Friday, December 9, 2016

Brad Pitt Is The Face That Launched A Thousand Twits In "Troy".

"I am the hero of this movie!" "No I am the hero of this movie!": Achilles (Brad Pitt) and Hector (Eric Bana) battle it out in "Troy". Unfortunately, they both end up losing...but not as much as the audience.

Greetings, movie lovers.

Today we travel back in time, to the days of ancient Greece and its seminal conflict, the Trojan War.

According to Homer, who chronicled these events in The Iliad, the Trojan War was a 10-year battle that divided the gods on Mt. Olympus, pitted the Greek armies against the undefeated (and very walled-in) Trojans and forced mere mortals to grapple with the enduring complexities of honor, hubris, revenge and loyalty.

However, to director Wolfgang Petersen, the Trojan War was more like CGI episode of "The Bold and the Beautiful", complete with pious virgins, adulterous couples, duplicitous power brokers, plenty of skin and a hunky hero who affects the worst English accent since Dick Van Dyke in "Mary Poppins."

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you "Troy", a 2004 epic failure that proves one should be wary of Greeks baring gifts...because they often contain hysterically awful movies lurking inside.

Desperate housewife Helen of Sparta (Diane Kruger) decides to run off with a Trojan (Orlando Bloom)...but will probably wind up pregnant anyway.

Eric Bana and Orlando Bloom are Princes Hector and Paris of Troy. In typical soap opera fashion, Hector is the mature, responsible sibling who must perpetually bail out kid bro Paris, a feckless fellow who can't keep his toga tied, if you get my drift.

Paris' latest scrape involves Helen (Diane Kruger), the desperate housewife chained in marriage to Menelaus (Brenden Gill), King of Sparta. While negotiations for a peace treaty between their two kingdoms are being hammered out, Helen and Paris are hammering each other. This is risky business indeed, as Menelaus is a notorious hot-head with a taste for the ugliest caftans this side of TV's "Maude." Still, the attraction between these two dreamy dead-weights could not be denied.

"Every day I was with him, I wanted to walk into the sea and drown," Helen confides to Paris about hubby Menelaus. "Before you came, I was a ghost. I walked and I ate and I swam in the sea, but I was a ghost."

The king is an oafish brute who will blow a gasket when he learns about the affair, but Helen, so resigned to her unhappiness in Sparta, doesn't care.

"I'm not afraid of dying," she sobs to Paris. "I'm afraid of tomorrow! I'm afraid of watching you sail away and knowing you'll never come back!"

"Paris When It Fizzles": Paris of Troy realizes his romance with Queen Helen has all the makings of  a royal disaster.

After such a declaration, Paris comes up with a great idea: why doesn't Helen come away with him to Troy?

"If you come, we'll never be safe," Paris admits. "Men will hunt us! The gods will curse us! But I'll love you!"

So Paris smuggles his Spartan cuddlemate onto the departing Trojan flagship and nobody even notices. They are about half-way out to sea when Paris tentatively informs Hector (who is anxious to get home to his supermodel wife and new son) that they have an extra passenger on board. Hector hits the roof and orders their ship back to Sparta. However, pretty boy Paris announces that if Helen is returned to Sparta, he's going, too. Realizing his knuckle-knob sibling means it, Hector has no choice but to sail back to Troy--but not before he tears his kid brother a new one: "You say you are willing to die for love, but you know NOTHING about DYING and you know NOTHING about LOVE!"

Meanwhile, Menelaus throws an epic hissy fit when he realizes his trophy wife has flown the royal coop. He then stomps over to to see his older sibling Agamemnon (Brian Cox). All full of brotherly concern, Agamemnon agrees to muster his military might in the service of getting Helen back, so the furious Menelaus can then kill her in the privacy of his own castle.

In true soap opera style, however, Agamemnon has an ulterior motive lurking beneath his sibling solidarity. He wants to rule all of Greece and Troy, wouldn't you know, is the final hold-out. Helen's skipping off with Paris provides Agamemnon with the opening he's been looking for. If things go according to plan, Troy will fall, he, Agamemnon, will become king of everything and bro Menelaus will get to avenge his husbandly humiliation. Win-win for everybody. What could possibly go wrong?

