The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Made by a respected director with a strong ensemble cast and using the original epic story as its source, 2004's Troy certainly has a lot going for it. So what happened in theaters? I guess it's a shame to call a movie that made over $130 million a failure, but when that movie cost $175 to make....yeah, that's a failure. Too bad because the end result -- no matter the money -- is a huge, well-made and entertaining epic, a throwback to the 1950s and 1960s in terms of scale.

Sometime around 1,000 B.C., Trojan princes Hector (Eric Bana) and Paris (Orlando Bloom) are visiting Sparta and its king, Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson). Paris falls madly in love with the king's wife, Helen (Diane Kruger), secretly taking her with them as they return to Troy. Finding his wife gone, Menelaus goes to his brother, Agamemnon (Brian Cox), seeking help in getting her back. The Greek king has amassed quite an empire and sees an opportunity for it to grow bigger. He assembles an army of thousands of ships and over 50,000 men, sailing across the Aegean Sea to attack Troy. The fortified and high-walled city awaits what the Greeks can throw at them, including the most powerful warrior of his time, the legendary if moody Achilles (Brad Pitt). The coming battle will be unlike anything the world has ever seen.

Based on the original literature epic, Homer's Iliad, Troy is a movie made on a massive scale. Director Wolfgang Petersen assembles quite the cast, built lavish sets with even more lavish costuming, and for lack of a better description, makes everything BIG. That's good and bad. It is an impressive movie to watch at times, but in its scale, it loses some of its heart. Troy keeps you at arm's length. At times, far too much is going on. Even at 162 minutes, some subplots feel disjointed and rushed, others completely pushed to the side. Composer James Horner's score is all right, but it pales in comparison to some of his best works. Josh Groban's song 'Remember' is played over the credits too, listen HERE. Positive and/or negative, Troy is missing that special something. It is a good movie, but that missing ingredient isn't there to make it a classic.

It would be hard to have a better jumping off point than Homer's Iliad in turning any form of literature into a feature film. For starters, there's a reason it's called Greek tragedy. No matter if you're good or bad, in the end it likely won't end well for you. No time is wasted on petty arguments. Greek tragedies and epics are interested in the big picture. We're talking power and glory, love and betrayal, murder and backstabbing. Petersen faces a monumental task in bringing the story to theaters though. The Iliad takes place over a decade. The movie? Seems like the siege of Troy takes place over a long weekend. With so many characters and so many stories bouncing around, some can't help but be left behind. This is a story that would be suited to a four or five part the least. On the positive side, Troy is about the people, not the people and the Greek gods. Wise choice there, Mr. Petersen, wise choice.

The best dynamic in the movie is between Brad Pitt and Eric Bana, warriors on opposite sides of the war who are on a collision course to face each other. Buffed up with about 30-40 pounds of extra muscle, Pitt went through quite a transformation to look like half-man, half-god Achilles. In the acting department though, this is far from his best work. It's a despicable character, but Pitt doesn't bring a ton of energy to the screen until about the halfway point. Bana is the main reason to see Troy as Hector, the honor-bound prince of Troy who sticks by his family when it would be incredibly easy to leave. Both men live by a personal code and principle, holding some similarities while also being vastly different. Those differences make for an interesting rivalry to watch unfold.

And then there's the rest of the cast, apparently everyone in Hollywood getting a part here and there. Playing Greek king Agamemnon, Cox is the most villainous of all the characters, a power-obsessed ruler willing to sacrifice anything as needed to achieve his goal. In this case, that's pouncing on his brother's request for help. Gleeson as the spurned and scorned Menelaus is surprisingly sympathetic in an underused part. Bloom and Kruger are pretty together, basically a means to get the story moving before being dumped in the trash. Bloom does a fine job turning Paris into a whiny weakling capable of doing anything right. Yes, that's sarcasm. Also look for screen legend Peter O'Toole as Priam, the aging Trojan king, Sean Bean as Odysseus, another Greek king and close friend of Achilles, Garrett Hedlund as Patroclus, Achilles' young nephew and warrior-to-be, Julie Christie in a one-scene cameo as Thetis, Achilles' mother, Saffron Burrows as Andromache, Hector's loving wife, Rose Byrne as Briseis, the Trojan girl who catches Achilles' eye, and Vincent Regan as Eudorus, Achilles' right-hand man in his unit of Myrmidons.

Part of the fun of these ancient/biblical epics was the spectacle in watching them, a cast of thousands filling the screen. That fun element is robbed some with an overabundance of CGI throughout, thousands of CGI creations filling out the Greek and Trojan armies. Battle scenes are still a sight to behold, immense scale as the two warring sides throw charge after charge at one another. Like the movie on the whole, it's just missing something. What is it? I can't quite figure it out yet, but I'll get there. In the meantime, I'll like the movie, but not love it.

Troy <----trailer (2004): ***/****


  1. I liked it almost in spite of itself. I know it's not good, but I can't turn away.