Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

In Defense of Troy

I've been distressed to see several of my favorite bloggers announcing that they won't see Troy, uh-uh no way ever.

Let us examine their grounds.

1. Troy changes the Iliad too much.

I'm sorry, wasn't that you I read supporting Peter Jackson's The Fanfic of the Rings? The one with the languishing dying Arwen, the Aragorn falling in the river, the detours five zillion miles out of the way, the EvilCruelNastyMean Elves, the high-diving Steward, and the Faramir who wasn't a gentleman to his toes? Gag me with a bad dialogue spoon.

Troy, OTOH, has the decency to announce from the beginning that it is only inspired by the Iliad. It has to, doesn't it, given that it's going to include the beginning and end of the Trojan War. Neither of which were actually portrayed in the Iliad, if you'll have the kindness to recall.

The war's length is drastically compressed, as is its extent -- the temple of Apollo is on the beach at Troy, rather than on an island on the way. A couple of characters have arcs different from those of legend. Big deal. This is nothing compared to what Jackson did -- or C.S. Lewis, for that matter. I mean, he wrote an adaptation of that whole "Helen in Egypt" fanfic which proposed that Helen never ran off to Troy -- that was her Evil Double. (Clytemnestra already being her Evil Twin.) So...unless you're gonna swear off Lewis....

Furthermore, the legends of the Trojan War are not the stunning, thematically unified work of a single brilliant mind. They're legends, which means they're public domain and creative commons and all that good stuff. Download at will, use as you like. Maybe this distinction isn't fair, but Homer sure benefitted from it. So did Shakespeare. Legend, by its nature, is more malleable than a novel. It's really hard to make it suck. (Troy, btw, beats Troilus and Cressida by a mile.)

Just for your info, here are some of the many Iliad scenes you will see in Troy. (May contain some spoilers for the Iliad.):

Achilles deprived of his prize Briseis by Agamemnon. Achilles' choice between death and glory. Paris vs. Menelaus Deathmatch. Hector's helmet frightening Astyanax, making him take it off. Achilles' Myrmidons watching everybody else fight. Patroclus wearing Achilles' armor. Achilles mourning Patroclus. Achilles vs. Hector Deathmatch. Hector dragged behind Achilles' chariot. Priam begging for Hector's body (right down to the handkissing). Oh, yeah, and a soundtrack as full of the laments of women as the Iliad is, which ought to get poor James Horner more credit from the critics.

This is a lot more Iliad than you get in the average Troy-related opera or play or epic poem. Geez, people, what more do you want?!?

Actual Iliad dialogue? Well, as long as you don't want it in actual Greek, you got it! Including some lines from Achilles' horses announcing Patroclus' death which got transferred into the mouth of one of his men; it worked. (A lot better than Peter Jackson's character-raping dialogue transfers did, that's for sure.)

You complain that for your pre- and post-Iliad material you don't get Penthesileia and her Amazons? Well, that wasn't going to happen without a miniseries being involved, sorry. Also, no slaughter of daughters for wind. But you do get Paris stealing away with Helen, Achilles' death, a very cleverly-designed Trojan Horse, and a thousand ships. So go see the movie, already!

2. There aren't any gods in.

The reviewers lied to you. Silver-footed Thetis makes quite an appearance. Also, Achilles is shown subtly to have the invulnerability he should have, and dies with a Parisian arrow in his heel.

3. Brad Pitt can't possibly do Achilles.

BZZZT! Wrong answer. I wasn't a big fan of the idea (or Brad Pitt), either. He made me a believer. If he doesn't win an Oscar for this one, it will be a crime and a crying shame. He made Achilles come to life in all his annoyingly competent, sulky, yet heroic glory. Also, his inclusion makes all the comparisons between warriors' word-fame and the cult of celebrity more powerful and cogent.

4. Too much nudity and sex.

Very little nudity, a couple of implied sex scenes that aren't really seen. Which is nothing compared to Aragorn and Arwen waking up together and Arwen losing her mortality, 'cause we know what that means. Don't you think it's a lot more offensive to imply sex between two people who saved themselves for marriage for decades, in a movie based on the works of a Catholic, than to have a couple implied sex scenes between two pagans in a movie based on the legends of the pagan Greeks? Geez, Troy was positively chaste compared to all that "let's cinematically drool over the elves" stuff in Jackson's movies!

Seriously, though... any producer wishing to portray the brutal fall of a city would be irresponsible to make a movie about it with a PG-13 rating. Young kids should never be allowed to go see a movie like Troy by themselves. Since parents today can't be trusted to do this, I applaud the filmmakers for including just enough scantily clad footage to make the film an R. (The war alone would do it for the UK and Europe.)

Whatever. I don't know why I even bother to argue.

Honestly, people, I am trying to help you here. If you could honestly love and praise the Peter Jackson Version, you ought to at least take a moment to go see a movie that stays true to the basic themes of the legends it adapts. Your life will be a better thing for a little song about the wrath of Achilles, and the war against Troy.


  • At 5:22 PM, Blogger Gary McGath said…

    The Iliad is one of the most violent works of classical literature I've read (even counting the Bible :), and it only deals with one little piece of the Trojan war, so I suspect a lot of people who complain about lack of fidelity to the Iliad are just trying to show off their alleged erudition.

    But I don't go to a lot of movies, and I'm already planning on two next month: Harry Potter and Godzilla. (That's 2 movies, not one!) So I'll probably wait for the DVD. I still enjoyed reading your comments.


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