Sunday, March 2, 2014

Troy (or "Frankie and Annette starring in 'Saving Private Helen'")

(Note: In 2004 the editor of the free paper in my town suggested that I try my hand at Movie Reviews. So I went to see "Troy" and handed in this review the next day. The Editor then pointed out that the movie theater that advertised in his paper would not appreciate my 'less-than-glowing' recap. So I told him that he could keep the hard copy - and also where he could put it.)

On the one hand you can't get too mad at a Hercules movie, whether it cost $100,000 and starred Steve Reeves or $175,000,000  and starred the hot blonde dude who peeked in "Thelma and Louise". 

Beefcake pictures are like beach books: they proliferate each summer, much like pollen, and are long gone by Xmas, when Oscars the grouch wakes up.* Gals drag their guys to them, mucho funno is had later at home, and the guys drag themselves to the gym the next day. Everybody's happy and the local economy prospers. 

Its the sublteness that he brings to
the character of Achi-
You're not even reading this, are you?
On the other hand, "Hercules Vs. the Moon Men" is more historically accurate and truer to its source material than "Troy". The "Iliad" is gratuitously long (Homer apparently was being paid by the quatrain), and a bit draggy in the voluminous character backgrounds. But so was Lord of the Rings.

And I'm not saying that Tolkein does it better than Homer, but Peter Jackson does it WAY better than Wolfgang Petersen. Wolfies best known picture was the dark and claustrophobic "Das Boot" about life aboard a teeny submarine. He should have stayed on board.

On board the for the bloody beach party we have Brad, who prepared for his role as Achilles by hiring a personal trainer for six months at the cost of $5,000 a week. No money left over for acting lessons apparently.

But he looks good, no doubt about it. He may be the hottest hairless blonde Greek ever. He may also be the ONLY hairless blonde greek ever.

"I don't like movies where the men have bigger tits
than the women." - Groucho Marx
Alongside Brad (when he's not acting circles around him) is Sean Bean as Odysseus. One hopes for a remake of the Odyssey, with Boromir, and no one else involved in the making of "Troy."

Hector is finely played by Eric Bana, posessor of great talent, and even greater pecs. Hector, by some oversight of the screenwriter is allowed to retain some measure of conflict and growth.

Orlando Bloom's Paris is a simpering little brother, worlds away from the evil bully that Homer described. The real Paris is decrepit, loud, nasty and quite dirty. Plus the traffic in summer is horrendous.
This is Diane Kruger, not Orlando
Bloom. Sorry for the confusion.

Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world, is played by Diane Heidkrueger, a somewhat attractive blonde. Paris, frankly is prettier than Helen. 

Her performance is a show stopper. Every scene she is in grinds to a complete stop, as everyone in camera waits for her astoundingly slow synapses to register an emotion, action, or line. (These slow synapses come to her rescue though in the scene where she embraces Orly, bare bazooms against cold metal armor. Yikes!)

When Herr Diane does actually get a line of dialogue to emerge, her accent is a dead-ringer for Mrs. Olsen. I kept expecting her to serve Folger's coffee during the battle watching scenes. Overall though, we must describe Diane, as Jessica Lange was once described in Dino DeHorrendous' King Kong: "A former and future model."

Pete is apparently baffled by this strange thing in his hand, while
Leggy Legolas shows us all how NOT to sit in a mini-skirt.
The late Peter O'Toole is Priam, the king of Troy. Pete, fresh out of another rehab stint has, predictably, a spotty performance. The scene in which he pleads with Achilles to let Priam take the body of Hector is genuinely moving and touching. Outacting Brad Pitt is no stretch for this veteran actor.

In the scenes where Priam is on his throne however, we were repeatedly reminded of another type of movement and another type of throne. Righteous indignation or three-day constipation? You make the call.

But all of these lovely people washing up after battle can not really be held responsible for the overwhelming "whatever" that is Troy. Wolfgang and Brad signed on first so they deserve a double share of overripe tomatoes.

