Worth A Look: 25%
Pretty Bad: 14.29%
Total Crap: 17.21%
13 reviews, 230 user ratings
by Scott Weinberg
Once "Gladiator" hit the big-time in the arenas of box office, critical/moviegoer reaction and (of course) Oscar Night, we all knew what was coming: a flashy and ultra-expensive series of old-fashioned Hollywood epics. Wolfgang Petersen's "Troy" follows last year's "Master and Commander" and "The Last Samurai" as New-Fangled, Old-Fashioned Epics; the mentality of old-school Hollywood bred with the staggeringly impressive new technologies that allow the New Epics to be truly, well, epic.Like even the finest movies of Troy's ilk (say, Lawrence of Arabia or Braveheart), you'll find a fair share of odd-fitting costumes, oh-so-melodramatic speeches of chest-thumping bravado, intermittently uncomfortable-looking movie stars, gigantically cool action sequences, predictably majestic musical scores, purple prose, pregnant pauses, and host of other potential detriments. Done properly, the mega-huge, sprawling battle epic can capably circumnavigate these various pitfalls and come out the other side as a unique and thrilling time at the movies.
"The Poems of Homer meet the Notes of Cliff's, Hollywood Style!"
Within its 162-minute running time, Troy does showcase several of those seemingly requisite pitfalls, but easily overcomes them through sheer force of bravado, spectacle and a old-time Hollywood style. Toss in a surprisingly multi-dimensional screenplay (from 25th Hour's David Benioff) that allows the viewer to feel some empathy for every character, from golden god to bloodthirsty king, from clear-cut noble "heroes" to the mustache-twirling "villains".
Director Wolfgang Petersen shoots for a difficult combo: the ensemble drama / action epic. Whereas Troy's predecessors were intent to focus upon one main Hero (as played by Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe (twice) and Mel Gibson), Troy is (despite the advertisements' implication that it's a full-bore Brad Pitt vehicle) is concerned with a host of characters, all of whom clearly exemplify very specific approaches to the art of war.
Pitt's Achilles is, of course, one who fights only for the glory of his own name.
King Agamemnon (Brian Cox) wages war because he's a huge bully. And a very successful one at that.
His spoiled brother Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson) is spurred to fight out of simple jealousy and a yearning for revenge.
Paris (Orlando Bloom) sparks a massive war between two countries simply because he falls in love with the wrong lady.
His noble brother Hector (Eric Bana) fights for duty and the honor of his country.
Odysseus (Sean Bean) is an honorable king compelled by responsibility to ally himself with a warmonger extraordinaire.
The basic story is precisely like a flip through a Cliff's Notes of Homer or a cinematic "greatest hits" of The Odyssey and The Iliad: Paris steals the willing and lovely Helen away from Menelaus, Menny runs to his brother Aggy and requests 1,000 ships so he can sail on over to Troy and get his gorgeous young trophy wife back by his side. Paris tells Hector about his behavior, and the elder brother unwisely decides to honor his smitten little brothers' wishes; Helen will return to Troy, and damn the repercussions.
Aggy gets Oddy to enlist Achy (who is known far and wide as the world's most ferocious fighter) and the battle lines are drawn. Thousands will soon be sacrificed in a massive war...all because of one pretty girl and a horny young prince with his brain below the beltline.
So while Troy offers a rather straightforward (and extremely truncated) version of Homer's legendary poetry, there are well-hewn and deeply engaging character shadings that capably fortify the moments between the film's astounding action sequences. This is a movie in which you begin to respect the villains just a little bit while cursing the heroes for not behaving a bit more, well, villainous. That Pitt's Achilles is basically a "bad guy" and yet the character earns our sympathy is a testament to the depth of Benioff's screenplay. We can understand that Paris deeply loves his Helen, yet we still want to smack the kid for behaving so selfishly irresponsible. The "bad guy" army is laden with honorable chaps; the "good guy" faction is, ultimately, at fault for this whole sorry mess.
Based on the trailers, Pitt would seem to be woefully out of place in a movie such as Troy, and it's true that the newly-sculpted matinee idol does, at first, seem more than a little static and reserved. Pitt seems to get more comfortable as the movie progresses, resulting in a performance that's certainly fine - although it's still fairly obvious that Brad Pitt probably works best in a modern-day setting. He tries real hard here, does a solid B+ job...but he's simply miscast. Of the expansive cast, Eric Bana and Brendan Gleeson offer superlative work, Brian Cox is a lot of feral fun as the bloodthirsty Agamemnon, Sean Bean has a few great moments as Odysseus, Peter O'Toole brings his regal charm to the role of King Priam... Heck, even Orlando Bloom gets it right. His Paris is meant to be a wide-eyed (and fairly wimpish) loverboy; some might say Bloom displays little backbone in the movie. I think Bloom does precisely what was asked and delivers a bravely un-heroic performance.
The action scenes alone would probably be worth your eight bucks at the box office. The crafty layers of characterization, the fascinating attention to detail, the eclectic cast, the devotion to true spectacle... Troy is by no means a perfect flick, but what it does right easily overpowers what it gets wrong, resulting in a high-end action epic that offers combat carnage and articulate insight in equal doses. And for a flick that runs over 160 minutes, the thing really does breeze by at a brisk clip, which was another pleasant surprise."Troy"'s biggest and most irritating detriment is the overblown and wildly derivative musical score. This should come as no surprise, as composer Gabriel Yared had his score yanked at the very last minute. Citing complaints from the test screening audiences, the producers called upon James Horner to bang out an all-new score in under two months. Mr. Yared had worked on his score for over a year. I'd say blame the test audiences for "Troy"'s rather atrocious musical score, but who says Petersen had to bow to the demands of 400 random movie-watchers?
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originally posted: 05/14/04 20:59:21