Sunday, January 15, 2012
Troy is clearly trying to be a great action movie, but it also attempts to reasonably follow The Iliad, and because that's such a great story, the film works. If you're unfamiliar with the story, the movie might come across as a surprise in that there's no army (the Greeks are fighting the Trojans) to root for, and no hero to truly side with. Like Homer's poem, the film presents all the main players as flawed individuals. Hector, the Trojan prince, is the most sympathetic. But one of the many failures of the film is that it doesn't show the mistakes made by Hector during the war, thus diminishing the moral complications of the final showdown between him and Achilles. It does however strongly emphasize his brother Paris as a weakling who acknowledges his cowardice and always tries to do the best thing. He's a strange character here because he makes such a rash decision early on (stealing Helen, the wife of a Spartan king), and then seems to try to redeem himself for the rest of the movie. Homer is less forgiving than Hollywood. Brad Pitt does a good job with the physical aspects of Achilles, but he comes up short in portraying his inner battles, though this could just as easily be attributed to the limitations of David Benioff's screenplay. From a narrative standpoint, the film is a mess, largely due to all the characters trying to get time around the massive battle sequences. 165 minutes is a long time, but not long enough for this material. Also, because The Iliad ends inconclusively (the rest of the Trojan war is related in The Odyssey), the film version completes the war (this is where the Trojan horse comes in) but does so in a hurried fashion. It's clearly just tacked on to satisfy the need for closure. The movie isn't a failure in dealing with the story and characters, but it struggles mightily. But it fares much better from a visual standpoint, which is where director Wolfgang Peterson puts most of his energy. The battles and the one-on-one combat are splendidly shot, more poetic than chaotic. The style incorporated by Peterson is more classical, avoiding the slow motion and CGI blood that give in to. I particularly enjoyed the showdown between Achilles and Hector, which rivaled the legendary sword dual from Rob Roy. As a whole the movie's quite good, but I feel the studio compromised Peterson's full vision, giving him a liberal running time that still couldn't cover this material. I hear the director's cut is closer to what this film was original meant to be.