Troy review by The Grim Ringler

Ok, you can officially consider me over the whole historical epic trend that has swept Hollywood in the past few years. Sure, I liked Gladiator, and I liked Patriot, and I have liked plenty other of these types of films. Why not? They are bombastic, in your face, summer thrillers, and sometimes you just need those things to get your blood a’pumpin’. But it seems like ever since Gladiator came out and did so well, historical epics suddenly got…boring. And for me, not just boring, but downright aggravating. It’s gotten that the historical epics are less historical and more epic, and that’s generally fine with me…until that is I saw Troy, and I guess I reached my boiling point if you will. I don’t mind at all that these movies play fast and loose with history, as, well, dammit, we should all at least had some sort of formal education so we have a general idea about the historical events depicted in the movies and generally the movies kinda make up a minor character that floats through the cracks in history and doesn’t dramatically effect things. Sure, Patriot has a fictitious guy leading an army against the Brits, but being that he doesn’t kill the King of England, or single-handedly defeat the Brits, I give the movie a pass. He was a fiction man in a historical world in which SOMEONE was raising some hell for the Americans so…I let it go. I got over it. And you can do that with all the movies. And I get that. These are entertainments, and they are going to be puffed up a bit, and they are going to be fudged a bit, ‘cause history isn’t terribly cut and dry and you have to skip some things to create a resolution and a climax. Fine. I draw the line at having a fictional character killing off a major historical figure. Call me crazy, but it tends to bother me. So, having said that…what did I think of the movie, oh well then…

Troy begins with a war. Or rather, the end of a war, the Greek hero for hire Achilles (a sometimes good, sometimes HUH? Brad Pitt) taking on the hero of another state which King Agamemnon, the greedy King of Greece wishes to conquer. The fight is a short one and when it is done and Achilles is victorious, though he has to be convinced to fight by one of the King’s underlings, who tells him to fight for the Greek men so they will not have to go to war, as the hero who is triumphant shall win the war for their countrymen. So Achilles, very much the spoiled rock star, fights for the men, not for a king he has grown to despise. Meanwhile the princes of Troy are making their peace with their rival King Menelaus after years of conflict. They have warred for far too long and it is time to settle their disputes. It is during this trip though that Prince Paris of Troy spies Queen Helen of Sparta, and it is their brief affair that sets the factions to war again. As soon as he finds his beautiful bride missing, Menelaus approaches his brother, King Agamemnon, and demands there be retribution, and his brother, greedy for the land and resources of Troy, agrees. This cannot stand. Neither man wants Helen back, but they both wish to see Troy in ashes and war is again in session. The entire Greek fleet, all one thousand ships, are loaded and sent towards Troy, the ship of Achilles, convinced to go to war one last time, in the lead. In Troy, Paris’s selfishness has enraged his brother but his father is more understanding, accepting that perhaps war was imminent whether this had happened or not. The Trojans prepare their city wearily for battle. They are fearful of what is to come, especially with the thought of Achilles being one of the men on their way to wage war, but the walls of Troy have never fallen to an enemy and they are confident that this shall remain true. As the ships arrive though, the reality of what is happening sets in and Paris, anxious to prove himself a man, offers to end this conflict by fighting Menelaus for the hand of Helen, but he does not get the chance as the first wave of warriors attacks. And as the bodies pile up, and both sides dig in for what both sides believe to be the greatest war of all time, the fate of two civilizations stand in the balance.

For the sake of keeping some things a surprise, I shall end my description there. Yes, it’s a historical film, so you will generally know how things proceed from there if you know your history, but being that this is a review and not an essay, I shall save the heart of the film for you to find. Myself, I found it had none. There is much to like here, despite how little I appreciate the film. There is a very nice vision of brotherhood here. On one side you have Menelaus and Agamemnon, who seem to only understand and appreciate one another through war and conquest, and on the other side of the sea you have Paris and Hector, who truly are willing to die for one another. Brothers who may not agree with what the other does, but who will support that decision. The film sadly steers away from this aspect of the story, which I think is a huge mistake because it turns its gaze instead on Achilles and his mournful need for bloodshed and war. The heart of the film is the brotherhood here, the willingness to sacrifice an entire nation so one brother can be with the one he loves, and while I accept that that story could only go so far, being that not every brother makes it out alive, that was the heart of this film. And they lost it. I also like some of what they do with the character of Achilles, the idea of a hero who is far from heroic but is closer to an ancient rock star or sports ‘hero’ and who lives for the glory of the self. That is a great idea, and there are some very interesting scenes here, but alas, the filmmakers seemed more interested in making Pitt look like a Tigerbeat pin up more than they were interested in making his character a heroic charlatan. There is a very strong, interesting story in this film, the one that history tells us, but sadly, it isn’t the one we are presented with. The idea that one of the greatest nations of the early world was brought low because of an insane ruse which worked, is fascinating, as is the idea that the Greeks were willing to risk so much for the sake of greed. The idea of these two nations pitting themselves and their greatest heroes against one another is also a wonderful tale, which is in the film but which is made to be melodramatic and as if it were a prime time wrestling event. Come one, come all, see Hector the beefy, fight Achilles the glistening in a battle to the DEATH. All we’re missing is a steel cage. It bugs the hell out of me that history is becoming this – overblown moments tied together with a story made up by a writer who seems to want to make history far too cut and dry. Not everything has a tidy ending. That’s life. That’s war. Is Achilles less powerful and less human without a fictitious woman he falls for? Hell no. It makes it harder to focus your film on him but that’s fine, this is about two kings, two great kings, and their wills and their war, that’s the movie. It was like someone said ‘oh, hey, what about that Trojan Horse thing, we can make that into a summer movie’. And here’s the thing, I really do like historical epics, and my example of one done right is Braveheart, which is about one man and his love of his nation. He lived and died for them, and boy did he die, and it works. I am SURE there is a lot of filler in that film as, lets face it, most older history we can only go on accounts and a lot of that isn’t always the most factual of stuff, but it works because it doesn’t screw with history too much, if at all, and it has a big red heart. In place of a heart, this film has wars, speeches, funeral pyres, and a jazzed up history to tie it all up in a bow.

