"A megabucks summer movie in which the good guys lose and the heroes all die"
Few directors have fallen further from my good graces than Wolfgang Peterson during his descent into studio hackdom, but give the man his just due for refusing to kneel at the altar of the summer movie gods despite Troy’s $185 million budget and May release date.Based on Homer’s epic poem The Iliad, Troy’s difficult to summarize plot boils down to this -- young Trojan prince Paris (Orlando Bloom) absconds with the willing wife (Diane Kruger) of Greek king Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson), whose power-mad brother Agamemnon (Brian Cox) uses the incident as an excuse to invade Greece’s neighbor from across the Aegean Sea.
Troy takes many liberties with its source material, but 25th Hour screenwriter David Benioff maintains the spirit of the story's bleak conclusion while his alterations are often for the better even if his dialogue leaves much to be desired.
Benioff’s exclusion of the gods in favor of mere mortals prevents Troy from becoming a camp-filled Clash of the Titans, while his paring down of the Trojan War’s time frame from ten years to several weeks keeps the pace-challenged Peterson from delivering a nine-hour movie.
Troy also benefits immeasurably from Warner Brothers’ decision to release Peterson’s bloody epic as an R-rated feature, instead of imposing the PG-13 death sentence handed down by Disney to The Alamo and King Arthur.
While Benioff’s script refuses to clearly delineate between Troy’s heroes and villains, composer James Horner is definitely the chief bad guy when it comes to the movie’s shortcomings.
Not only does Horner’s intrusive, incessant bombast shamelessly steal from Hans Zimmer’s Gladiator score and the scores of John Williams, the composer cannibalizes his own work as well. Dating back all the way to his days working on Roger Corman cheapies and Star Trek flicks, Horner has always been a recycler and his work on Troy is no exception.
The performances of Bloom and Kruger are also problematic.
The story of Troy hinges on the love between Bloom and Kruger’s Helen being so strong that it justifies the carnage wrought to keep them together. While not as lifeless as the romance between indestructible Greek warrior Achilles (Brad Pitt) and a virginal Troy priestess played by Rose Byrne, the spineless Bloom and the pretty but vacuous Kruger hardly generate enough sparks to merit the thousands of faceless bodies strewn across the sprawling CGI battlefields.
Cox’s uncharacteristically broad performance as Troy’s nominal villain adds the energy lacking in Troy’s romances, but his hammy scenery-chewing feels out of place next to the staid dignity of Sean Bean’s Odyssey or the regal heir surrounding Peter O'Toole's Trojan king.
Pitt doesn’t blend into the period setting nearly as well as his co-stars and gets out-brooded by Eric Bana’s introspective Trojan prince Hector, but he looks the part and adequately conveys Achilles’ transformation for glory-seeking mercenary to tragic figure.
The soon-to-be former Mr. Aniston worked out for six months to approximate the chiseled, tanned physique of a Greek demigod, and it puzzles me as to why so many critics seem to look down on that fact as if it makes Pitt some sort of pretty boy.When an actor uglies themselves up or packs on a few pounds for a role they’re viewed as having a dedicated passion for the craft. But when an actor breaks their back to sculpt their body to better suit a role it’s viewed as a less admirable feat.
I’m not saying sitting on my ass and eating ice cream and pasta in order to pack on 40 pounds sounds like a good time, but neither does tangling with free weights and treadmills for six months.