Thank goodness I had not read the Iliad before I saw this film. (And no, I am not so much of a smartypants that I read it after, either). Had I been more familiar with the source material – “source” in that the names and locations are very similar – I would have been furious and bored, instead of just bored.
Let’s get the good stuff out of the way. The film has gobs of hot male nudity, with three distinct levels of hunkiness to choose from, and practically no female nudity. The costumes are stunning, fantastic, amazing. The crowd scenes, even knowing there has to be some CG supplementation, still look pretty convincing. OK, some of the sets were cool too.
Um…yep, that’s it.
While I find pre-gunpowder battle generally more interesting to watch, both in terms of manner of combat but also in the choreography of huge crowds, I still was bored out of my flippin’ mind. “Bored? But there are all these big, epic battles, with swords and clanging and…?” Yep. Not to beat a dead Trojan horse, but they all looked Greek to me and it was impossible to care when every side had a pretty good point about why they should be victorious. This should have lead to a complex morality play about which sin is the bigger and the proportionality of war – had Robert McNamara been there I have no doubt it would have been a more interesting film. Instead it led to the kind of stubborn posturing, fighting, personal torture, and unpleasantness which frankly we can all get on the news for free these days. Of course, on Fox News we don’t get to gape for long minutes at a time at Brad Pitt’s inguinal area, but then again, we could just rent Fight Club for that.
James Horner’s pushy score and the muddled and confusing politics were at odds – pushing me to care, pulling me to analyze. The underlying themes were not love or homeland or doing the right thing, but rather being remembered long after you are gone. Well, we’ve heard of lots of people from long ago, like Hitler and Tutu – let’s try to have something a little more appealing to the audience as a driving motivation, shall we, or at least learn from having such superficial goals. The weird semi-accents, trying for an epic, serious-movie vibe, belied the haphazard writing and moldy dialogue.
Achilles, as you will not learn from the movie, was the son of a goddess and a mortal man, who was dipped in the waters of invincibility, but where they held on to him for the dipping he remained vulnerable. This is important, but not addressed. I tell you know because most people, if they can even spell Achilles, seem to only know the body part, and the movie won’t clear that up for you. And the obvious solution of finding peace through the clearly popular concept of intermarrying the royal families seems to have eluded our Mediterranean ancestors. Instead, we watch stubborn kings and warriors pit their fighter drones against each other and rock the cradle of democracy. And it’s not very interesting at all.
Diane Kruger plays Helen of Troy, aka the face that literally launched a thousand ships to go to war and kill thousands of men. This lovely Teutonic lass is not exactly horrific to look at, but she is no Helen of Troy. Michelle Pfeiffer, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Catherine Deneuve, Isabella Rossellini, these women are true sirens (albeit too old for the part) who could believably inspire men to commit treason and do all kinds of crazy things. But dear Ms. Kruger pales beside her would-be sister-in-law Saffron Burrows. It’s not just bone structure (and modern makeup), it’s presence, it’s ditching the Valley accent for something more elegant. Would you go to war against a country with whom you had just allied yourself for Leelee Sobieski?
It’s got some good visuals, so find a friend with a big TV and HBO and watch it then – you can talk during the battle sequences.
MPAA Rating R -graphic violence & some sexuality/nudity
Release date 5/14/04
Time in minutes 162
Director Wolfgang Petersen
Studio Warner Brothers