Ebert: Rolling Stone: TV Guide:1/2
minor plot points revealed!
I really liked Troy. It's a great action film. Unfortunately I'm still under the spell of The Lord of the Rings so the "epic" quality of Troy, that probably would of impressed me three years ago, seems diminutive by comparison. The battle of Minas Tirith alone (The final battle in Return of the King) was more impressive than the entirety of Troy. Basically the word has been launched into the unattainable stratosphere by Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings, so "epic" has pretty much lost all meaning. The best Troy or any subsequent wanna-be epic (such as King Aurthur opening later this summer) can expect is to be considered a "mini-epic."
So at this point I will stop my unfair comparison with Lord of the Rings and say that Troy is more comparable with Gladiator. If you liked Gladiator then you will like Troy. I liked Gladiator.
Admittedly, I am no big fan of Homer's The Iliad. I may have faked my way through reading part of it in high school but I don't remember it. So, unlike Ebert, I'm not going to snidely tip my mortar board and arrogantly pretend that my intellectual sensibilities have been offended by director Wolfgang Petersen's unfaithful re-imagining of the story. Lets just say it's probably not as good as the book and who cares.
The story of Troy tells the tale of the young prince of Troy, Paris, who on a peace mission with his brother Hector, falls in love and then steals away with Queen Helen of Sparta. Menelaus of Sparta, Helen's husband, is understandably upset and runs off to his brother Agamemnon of Mycenae who has conquered and brought together all of Greece under his banner. Agamemnon agrees to send his entire army to take back Helen but his real desire is Troy itself. Agamemnon's greatest weapon is Achilles. A mercenary with allegiance to no one but himself and the greatest warrior in history. Odysseus, one of Agamemnon's subjugated Kings, convinces Achilles to once again join him in battle. The battle ensues and seems a stalemate until the Greeks devise their famous Trojan Horse strategy and take the city.
They spent something like $200 million to bring Troy to the screen though I'm not sure what they spent it all on. Gladiator cost half as much and seemed much more grand in scale. The main set piece, the city of Troy itself, is impressive, as is the large number of CGI enhanced soldiers that fill out the ranks of the two armies. But something tells me that the stars salaries may have eaten up most of that extra $100 million. Also the production was constantly being destroyed by natural disasters and relocated to Mexico after the new Iraq war broke out.
The special effects of the film are impressive. Particularly the scene from the preview where we see the thousand ships that launch from Greece across the Aegean Sea. There are some good battles and any of the fight scenes with Brad Pitt as Achilles are fun to watch. He has this one death-blow move that he does about 3 or 4 times that is pretty neat.
The biggest problem I had with the film was that, except for Eric Bana's Hector, none of the characters in the film are good. Agamemnon is a arrogant, power-hungry, unjust and horrible King. His brother Menelaus acts upset about being betrayed by Helen but was fooling around with whores the very night she left him and ultimately only wants her back so he can kill her for humiliating him. The other subjugated Kings like Odysseus are guilty by association with Agamemnon. Achilles insubordination and defiance toward Agamemnon seem to offer a glimmer of goodness but he is basically just a killing machine who works for Greece and once his stupid little cousin Patroclus is accidentally killed, he abandons his honor and kills the only good person in the movie. Paris, is a selfish fool and we later see him to be a coward as well. The King of Troy, Priam, is also wrong in that he ultimately sacrifices his entire kingdom and all of it's people just so his stupid little cowardly son can have his girlfriend. Additionally he never listens to his son's advice during two crucial moments in the film.
The actors all do a great job with their roles. Brad Pitt literally looks like a Greek God. He spent about 6 months training to sculpt his frame to play Achilles. Ultimately his star power diminishes the character. Eric Bana is fabulous as Hector, leader of the Troy's army. His fight with Pitt is one of the best parts of the movie. Although you hate him, Brian Cox is wonderful as Agamemnon. Brendan Gleeson does a nice job as Menelaus. Peter O'Toole lifts the film to a greater dramatic level just by being there and his scene with Pitt is excellent. Diane Kruger plays Helen but honestly any beautiful girl could have had this role. And finally two members of the Fellowship of the Ring round out the cast. Sean Bean (Boromir) does fine as Odysseus, friend of Achilles. And Orlando Bloom takes on the bravest role by playing the cowardly Paris. He does a fine job but it's sad to see this side of Legolas.
In the end, Troy was definitely worth watching and because it is a mini-epic, it will be best when seen in the theater so you may want to actually leave the house for this one. I liked the film and I'll probably buy a used copy on DVD when it comes out. At 2 Hours and 42 minutes, you will get your money's worth and actually the time really does fly by. I had no idea the movie was that long while I was watching it.