Troy is big, bloated, and boring, a stiffly acted sandal epic that’s as wooden as the horse that shows up at the film’s climax.
Echoes and Sandals
R for graphic violence, some sexuality/nudity
Loosely based on The Iliad, the 2,800-year-old best-seller by Homer, Troy tells the tale of the Trojans and the Spartans at war over honor and Menelaus’ runaway bride, Helen. What started as stories shared orally by ancient cultures and put to paper by Homer has now found itself the subject of a big-budget bonanza that reportedly cost somewhere between $100 million and $200 million. Unfortunately, it’s not clear where all the money went.
Troy trembles in the shadow of the other recent major men-in-skirts saga, Gladiator, and it starts off on the wrong foot by copying one of Gladiator’s opening lines.
In Gladiator, Maximus tells his troops, “What we do in life echoes in eternity.” Troy begins with a voiceover asking the age-old rhetorical question, “Will our actions echo across the centuries?”
On that pretentious note, this snoozer wakes up every hour or so to remind the audience how important its story and characters are to all humanity.
Even so, Troy quickly reveals itself to be nothing more than a testosterone-driven flick in which, between episodes of wartime killing and manly discourses on valor and honor, the men fornicate with women relegated to roles of dutiful wives, love-struck mistresses, and maidens in distress.
Paris in Love
Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, and Orlando Bloom share top billing in this underwhelming adaptation, but it’s Peter O’Toole, the senior member of the cast, who takes the kids to acting school.
Leading the charge is the legendary Achilles, incarnated by an unusually buff Brad Pitt, who is much better in quirkier roles offered by movies like The Mexican and 12 Monkeys. Here, his pouty lips trip over tone-deaf dialogue. But at least Achilles is given something resembling depth; he’s a conflicted hero. He excels in carnage, but he resents working for “the man,” in this case, Menelaus.
Pulling up the rear of the cast is Eric Bana, who has shed the green makeup of The Hulk to play Hector, a stoic and supposedly heroic figure. In Bana’s leaden hands and unrepentant Australian accent, though, Hector is a wide-eyed stiff who appears to be perpetually puzzled by the world around him (but at least he’s a loving, doting father and husband). In short, Bana is banal beyond belief.
Somewhere in between is Orlando Bloom, seen in a much more dashing fashion in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Here, as Paris, the young prince who steals Helen’s heart from the king of Troy, Bloom is nothing more than a lucky wimp.
All of them seem uncomfortable in their togas and speak their lines as if it was all Greek to them.
The one exception is Peter O’Toole, the cinematic Lawrence of Arabia, who brings it on as Priam, the father of Hector and Paris. It’s unfortunate David Lean wasn’t on hand to lead the rest of the cast out of the desert.
O Homer, Where Art Thou?
Priam’s a descendant of Zeus, but in this adaptation, either there’s no room for gods in the budget or men are simply more important. It’s hard to tell the difference with David Benioff’s languid screenplay. Benioff, who also wrote 25th Hour, treats the source material as though it were factual, sapping the passion out of Homer’s poem. That’s a shame, considering Homer’s work has been a source of inspiration for nearly three millennia.
The rest of the production fails to compensate. In a stunning salute to mediocrity, Troy has precious little to offer and most of the production is derivative of other movies done better. The computer-generated armies, meant to inspire awe, merely inspire yawns and were done to greater effect in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
The film’s invasion of Troy is staged with the gritty realism of Saving Private Ryan’s Normandy invasion in mind, but it too fails to impress.
Even the music, with its extensive use of ululations during scenes of carnage, is a cloying reminder of Gladiator. Hans Zimmer used the vocals effectively as part of a great score. Here, true to form, James Horner overuses them to the point of abuse.
Even worse, though, is the incredibly pompous closing song which runs over the end credits. Entitled Remember Me, the tune, sung to the rafters by Josh Groban, is an embarrassing piece of kitsch that’s sure to be a big hit with the Disney on Ice crowd.
Making the proceedings somewhat bearable is the beautiful Diane Kruger (Michel Vaillant), who’s Helen of Troy is certainly a woman worth fighting for. Although her acting range is questionable, Kruger is one to watch in movies to come.
Julie Christie (Heaven Can Wait) also makes a welcome appearance as Achilles’ mother, Thetis. A voice of calm and reason amidst impending chaos, she advises Achilles, “If you go to Troy, the world will remember your name.” Lines like that promise big things, but unfortunately the movie fails to deliver.
While the costumes are lavish and reminiscent of the pageantry of a Cecil B. De Mille opus, there is very little else in this movie worth remembering. The screenplay does take a stab or two at making Homer’s story relate to current affairs, as when Achilles stingingly remarks about imagining a world in which kings fight their own battles. But that’s not enough to make the film of any consequence.
With all the pretentious questions of immortality, Troy’s 165 minutes offers plenty of opportunities for the audience to consider things that time could better be spent doing, like reading Homer’s The Iliad.
There’s no doubt 3,000 years from now people will still talk about Helen, the horse, the heel, and the war. But this movie? No. Not a chance.