Starring: Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Peter O'Toole, Diane Kruger, Sean Bean, Saffron Burrows, Julie Christie, Rose Byrne, Brian Cox, Brendan Gleeson, Garrett Hedlund & Tyler Mane
Note: Shannon originally wrote a review of Troy for this site, but when she turned it in, it was just the words "Brad Pitt's naked butt" over and over again about 100 times. Sweetheart, that's not a review -- it's just your fantasy.
There is much to like in Wolfgang Petersen's Troy, despite the fact that the director himself seems intent only on fucking things up. But there is also much to dislike. To be fair, the script is a mish-mash, and the dialogue is 83% awful, so the bad stuff can't be blamed entirely on Peterson. Still, as I break down the Good and the Bad, I shall endeavor to show that the ultimate failure of the film was almost entirely Petersen's.
First, the Good:
Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Brian Cox, Rose Byrne, Saffron Burrows and especially Peter O'Toole are often very good. The movie has numerous intimate scenes, which are often very moving, despite the dime-store dialogue. That's all acting, baby, and in this flick we are more than grateful for it.
The combat in this film is spectacular, and I don't say that lightly. Look, I'm a big geek. I've spent days, months, years hunched over piles of dice playing Dungeons & Dragons. I've watched the big swordfight scenes in The Princess Bride and Star Wars: Episode I so many times the old video tapes are worn out. I have the friggin' Sword of Gandalf hanging on the wall in my study! I can't get enough of cool fight scenes, especially when they involve swords, and, lemme tell you, what this fight choreographer has done is amazing. The way he's given each of the main combatants a distinctive fighting style, all within a reasonable facsimile of period combat and realistic weaponry, is absolute genius. The climactic battle between Hector and Achilles is as beautiful as it is brutal, and both Pitt and Bana are fabulous in it. I really can't give enough praise to the combat -- it's worth a matinee price in and of itself, and the credit goes to the actors (especially Tyler Mane, Pitt & Bana), sword-trainer Steven Ho and sword-master Richard Ryan (who I must assume was the choreographer, as I can find no fight choreographer listed).
Sean Bean is Odysseus! I did not know this until he came on screen, and I nearly leapt out of my seat. Odysseus (or, Ulysses) is my favorite character in all of Greek literature, and Sean Bean is perhaps my favorite often underrated actor. Now, if only they'd make an "Odyssey" sequel, with Bean as the star. Ah, a man can dream...
Now, the Bad:
The screenplay is a mess. It is disjointed and never quite knows what it wants to be. Scenes are jumbled. The lack of dialogue often makes it difficult to put the pieces together, but it's only made worse when folks start talking and you realize that what dialogue is present was written by third-graders. The screenplay, by the way, is credited to David Benioff and Homer. Based upon the dialogue, that could as easily be Homer Simpson as the Greek poet.
Yeah, I know I said the acting was good above. But for every good actor in a scene, there was one horrible actor in the next. The truly puzzling thing: it was often the same actor! Pitt mumbled as much as he inspired, Bana hunched and sulked and looked confused as much as he stood firm, and Cox chewed more scenery than Pacino in Scarface. I blame the bad bits entirely on Petersen. A note to all film directors (I'm talking especially to you, Petersen and Lucas), this is a movie, not a stage play. If an actor gives a bad line reading, or does something idiotic or ridiculously over-the-top, you can shoot that bit over again! Right there! On the spot! In fact, they are expecting it! The fact that the actors are good half the time shows that they've got it in 'em -- it's pure laziness on the part of the director not to get that goodness out. Jimminy Christmas -- there is more to a good take than everyone hitting his marks and the gate being clear! For fuck's sake, pay attention to your goddamn actors!
This is just too goddamn long a movie not to have a point. The main thrust of the Iliad, if my university Humanities instructor, Dr. David Bradley, is to be believed, is that the gods should not meddle inhuman affairs, for they only make things worse. With the gods cut out of this version, a new theme needs to be found. There are portions of the film, notably the gruesome battles, the egomaniacal Agamemnon, and the warmongering religious leaders of Troy, that lean toward a scathing indictment of the futility and great waste of war. But all of that is countered by an unreasonable number of grand (and sincere) speeches about the glory of battle, and just as many lingering shots of hunky war-hero Achilles and his glorious Myrmidons. Spice it up with some cheesy speeches about fighting for love, sprinkle in a little bit of the importance of duty and honor, and you've got a movie that just doesn't know what the hell it is.
And that's pretty much it, as far as my assessment of Troy goes. Wolfgang Petersen has almost made a good movie, filled with actors who are good some of the time and incredible swordfights, but with a terrible script and no sense of purpose. Is this long-ass beast worth your money? It's definitely worth the price of a matinee, or a DVD rental. But how 'bout a full $10?
It depends entirely upon how much you need to see Brad Pitt's naked butt on the big screen. Me? I'm holding out for Jennifer's.