Happy Warrior? Agamemnon thinks his foray into Troy will be quick and easy. Little does he know...

It's about this time that Brad Pitt struts on as Achilles, the mightiest warrior Ancient Greece has ever known. Pitt reportedly worked out for six months to be ripped and ready as Achilles, and I must say he looks every inch a Greek god. The problem is Pitt's Achilles is a rather conflicted sober-sides: proud of his fighting skills and the renown they bring him, yet fed-up with endlessly winning battles for vainglorious chicken-hawks like Agamemnon. He's gorgeous, but kind of a wet-blanket. 

It's a total bummer, then, that Agamemnon's plans to beat Troy into submission rely heavily on Achilles and his posse of Myrmidons leading the charge. Since Achilles doesn't like Agamemnon and Agamemnon doesn't like Achilles and, furthermore, Achilles doesn't think a runaway wife is worth all the fuss Agamemnon (and bro Menelaus) are whipping up, it's going to be tough sledding getting him to sign-up. 

Enter Odysseus (the future Ned Stark of "Game of Thrones" Sean Bean). He finds Achilles relaxing at his bachelor pad in the company of his pouty cousin Patroclus (Garrett Hedlund), a young warrior in training. Odysseus knows of Achilles' disinterest in the conflict being planned, but he also understands what truly motivates him--and it isn't sunshine or goodness. Therefore, Odysseus proclaims that "this war will be talked about for ages" and says participating will bring Achilles even more glory than he already enjoys. Still not on board 100%, Achilles agrees to think about it and get back to Odysseus. Then the mighty warrior goes off to chat with his mom, Thetis (the uncredited, but still magnificent Julie Christie).

Thetis tells her son he only has two choices: go into battle with the Greeks and become a famous--albeit-- dead hero or stay home, get married, have some kids and die a contented nobody. Want to guess what Achilles ultimately decides to do?

Now, you're probably wondering what's happened to those crazy kids Helen and Paris, whose adulterous antics created this mess. Well, Hector, Paris and Helen arrive in Troy to a joyous welcome. Wise old King Priam (Peter O'Toole in shoulder pads and a Billy Ray Cyrus mullet) greets everyone graciously, commenting on how cute Helen is ("For once the gossips were right!") and offering comfy rooms. Hector's wife Andromache (Saffron Burrows) shows off their baby son and gives hubby a big fat kiss. Then cousin Briseis (Rose Bryne) enters, announcing that she's now a vestal virgin in the temple of Apollo. Everybody seems happy, believing that the sun god will protect Troy, as he always has.

"Will your husband be joining us soon?": King Priam (Peter O'Toole) greets returning sons Paris and Hector and new daughter-in-law Helen.

Unfortunately, Apollo has other things on his "To Do" list and safe-guarding Troy isn't one of them. So imagine the Trojans collective surprise when Achilles, with his posse of Myrmidons and the Greek army in tow, show up on their shores ready to rumble. The invading soldiers sack Apollo's temple and hack its priests to death; later on, Achilles whacks off the head of the sun god's statue just for kicks. Then the Greeks pitch their tents outside Troy's fabled walls and prepare to wait its citizens out.

The invading forces have come well supplied with sub-plots, which they will use to beat the Trojans (and the audience) into submission. For the sake of brevity (and sanity) here is a run down of the major sub-plots that will eventually bring Troy (and the movie) to its doom:

The "Please Don't Fight Anymore/Can't We Move In With My Mother?" sub-plot involving Hector and wife Andromache, who wants hubby to quit the military, stay home with her and make more babies.

The "I Don't Want A Warrior/I Want A Husband" sub-plot, in which Helen begs Paris not to fight Menelaus outside Troy's gates. That's because she knows Menelaus will boot Paris' hinder up between his shoulder blades (which he does).

The "This Isn't The War I Signed Up For" sub-plot, where Achilles realizes Agamemnon is a big fibber who wants to conquer Troy for himself, not to avenge Spartan honor or strike a blow for men's rights.

The future ex-husband of Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie: Brad Pitt as Achilles.

