Well, with Wolfgang Petersen, Tyler Durden, Eric Bana, Brian Cox, Brendan Gleeson, and Sean Bean, among others, I had high hopes beforehand that Troy would be the gem of this summer movie season, a film that built on LotR‘s recent success in using solid ensemble acting and state-of-the-art technology to bring classic works of epic literature to the screen as never before. Alas, those hopes have been dashed on the plains of battle like so many CGI Greeks. To be fair, though, Troy may not be one for the ages — in fact, it’s probably only a very small step above the Gladiator movies frequented by Captain Peter Graves in Airplane! — but I’d say it’s still a reasonably entertaining two and a half hours, as summer movies go, and a far cry better than last week’s monstrous Van Helsing, once you lower your expectations suitably.
I only knew the Edith Hamilton cliffnotes-version of the The Iliad coming into Troy (I know, I know, it’s on my summer reading list), so the many changes to the story, such as the fates of Menelaus and Agamemnon, the removal of the Gods, or the addition of the equestrian ending, honestly didn’t weigh on me all that much. Still, I knew enough to find myself waiting for the next shoe to drop through almost every scene of this almost three-hour movie, which I’d say reflects pretty badly on the film here. It’s well-made, to be sure, and it’s got great production values, although even I’m starting to sour on ridiculously-large-CGI-army fighting at this point (I think you hear me knocking, King Arthur.) One would think that a movie based on The Iliad should be at least somewhat enthralling, but I found myself detached and slightly distracted during much of the film. More than anything else, give or take the occasional monologue or well-executed mano a mano, Troy just felt long.
Is it the actors’ fault? No, I don’t think so…more the wooden dialogue. Still, the acting is hit or miss. Brad Pitt tries hard here, but frankly he could make 100 more movies and he’d still always remind me of Tyler Durden now. Similarly, it’s hard not to think of Legolas when Orlando Bloom, mostly convincing as pretty-boy Paris, starts showing off the archery skills again. As Agamemnon, Brian Cox is more hammy and over the top here than he was in The Ring and X2 combined – it’s like he’s channeling Anthony Hopkins in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. On the opposing side, Peter O’Toole adds a touch of class as King Priam of Troy, although with his goofy mane, gaunt cheekbones, and still-piercing blue eyes, I spent most of the movie remarking to myself his now-eerie resemblance to Berkeley. And Brendan Gleeson and Sean Bean, Menelaus and Odysseus respectively, don’t have all that much to do (pending the sequel, of course.) As it turns out, the standout performance turns out to be Eric Bana, who, despite having an Aussie accent quite unlike that of his brother Paris, shows much more personality and verve here than he did in The Hulk or Black Hawk Down. (Hector’s still no Chopper, though.)
In sum, Troy is a decent summer movie, I guess…probably more worth seeing than any other studio flick this side of Eternal Sunshine. But, given the quality of the source material and the money being spent here, it really had the potential to be a good deal more than just an intermittently engaging sword-and-sandal flick. That it’s not feels like a letdown, no matter how Troy works as two hours of escapism. So, as Homer himself might’ve put it, “D’oh!”