In the tradition of Braveheart and Gladiator comes Troy, the next epic that depicts the Trojan War at its finest. Who am I kidding? Troy doesn't even come close to comparing with those classics; it is run-of-the-mill entertainment, and nothing more.
A good and beautiful cast headline the film, but very few of them really live up to expectations. Brad Pitt, as the half-mortal, half-God Achilles (though in this movie he is just a nearly unstoppable killing machine), is no Russel Crowe here. His performance, thanks in part to the poorly-written dialogue, can only be described as standard; there are no Oscar nominations waiting for him. Throughout the first half of the movie, most of his expressions reminded me of Ben Stiller in Zoolander - that ain't good. In the latter half of the movie, he gets better, but it is hard to fully care for a character like Achilles, a warrior who knows nothing but death.
Eric Bana is much better as Hector, the Prince of Troy. He fits in the character of a fighter much more than Pitt does, and is a lot more likable. Orlando Bloom gets the unfortunate pleasure of playing the major wussy in the movie, Paris; literally, he is so cowardly and stupid that he is personally responsible for the fall of his city.
Of course, in The Iliad, Homer's poetic classic on which this movie is roughly based, the Gods are basically responsible for everything that goes on. The Gods give Helen to Paris, despite the fact that she is married to Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson). Much of the power of The Iliad lies in its depiction of the Gods, but, giving some credit to the screenwriter, it is pretty challenging to tell of an epic battle and the disagreements among Gods in a summer release movie. The presence of Gods more than likely would have cluttered the movie and made it a bit too abstract; however, there surely is an effective way to tell The Iliad and still make it for widespread audiences.
Most of the problems with Troy lie with the director, Wolfgang Petersen. Petersen has done some impressive films in the past, but several things are missing for Troy to be the epic that everyone wanted it to be. Compared to Gladiator, which makes for a fair comparison, Troy lacks the technical originality and style that that Oscar-winner possessed. The use of color is plain and unimpressive. The cinematography isn't great. Worst off, the music is just plain bad and does not match the movie at all. Music is what makes or breaks movies like these, and the use of trumpets in the score is just difficult to listen to. For some reason, Petersen made a huge mistake when he integrated the soundtrack. Some scenes were just cheesy because the music absolutely does not fit.
As far as battle scenes go, Troy has some decent sequences, but nothing too noteworthy. Petersen never attains the suspense that goes along with the battle sequences of great war movies; there is no feeling of dread that instant before the soldiers begin to charge. The battles are entertaining; they just are not so explosive to be considered anything but retreads of those seen in past movies.
For the next director that attempts to make a good Trojan War movie, it would be nice to see more character development between Paris and Helen, the two characters that are ultimately responsible for everything that happens. Very little is shown of the relationship between these two lovers, and it is hard to really care for them.
Troy fits the mold of a lot of summer movies: entertaining but not Oscar-quality. Usually that wouldn't be a problem, but it is very obvious that everyone involved with this film was hoping for another bout of Gladiator nominations; they will not see them. Troy makes for a good matinee showing, but its flaws are obvious, large and extremely disappointing.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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