If you like the idea of oily-skinned men swinging their mighty swords at one another, flexing various well-muscled erogenous zones and saying lines more wooden and hollow than any Trojan horse, you'll like Troy. If you like 50,000 computer-rendered warriors smashing into another mega-pixeled group of warriors on white beaches, you'll probably like Troy, too. If you're thinking you're going to see a movie about Homer's Iliad, you're in for one mother of a letdown. So, grab your broom-topped helmets, leather sandals and hair weaves. This is a Hollywood epic, not an ancient one.
The basic story remains fairly true to Homer's version. Trojan Princes Hector (Eric Bana) and Paris (Orlando Bloom) visit King Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson), Paris "steals" Helen (Diane Kruger) and takes her back to Troy. Menelaus asks his brother, King Agamemnon (Brian Cox), to get his armies together, including warrior mercenary Achilles (Brad Pitt) and set sail—aboard 1,000 ships—for Troy.
Director Wolfgang Petersen gets these basics right. But that's about the only part of this movie that stays true to the classic work. The 10-year war of the Iliad is whittled down to about three weeks. The intervention of the capricious gods—which is the backbone of the Iliad—is thrown out. This is all understandable. Petersen really wanted to focus on the human aspects of this myth; which, of course, kills the mythological components of the work and makes these all-too-human actors move through the movie without any real motivation or sense of destiny at all.
The driving force behind Achilles' role in the Trojan War is that he will make his name immortal as a warrior; it is his fate. Destiny and fate, though, are things of ancient epics, so Petersen tosses them out with hardly a nod. Sure, Pitt's Achilles acknowledges his part in the war—he is a seeker of personal glory—but without the backing of the gods, it just sounds like any other melodramatic blather at Wrestlemania 3. "Now you know who you are fighting," he says after hacking is way through several dozen hapless Trojans. Indeed we do.
The mano-a-mano fight scenes are well choreographed, even pretty realistic, except for the special "kill" moves by Pitt's Achilles, which are more Super Mario than super warrior-like. In fact, if Troy isn't a video game within the year, I'll eat my X-Box.
Even the big name stars can't save this movie. Pitt plays Achilles like he's little more than the beach's Big Kahuna. Bronzed and bulked up, he ambles his way toward his big ass-kicking moments, then ambles back to recline with his babe some more—with the requisite beefcake butt shot. The Iliad is all about the anger of Achilles, but Pitt's Achilles doesn't seem very angry, just detached and aloof.
Diane Kruger's Helen—while pretty—might launch a half-dozen canoes and a dinghy, but not 1,000 ships.
Orlando Bloom just can't do Paris the right kind of "pretty-boy" justice. I think it's his eyebrows, which seem to be the only real animated part of his face. They rise and fall with his ever-changing moods (which are really only two moods: love-struck and terrified).
Bana and O'Toole both give the best performances in this movie—along with Sean Bean who plays a witty and thoughtful Odysseus. Bana's Hector is well rounded, and the viewer understands that Hector is torn between his life as a family man and his duty as Troy's premiere warrior. And Peter O'Toole is just a great, veteran actor. The scene when O'Toole's Priam comes to Achilles' tent to claim the body of his son is the best non-fighting scene in this flick.
This movie could have been better; and, for the $200 million spent on it, it should have been. My advice is to wait for the DVD, so you can watch all of the behind-the-scenes mayhem (hurricanes hit the set, (insert irony here) the real war in Iraq made Petersen change locations for the filmed battle scenes, and (insert double irony here), six months of shooting was lost while Pitt recovered from an Achilles tendon injury. I'm not making this stuff up.