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DCGreeks.com @ The Movies Presents

Troy:  Just Like I Remembered It

May 18, 2004

I have this very old little green book, a pocket guide to Greek history and mythology, that I flip through at times when I need to stump an arrogant Classics major who assumes that just because I have a very Greek name that I must know everything there is to know about the time before Alexander. In the first few pages of this book, where I get most of my best stumping material, it lists seven-some-odd ancient Greek cities or islands that claim to be the birthplace of Homer. Although not in the book, I do know that there are several places that are rumored to be the site of Homerís grave. Ios, the great Greek party island, is one such place, looking to add a little bit of culture and history to an otherwise desolate rock in the Aegean. After watching Troy last weekend, I know that somewhere in Greece, perhaps in multiple places at once, Homer is spinning in his grave. 

Iím glad that itís been about 15 years since I read the Iliad in 9th grade. It made my movie-going experience that much more enjoyable. Check your Greekness at the door, and Troy is a great film. You wonít notice or scratch your head when characters are made up, die at the wrong times, live when they're supposed to die, or worse, die when theyíre supposed to live. When I first thought about writing this review, before seeing the movie, I was going to talk about the plot at will, because I figured that I wouldnít be giving away the ending, but now, Iím not so sure if I should talk about the plot at all. 

So letís talk about what Troy is really about. Itís about family members having to bail out other family members when one of them royally screws up. Prince Paris, played by Orlando Bloom, (By the way, Paris as a character manages to be an even bigger pansy than the bow-and-arrow shooting elf Bloom played in Lord or the Rings), writes a check his butt canít cash when he takes Helen, the queen of Sparta, on a boat with him back to Troy, after a diplomatic mission to the court of her husband, King Menelaus. He tells his brother, Prince Hector (Eric Bana), about what heís done, and while there is still a chance to turn the boat around and take her back, Hector decides heís going to get his brotherís back and subject the Trojans to the business end of a Greek invasion. Hector is made to be the good-guy hero of this movie Ė a good father, good husband, good son, and good brother. It doesnít matter that this guy can kill like the best of them because the makers of this movie make him out to be the kind of guy who would never want to kill anyone. 

On the other side of the brother equation are King Menelaus and King Agamemnon of Mycenae. Menelaus goes to Agamemnon to ask for his help in getting Helen back. Agamemnon decides that heís going to exploit his brother losing his woman as an excuse to start a war, not for love, but for power, greed, politics, and all the other things that wars are started for outside of the realm of mythology. 

The other dyad in this picture is Achilles (Brad Pitt) and his "cousin" Patroclus (some equally as pretty actor Iíve never heard of or seen in a film before). Achilles looks out for Patroclus to the point of telling the poor boy that heís crossed the Aegean to come all the way to Troy, but that overprotective Achilles will not let him fight. Director Wolfgang Peterson purposely makes their relationship border on the side of "ick" to fall in line with all the revisionist theories of Achilles. (Hint: Think Brad Pitt in Interview with a Vampire.) 

If plot is not your thing, then this movie is going to be about the killing, pre-battle speeches, and good-old-fashioned smack talk, mostly at the hands of, and out of the mouth of, Achilles. I couldnít decide which I liked better, Achilles putting a spear through someoneís head at 50 yards, or putting a sword through someoneís head at point blank range. As for the speeches/smack talk, early on we would give the edge to Hector, but the absolute cockiness of Achillesí words before the filmís pivotal fight scene sold me on eventually buying this movie on DVD. I wanted to see more of this side of Achilles than the kindler, gentler, sensitive Achilles that too often appears in this movie. (Hint: Think Brad Pitt as the warm and fuzzy grim reaper in Meet Joe Black.)

As for the women in this movie, they are mostly there for garnish Ė to look pretty and to show concern through a quivering lip before another major character bites it. Thereís the slightest bit of complexity in Helen, who says she doesnít want a hero, just someone to grow old with, but then acts like the typical teen movie head cheerleader who falls for the backup quarterback when the starter goes down.

In the end, Troy is worth seeing, and you certainly get your moneyís worth at 2 hours and 40 minutes. Just make sure to avoid seeing it in a theater full of giggling 17 year-old girls who are only there to look at Brad Pitt and Orlando Bloom, and scream out "Shoot him!," when the characters are clearly only carrying swords. If nothing else the film might inspire you to go back and read the Iliad and the related works based on the Trojan War to remember and appreciate the original.


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