Published on May 17th, 2004 | by Erich Becker0
Homer’s epics of The Iliad and The Odyssey are two of the greatest literary works in the history of the world. They contain great battles, a great story, and everything that made Ancient Greece one of the most amazing civilizations still studied in school. Wolfgang Peterson’s Troy seriously bobbles the ball when it comes to adapting the source material for a new generation of movie fans and still staying true to the way the story is suppose to be told. While the ending credits note that the film is “inspired by” The Iliad, I seriously hope screenwriters can do better than this in adapting written epics to the big screen.
Truth be told, if this film had been released prior to The Lord of the Rings trilogy I might be singing a different story, but I believe fans are to the point where, after three years of “epic” battles, we have seen enough of massive computer generated armies facing off against one another. Yet, Troy was released nearly six months after the masterpiece that was Return of the King, and we are left with a been-there-done-that feel that may plague historical films for years to come. Add in the nauseating effects of an over-used shaky-cam that makes it almost impossible to discern what is going on during the battle sequences.
Troy tells the story of the mythical city surrounded by high walls and ruled over by King Priam (Peter O’Toole). Priam has sent his two sons, Hector (Eric Bana) and Paris (Orlando Bloom), to make peace with Sparta ruled by King Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson), brother to Agamemnon (Brian Cox). While in Sparta, Paris falls in love with Helen (Diane Kruger), Menelaus’ wife, and beacons her to return to Troy with him. At this betrayal from the prince of Troy, Menelaus seeks the help of his brother to go to war with Troy. In order to win the war, Agamemnon enlists the help of Odysseus (Sean Bean) who, in turn, recruits the help of Achilles (Brad Pitt) to fight for his country.
Many aspects of the story are well known in pop-culture. The Trojan horse, now made infamous by the Internet viruses of the same name, the battle between Achilles and Hector, and the city of Troy itself. Yet, in adapting the story for the screen some creative “liberties” were taken in order to bring the story to a head much, much faster. Over the course of the 163 minute movie you seem to think the siege of Troy only lasted a few days when, in fact, it lasted many years. The acknowledgement of the existence of the Greek God’s is thrown out the window. IMDB quotes director Wolfgang Peterson as calling the God’s “silly” and “not relevant to the story.” They may not be relevant if they weren’t some of the biggest characters/plot devices in the original work. The existence of the God’s tells of origins of Achilles and the fall of the great warrior. Therefore, story never goes into the origins of Achilles and never even acknowledges that he is invincible except for a small portion of his heel. But he can dodge things pretty damn well.
Casting of the characters seems reasonably well done. Eric Bana’s Hector is exactly how I pictured the character when reading the original story and Brad Pitt’s Achilles is almost what you would expect. Brian Cox, as usual, over-acts his character of Agamemnon, but by the end of the film you will be ready to see his fate, except for the fact that it is never suppose to happen. The “liberties” that I spoke of before erase characters, create new ones, and change the fate of others who are suppose to survive to have further adventures in further books. The only casting choice that I found spot on was Sean Bean as Odysseus. The man has a way about him that makes him entirely likable even when playing the villain, but in this case, he gets to play one of the biggest heroes of all time.
My displeasure for the film doesn’t mean I didn’t have a good time watching it, but knowing the original story, and seeing what was changed made me think entirely too hard on the negatives rather than the positives. Coming home and refreshing on the mythology and the original works through a bit of Internet research, made me realize just how much they had changed the source material. While I’m not against a little bit of creative freedom, when you change one of the most well known literary works of all time, you had better change it for the better. Screenwriter David Benioff should stay away from any more literary works and leave the transitions to people like Peter Jackson who are able to change things and still wow audiences world wide. One can only hope that if an update to The Odyssey is planned in the very near future, no one associated with this film will be allowed within 30ft with the intention to use an “inspired by” credit.