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May 30, 2004

The Film That Launche... Never Mind (Updated, Now With More Loathing!)

Posted by Mike on May 30, 2004 9:10 PM

Had the good fortune of Dunetchka volunteering to babysit this afternoon.

Decided to see "Troy," because it was supposed to be, if nothing else, a big movie. Swords, sandals, epic and whatnot, and if I'm going to pay movie dollars and spend theater time in front of a flick, it needs to be big. Everything else I can catch on DVD.

It's hard to muster the will to devote complete sentences to this turd, so I'll keep it short:

I kept wishing I was at "Return of the King." If nothing else, Peter Jackson knows how to make a big story look and feel big. "Troy" reeks "small." And you might think to muster the will to let it off the hook for the simple reason that the historical Troy is, apparently, sort of small, and that thousands and thousands of years ago, not much of anything in the way of armies and whatnot were probably really huge. If the historic Arthur was a late Roman hill chieftain with more political guile than anything, then maybe Achilles could really be Brad Pitt. But that's not it. The producers tried to make it all look Large, and they just fell flat.

Compare and contrast with "The 13th Warrior," in which the original Big Story in the English language was rendered in its appropriate historical context of a kingdom that amounts to little more than a squalorous shack in the mud and a hero who's little more than a wandering sell-sword. Pick the nits you will with the movie, but it knows how to make the bigness of Beowulf come through. Sure, his struggle is with a bunch of savages in a lonely, wretched, grimy backwater, but the essential heroism of the character shines through. I could watch it for nothing more than the funeral prayer of the Norsemen.

"Troy" runs in the opposite direction, making things look bigger than they probably were, but feel smaller than the epic force of the personalities that drive the tale through the ages. In fact, someone on the scrip-writing team realized this, because they keep reminding us of Achilles' place in history and how he Will Be Remembered. By Brad Pitt.

Stultifying, dull, and when one of the chorus said "You've lost a cousin and now you want to make me lose a cousin... will it never end?" Alison and I started giggling, because our numb asses were telling us it had already never ended eight or nine times over.

The real entertainment came when the couple behind us clucked with delight and surprise at the Greeks coming out of the big horse.

"Oh! Clever!"

Update: There's one scene that keeps bugging me as I think about it, (and I meant to write about it earlier but lost the will) because it represents the lost opportunities: Achilles standing before the gates of Troy, calling for Hector. It could have been the iconic frame of the film, and they had 90% of the ingredients, but the angle they shot it at meant Achilles was swallowed up by the curve of the walls instead of having nothing but horizon behind him. The shot scale was right, the idea was right. But Achilles becomes a black smear against a grayish brown smear when he should have been a silhouette, defiantly standing before an entire city.

One other thing: Sean Bean (Boromir in the Jackson "Lord of the Rings") played Odysseus, and he did o.k. considering he's pretty much reduced to a moping water carrier for Agamemnon. If the production team that did "Troy" followed up with a remix of "The Odyssey," I'd say they found an o.k. guy to do it, but I'd feel sorry for him, because I'm guessing they'd probably haul in Destiny's Child to be the sirens and John Goodman to reprise his role from "O Brother Where Art Thou?" and it'd just be sad.

Second Update:

The standard test for a movie is how I wake up feeling about it the next morning.

This morning I woke up to Alison saying "The cub's awake."

His waking noises were of the non-urgent variety. The kind that imply that maybe, if I'm quick and deft, the binky can go back in the mouth and he'll be good for another 30 minutes. So I did my best imitation of a "glide" across the hall (we don't have enough of a hall to go "down" it, and I'm not really capable of a glide, even when fully awake and limbered up), gently opened the door, popped in the binky, and set about the business of prepping the morning bottle. Ben didn't take long to really wake up, so I fetched him (parent-eye view of a newly awakened Ben) and fed him while watching a Futurama episode from the TiVo.

And on and on. Diaper change, session in the bouncy chair while I washed bottles, session in his brand-new door bouncer thing until he turned away from me accidentally and freaked out at the sudden change in environments, some time spent bouncing him on my knee and making human beatbox noises, the rest of that Futurama episode, Al waking up, and then ninety minutes had gone by and that makes it about time to get another bottle ready and get ready to put him down for his early morning nap, which will run for 45 minutes, an hour tops. If we play our cards right, the second morning nap (which follows second breakfast, which we always say with a Tookish lilt) goes another 45 minutes, and that sets him up for the post-lunch Monster Nap.

Which brings me back to "Troy," which I didn't even really think of until I fired up the aggregator and caught a memepool entry pointing me to Troy in Fifteen Minutes.

Representative sample:

Some Voiceover

ODYSSEUS: If there's one thing we Greek heroes hope, it's that you remember us.


ODYSSEUS: ...That's not exactly what I meant.

And TiFM pointed me at a Salon bit about the inexplicable majesty and grace of a ululating soundtrack diva (daypass registration required).

And that's about what it took to get me to even think of "Troy" this morning. I might have made it to noon without the Internet.