There are some beautiful war scenes in this film. Shot with energy and intensity that we have seen in many other epics, like the Lord of the Rings movies, and which generally stands beside that film and many others as far as these scenes go. I wish that these scenes were more brutal, especially since this was an ‘R’ rated film, so that you’d get a better feel for how downright horrific these wars could be. The acting of Eric Bana as Hector is wonderful. Never once did I feel as if he was trying to create an action hero but more a man, a great man, but a man who was great because he cared for his people and family and not because of his love for war. He is the lone standout in this film, and that’s a shame, seeing how much talent is here. I also like how this was filmed, though it was nothing we haven’t seen in any number of epics, but the film looks beautiful and does a very nice job of giving the battles a sense of urgency and immediacy that breathes life in them.

Boy do I hate this story though. I realize that to make this film more manageable they had to chop some of the events down, and had to create a center for the film, but by making it Achilles, this becomes not a historical epic, but a showcase for Pitt to sulk and leap about. Achilles, as portrayed by Pitt, isn’t vile enough to hate, nor tortured enough to like, but is merely an instrument of war, and that’s fine…if this was another film. But this is supposed to either be about the love Paris and Helen have for one another, or the fall of one of ancient history’s great cities. Achilles was there, sure, and he was an important part of this war, but he was not the war. He was a weapon of the war. The acting is downright awful in some parts of the film and it felt like all there was was speech after speech, trying to convince us and themselves that this was a war for the ages. How would anyone know that? Wars are waged all the time, how will any of us know which are the ‘great’ wars and which are not? Sure, we can guess at some, the world wars etc., but beyond that, how do we know what time will remember? Agamemnon is a cartoon bad guy, and King Priam is far too kindly and, well, good. These were men who were men of war, who were willing to throw bodies before the great war machine, and they’re that shallow? And again, that they screwed with history enough so that a fictitious character kills a major historical character irks me to no end. Sure, fudge some details, I can understand that, you have to make things more manageable, but dammit, you don’t do this. I don’t care if the guy died in his sleep, in a train wreck, or if he slipped on some soap, he wasn’t killed - let it be. There are a lot of ways to get around some things, and I realize that you always want to give the crowd something to cheer for but man this wasn’t it. Hell, show how the cat really died, and show how downright pathetic it was to die in your sleep during a war instead of on the battlefield.

Believe it or not, I really wanted to like this film. I like some of director Petersen’s films, I loved the cast list, and I love Greek mythology and the like. And hell, who doesn’t love a big, boisterous epic now and again. But to take historical events, and to present them as if they are moderately accurate, and then to just make it about big sweaty men dashing about and speechifying. Will oceans of people dig it? Sure they will. There are some things to like, and hell, even if you aren’t into it, there are some fun war scenes. But too, there are some really needless scenes of pointless angst, manipulative speeches of doom, and too damned much Hollywood for its own good. This felt like they took a template out that said Historical Epics and they just plugged in the parts thinking it’d make a great film. Big event? Check. Big director? Check. Big actors? Check. Big writer? Check. Big budget? Check. Heart? Soul? Oops. Sure, it’s a big movie with big ideas, but there is no heart to go with it. No character or side you truly root for, and nothing to tie you to all of this. Yes, there are some sad scenes of characters dying, but it’s a war, go fig, and these are not enough to tie you to what is happening. And as for the end…it was as predictable and lame as any Hollywood ending, so I suppose that fit the best. All I can say in the end is ‘Ugh’.


6 out of 10 Jackasses
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