Um, what is she looking at?
Perhaps the odd coincidence that neither
of them have right hands anymore.
But the sturdy finger of fate points to no one else so much as to David Benioff. This is the fellow who rewrote the Iliad as a beach blanket movie with a few sub-par washed out battle scenes left over from Return of the King. Just about everything that makes Homer engrossing has been left out of "Troy".
  • Strike 1: Why does Helen willingly go with Paris when she knows that thousands of people will die as a result? In the book she is simply kidnapped by the evil Paris which, though less reasonable, also makes much more sense. We'll leave out why this child of Sparta has a German accent thicker than week-old streudel.
  • Strike 2: Is Achilles invulnerable? His status as a demi-god is mentioned in passing by a 12 year old extra, but Brad just silently glares at him with that all-purpose brood that comprises Mr. Pitts performance. Nice cheekbones though.
  • Strike 3: "Troy" takes place in about a month of time. Or maybe it just felt that way. In the book though, and reality, the Greeks were on the beach of Turkey for 10 years. Achilles pouts in his tent for no less than three years. Now that's an epic storyline! Too bad we don't get to see any of it!
  • Strike 4: How does Paris know to arrow Brad in his eponymous heel? Why didn't he know sooner and save us from the final 90 minutes of film? The whole 'dipped-in-the-protective-waters-by-the-heel' bit is wholly absent from the script. I vaguely recalled it from 4th grade, but how many of today’s “don't educate – graduate” youth know about it? Which brings us to the whopper of a -
  • Strike 5: A geeky friend of mine who had not seen the movie but had recently read the book cornered me for a review. Her first breathless question was who had played the various gods and godessess? Where they human or CGI? I had to gently explain that this was the Atheist Iliad. No pagan dieties, no supernatural interference. She was rightly horrified. The Iliad without Zeus, Hera, Athena and so on is like the Matrix - without the Matrix. The entire context for the characters
    There is some precedence for this!
    actions is yanked out from underneath them like a drunk ripping the table cloth off of a full dinner table. With pretty much the same results. The Olympian Pantheon steal the show in Homer. Imagine the entire Cast of Star Trek, all with the power of Q. They slaughter the prime directive in every scene of the Iliad, with very entertaining results.

Here though, we are left with the human drama of watching Brad sulk while 50,000 Greeks, our forefathers of democracy, slaughter 20,000 Trojans through trickery and wholesale slaughter and mayhem. And they never do find the weapons of mass destruction.

Which brings up the ending. Achilles has an epiphany that his life as a mass murderer may not have been well thought out. He wanders the streets of burning Troy looking to save Bursitis, his Trojan Girlfriend.

Paris, our whinybutt of a bad guy also has an epiphany: "Hey! I'm Legolas, dammit! Hand me my bow."  Paris shoots Achilles in his eponymous
Yo, Mr. Melee Weapon? Meet Mr. Range Weapon.
tendon and Mr. Jolie dies in about ten seconds. Painful? Undoubtedly. Gruesome? Certainly. Terminal? Maybe 3,200 years ago, but hardly instantaneous. Brad folds his tent up mighty fast. Maybe he had to hurry home to Angelina and see how many more children she had taken on while he was away.

What follows is the Sack of Troy, one of most complete civic defilments in the history of History. The Greeks, the progenitors of our Western ways of thought and governance, proceed to burn, loot, rape, murder and atrocitize Troy like a swarm of giant, drunk, tool-using locusts.
See? LOTR made a kajillion dollars. We just cast
these three in these outfits and we are GOLDEN.
What could possibly go wrong?

But because the Greeks are the 'good guys' here this plot point is represented by a single, quick, sweeping crane shot showing a bit of the arson and none of the psychotic frat boy antics.

And the Gods weep. Oh wait - there aren't any gods here.

And so we are left with Helen, Paris and Andromache (Hectors widow), dashing through a tunnel, presumably to somewhere. Um, boo? Yay?
  • Will the surviving Trojans (all ten of them) accept Paris as their king after he wet himself fighting Menelaus?
  • Has there ever been a better name for a king than Many-lay-us?
  • What will the pack of Trojans think of Helen, the cause of their peoples holocaust? I suspect her approval numbers will be mighty low for awhile.
  • And........Credits! Over a Josh Groban song, to speed the exiting from the theater.
So. Troy.
Hey, maybe there WAS a
Trojan Air Force!
  • Crappy computer effects. War in real life is rarely described as "smeary"
  • Epic beach shots cribbed straight out of "Saving Private Ryan". Where was the Trojan Air Force? One good air sortie and the Greeks are History.
  • Acting performances ranging from good (Hector, Priam {sometimes}, Bursitis, Andromeda) to choke-on-your-popcorn-laughing-bad (Achilles, looking like a Greek God and acting like a statue as well, and Helen, the face that launched a thousand ships, and it shows in her energy.)

Troy came with a price tag of $175 million to make and failed to make back its cost in domestic box office. Screenwriter Eric Benioff and director Wolgang Petersen should be tied behind a chariot and dragged across the dunes.

You're welcome.
But hey, its a just a big, dumb Hercules movie. Stream it, and then fast forward through the talky bits, and the setting bits, and the action bits, But let it play through the washing-up-after-the-battle-moments, and the in-the-bed-with-Bursitis scenes.

Its the best performance in a leading role by an ass.

Angus McMahan

*Troy was nominated for a single Academy Award, for Costume Design. It lost, presumably because the very best moments are when the cast takes their costumes off.

(pics from {movie poster}, {Brad acting}, {Bana boobs}, wikipedia {Mrs. Olsen}, {Peter and his tools}, {Helen is disappointed by Orlando's Bloom}, {Star Trek: The Original Myths}, {Leggy gets wiggy}, {triple beef cheeseburger}, {Brad misses his flight}, and {Brad finds the Pitt}.)

No comments:

Post a Comment