"War is young men dying and old men talking," bellows one Greek leader following a mighty clash in Troy. He might as well be talking about the movie itself. Director Wolfgang Petersen heaps handfuls of clashing titans together with dry speeches on historic nobility. He ends up with a handsome yet long-winded restaging of the war waged between Greece and the warriors of Troy over the hand of lovely Helen (Diane Kruger, a nondescript mixture of Leelee Sobieski and Natalie Portman).
Troy leaves the talking to its triumvirate of Hollywood royalty - Brian Cox, Brendan Gleeson, and Peter O'Toole. The dying is left up to the chiseled and marketable studs - Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, and Brad Pitt. Whenever a member of the veteran trio interacts with a member of the other on screen, it creates a mismatch of talent not even a Trojan Horse could overcome.
Petersen (The Perfect Storm) is no stranger to heroic struggles. His movie looks fantastic, and the director nudges decent performances from his male leads (the women in the cast either are reduced to cheerleader status or completely forgotten, Helen included). Boatloads of CGI extras comprise the director's armies, and he concocts original, battle-inspired money shots - most notably some great balls of fire and the aforementioned Trojan Horse.
For all the pomp surrounding Petersen's massive battles, though, it's the emotional build-up and execution of Troy's one-on-one combat sequences that really raise the hair on our arms. Bana is most successful at bringing a human element to his physical character. His Hector is a reluctant warrior practicing what he preaches when it comes to the honor and courage these men can't stop discussing.
Those unfamiliar with the specifics of Homer's epic The Iliad will find fewer plot gaps in David Benioff's condensed script. It's a daunting task, compressing Homer's poem into one film. What Benioff ends up with is a movie that's both too short and too long. There's not enough time to include the Greek and Roman gods featured so prominently in The Iliad, but Troy has no problem mounting countless speeches about the legend of glorious Achilles (Pitt). Troy wastes so much breath promoting Achilles' strengths that the movie begins to sound like Don King hyping Tyson the week before a pay-per-view event.
In place of gods and goddesses, Troy plugs in the Hollywood equivalent - a golden-haired and Gold's Gym-defined Pitt. Looking very much like the lost Hanson brother, Troy's leading man may be the film's weakest link. Labeled the greatest warrior of his age, Achilles shoulders an arrogance that borders on indifference. In a feeble attempt to create a traditional anti-hero, Pitt casually disrespects authority and wears his "death wish" mentality like a badge of honor. As Troy grows in stature and intrigue, Achilles gradually withdraws. The warrior couldn't look more disinterested, and as a result, the audience eventually begins to feel the same way.
DVD extras include a second disc of goodies, primarily three extensive making-of documentaries and an animated guide to Greek mythology (helpful if you've forgotten your Bulfinch's).
MTV's spring break, 2004.