Saturday, May 15, 2004

Launching thousand computer-generated ships 

Over a week ago I commented about movie director Wolfgang Petersen's "nuanced" approach to politics and film-making. Now that I went to see "Troy" I can say that fortunately politics does not intrude too much on the epic. There's Agamemnon, an older and more expressive George W Bush, for whom his brother's cuckolding at the hands (?) of a Trojan prince serves merely as an excuse to engage in war of aggression to win power and spoils. There are also the obligatory nods to futility, senselessness and horror of war, which I guess is fair enough in the context of a conflict ostensibly fought over a woman, but which sentiment would sound off key had Peterson decided to tackle conflict such as the Greek-Persian wars.

Apart from that you would be stuck to make any more sensible parallels with the present times (although God knows it won't stop some enthusiasts. After all, if you try hard enough you can find whatever parallels you want in any movie you want. I remember how under communism we used to find analogies and hidden messages in "Star Wars". You might have some idea who we though the bad guys were. It might not have been George Lucas' intention, but apparently we were on a similar wavelength to Ronald Reagan, with his "star wars" and "evil empire").

So while politics doesn't intrude too much on "Troy" unfortunately Hollywood does, particularly towards the end of the movie. This is not in a sense of a "Hollywood ending" (it would be too hard to rewrite "Iliad" to make for a happy ending for everyone concerned), but in a resolution that involves almost all the main characters still left alive by that stage engaging in an apocalyptic showdown, all in scant regard to Homer's original.

Brad Pitt as Achilles steals the show. Sean Bean as the wily Ulysses (or Odysseus as he was known to Greeks) also has a real presence on the screen. Bean, of course, is reunited in "Troy" with Orlando Bloom (Paris), one of his companions from "The Fellowship of the Ring" (in fact, one of the shots where Paris is firing arrows at Greeks is a dead ringer for any of his archery displays in "The Lord of the Rings"; I caught myself looking out for pointy elf ears on the Trojan prince). Always happy to see Aussies excel at the bigger world stage, I have to also note that Eric Bana is quite adequate as Hector, the reluctant warrior. Unfortunately I find it impossible to take him seriously as a dramatic actor. Non-Australians might not be aware of the fact that Bana had made his early show-biz career on Australian television starring in a very successful comedy sketch show. As a consequence, every time I hear his voice on the screen I expect to also hear the explosions of canned laughter. Doesn't do much for an epic. And while we're on the topic of "Troy"'s stars, it transpires that Saffron Burrows , who plays Hector's wife, is an old style English socialist who idolises Tony Benn, Eric Hobsbawm and Noam Chomsky.


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