Ponderance

(May 2003 - March 2007.) Tama's thoughts on the blogosphere, podcasting, popular culture, digital media and citizen journalism posted from a laptop computer somewhere in Perth's isolated, miniature, urban jungle ...

Monday, May 17, 2004
Troy: It's, like, Totally Trojan!

I think the most surprising element of Troy is that Brad Pitt is Achilles. His characterisation is perfect and shows the Achilles I had in my head when reading the Iliad (albeit, perhaps, that this Achilles' sexuality is a bit too straightforward!). Indeed, the leads in this ensemble cast all perform admirably: Eric Bana is stirring as the noble Hector; Saffron Burrows plays a moving Andromache; Brian Cox makes a wonderful egomaniac king as Agamemnon; and Sean Bean more than lives up to the epithet Crafty Odysseus! Orlando Bloom as Paris and newcomer Diane Kruger as Helen are both hopeless romantics whose actions give Agamemnon an excuse to wage war, but their sugary characterisation is again pretty close to the story. The sets are sparse, but admirably evoke (what we know of) the era. And, although it's pinched from The Odyssey, the Trojan Horse actually looks like it could have been built by the Greeks on the shore of Troy. However, the fight scene between Achilles and Hector which concludes The Iliad is still the climax of the film and this is a truly amazing fight scene, worthy of top ten lists for decades to come. And if there is one sure Academy Award to come from Troy, it is for sound editing: I've never heard sound carry a fight so convincingly or dramatically before and my hat is off to those responsible. That's the good, now on to the bad.

While Troy ends pretty well, it's first half is poorly edited and lacking in structure. It's almost like director Wolfgang Petersen was nervous the epic battles in Troy wouldn't stand out if there was anything memorable in the first half, so he seems to have purposefully dulled them down. And while it's a common complaint, Diane Kruger did the best she could with Helen, but I really don't think that the face that launched a thousand ships was Barbie! Of most concern, was the complete absence of the Gods. Sure, to a contemporary audience the bitching, scheming Olympians might seem bizarre, but they are the key motivation in the story. What does Achilles' desecration of Apollo's temple achieve when there are no Gods to anger? And, most annoyingly, Troy's King Priam (perhaps a little over-acted by an aging Peter O'Toole) is made out to be a doddering old fool due to his actions being based on the advice of the head priest! Priam was torn by these decisions in the Iliad; in Troy he seems like a foolish own man who causes his own country's downfall. That said, O'Toole does regain dignity for the character in the confrontation with Achilles to recover Hector's body.

So, as you can see, Troy was a incredibly ambiguous filmic experience for me, although still a film worth seeing for the Hector/Achillies fight scene. And while it might not have added much to the film itself, it was nice to see Aeneas fleeing the burning Troy (for those who don't recognise the reference, Aeneas then goes on to effectively make way for Rome in Virgil's epic poem).

Oh, and someone out there might feel the need to scream, 'Why did you spoil so much of the plot?' Well, my response would be: the book has been around for almost two thousand years and the poem for at least another thousand before that. You've had time to read it if you really wanted to!

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