and, along with Bana and the Trojan Horse, gives one of the three best performances in the film. But O’Toole, who has always been a bit bizarre, appears dissipated. The much-touted scene with Pitt and O’Toole was shot on a set in a ballroom in Mexico to assure silence and so that the actors could concentrate. See for yourself, but, for me, it was much ado about nothing, certainly not even close to approaching the level of the wonderful scenes with Richard Burton and O’Toole in Becket (1964).

As mentioned, The Trojan Horse stands out among all the mediocrity. You can actually see how it could have worked. Of course, there’s nothing about a Trojan Horse in The Iliad. But, to be fair, this isn’t represented as being faithful to The Iliad. It’s just based on the poems of Homer, and who could try to tell the story of Troy without the Trojan Horse?

Even though poor old Brad is good-looking, his part is a disappointment, unless you’re into looking at Hunks. Although, to give Brad his due,  a lot of the problem is probably due to the weak script, Olivier couldn’t do much with what they give Brad to say.

In the end, I didn’t squirm too much, nor was I tempted to fall asleep, and that’s saying a lot for a movie this long. On the other hand, if it’s intended to be satirical, it’s brilliant! Somehow I doubt that.

May 11, 2004

The End