The "Woman Of Peace/Man Of War" subplot, where vestal virgin Briseis is handed over to Achilles as a "thank you present" from his men. The spunky temple maid grows on Achilles, who promptly quits the war when Agamemnon claims Briseis for himself. Even worse, Agamemnon announces he'll make her give him a bath. EWW!

The "Switcheroo" sub-plot, where it appears Achilles has changed his mind and leads his Myrmidons into battle. Surprise, surprise, it turns out to be Patroclus, who slipped into his cousin's battle armor when nobody was looking. Thus, when Hector slays "Achilles" and it turns out to be Patroclus, it provides a valuable lesson: war is not the time to play dress-up.

The "Eye For An Eye" sub-plot, which finds Achilles vowing to kill Hector for killing Patroclus. Briseis begs Achilles not to do this because Hector is a good egg. Achilles kills Hector anyway.

The "Sad King In Disguise" sub-plot, in which King Priam sneaks into the Greek camp dressed as a dowdy peasant and begs Achilles to release Hector's body so he can give his son a proper funeral. The warrior agrees and even tosses in Briseis free of charge.

The "And You Thought Mr. Ed Was Sneaky" sub-plot, where the wily Greeks build a king-sized horse, leave it outside Troy's gates and then head for home--only they don't! Instead, the Greeks hide inside the horse--I don't want to know how they handled the bathroom situation--and wait till the gullible citizens of Troy push the pony into the town square and party down. Around midnight, the Greeks burst out of the horse, throw open the city gates and proceed to merrily slaughter the hysterical residents of Troy. Buildings burn, people scream, temples topple, blood flows, and Achilles runs around trying to find Briseis.

My Pretty Pony: The citizens of Troy joyously accept the Greek's equine gift and party like its 1999 BC.

Of course, you know how this all ends: Troy lays in ruins, Achilles is shot through the heel and dies, what's left of the Trojan royal family (including Helen) escapes into the wilderness and poor Odysseus, anxious to get back to the wife and kids, endures a lengthy sea voyage that is chronicled in The Odyssey.

 Or, rather, that is how director Petersen decided "Troy" would end. In Homer's The Iliad, events took a far nastier turn. In fact, the historical (and literary) inaccuracies in "Troy" are for more interesting than the flick itself. According to Dr. James Holoka (a professor of Foreign Languages and History at Eastern Michigan University), Achilles was already dead when the Trojan Horse was unveiled; Andromache, Hector's wife, was captured and enslaved and their son was brutally killed; pouty Patroclus was actually older than Achilles and was not his cousin; Brseis did not kill Agamemnon, his wife Clytemnestra handled that chore; Menelaus wasn't offed by Hector; and. most importantly, Menelaus did get Helen back, they reconciled and later had some kids. Other interesting tidbits: coins couldn't have been put over the dead's eyes (as they were with Hector) because they hadn't been invented yet; it was Alexander the Great who unified Greece, not Agamemnon; Menelaus was actually out of town when Helen ran off with Paris; brave Hector actually ran away from Achilles (three times!) before their final battle and Helen, after learning of Paris' death, took up with another Trojan named Deiphobus. (If you are interested in reading more about this subject, check out "Troy: Hollywood vs. Homer" at

I know, I know, when a famous book is made into a movie, the producers often have to cut away meaty chunks of the text to fit the demands of the silver screen. However, in the case of "Troy", the screenwriters didn't just trim here and there with a sharp knife; they used a buzz-saw. The end result was a soapy stew of cardboard characters mouthing platitudes, while totally missing the deeper meaning of the source material. Even worse, viewers were forced to endure Josh Groban warbling an awful theme song--"Remember", which, by the way, nobody remembers--as if they hadn't suffered enough.

So, movie lovers, here is proof, once again, that Junk Cinema isn't always made by earnest yet incompetent amateurs who lack talent, money, taste, experience and working sound equipment. Talented professionals, given gobs of cash and big name stars, are just as capable of creating a cinematic suppository that would make Edward D. Wood, Jr and Ray Dennis Steckler proud.

Therefore, until next time, beware of Greeks bearing gifts, stay away from other men's wives, and remember that immortality isn't all it's cracked up to be. But above all, help me SAVE THE MOVIES!

"Burning Down the House": movie critics were just a merciless to "Troy" as the Greeks were to Troy.