Homer's Iliad comes to life in Wolfgang Petersen's adaptation of Troy. It was a daunting task to make the poem into a movie that would suit the tastes of today's audiences. A decade-long war with a huge cast characters and angry Gods is not something that people would probably go for. So now, instead of ten years, the siege lasts what is probably a couple weeks. The Gods are not there, but their names are still referenced. Instead, the movie shifts its focus to many shots of its buffed up, often shirtless male protagonists in bloody combat. Troy is pure spectacle. Computer graphics and a large cast of extras help to create a huge, epic look to the battle scenes. The camera sweeps lower over the clashes, giving a sense of scope to the battle. It's a pretty fun exercise, but like most other big budget films, is pretty brainless. The heart of The Iliad lies with its Gods and their manipulation of the Trojans and the Greeks. Taking them away leaves the story less emotional.

To compensate, Petersen (The Perfect Storm, Air Force One) and adapter David Benioff (The 25th Hour) play up the characters, infusing them making them a little more complex than typical movie characters. Some may appear to complex at times, with some positively unheroic traits about them. Achilles (Brad Pitt, Sinbad, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) is driven by a sense of vanity. He is the greatest warrior, and is participating so that his name will be remembered for thousands of years. Paris (Orlando Bloom, The Return of the King, Pirates of the Caribbean) is a so-so warrior, but also something of a wimp (how that will play with Bloom's legions of adoring female fans has yet to be seen). Prince Paris of Troy steals Helen (Diana Kruger, Not For or Against, My Idol) away from King Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson, Cold Mountain, 28 Days Later). Menlelaus' brother and his brother, Agamemnon (Brian Cox, The Reckoning, X2: X-Men United) decide to bring the Greeks to War for Helen, but mainly to satisfy Agamemnon's desire for conquest.

In Troy, Paris' brother Hector (Eric Bana, Hulk, Finding Nemo) is the pragmatist. He is Troy's best warrior, and wary of the priests' declarations about what the Gods want. His cousin Briseis (Rose Byrne, I Capture the Castle, City of Ghosts) is capture by Achilles, and is developed more mainly to give Pitt some more screen time and to show off his chiseled body. Achilles also despises Agamemnon, yet still fights for glory. The plot is a huge simplification of The Iliad, and works surprisingly well. Everybody's motivations are reasonable, but it's not too clear why Troy doesn't just sit tight behind its imposing walls. The exposition seems to run on a bit at times, and Petersen made some iffy casting choices, notably Pitt. While Pitt is a better actor than a lot of people give him credit for, he is much too modern for Achilles. His highlighted locks and hit-and-miss elocution are distracting at times. However, he does get to have brief scenes with Peter O'Toole (Bright Young Things, The Final Curtain) and Julie Christie (Snapshots, No Such Thing). Lucky Bastard. Aside from a wonderfully resigned performance from O'Toole, Bana comes off the best, and this is his best role since Chopper.

The two have a spectacular one-on-one fight near the end of the film. Petersen is good at action scenes, and he has plenty of scenes here to work with. He introduces many minor characters briefly, long enough to get a sense of who the person is, then kills him off. The battles last just long enough not to be boring, and Petersen pulls everything off deftly. This is especially true given that many people already know who will win between Achilles and Hector, and who will win the war. Troy looks fantastic. The CGI blends well into real sets and aside from a chunk in the middle of the film, the time passes quickly. But all the focus on how the film looks distracts people from a dumbed-down story. Troy is a film to watch, not listen to or think about. The battles are large, the people are impossibly beautiful, and there's not much going on underneath. Now all that's left is for Odysseus (Sean Bean, The Return of the King, Equilibrium) to find a way home.

Haro Rates It: Not Bad.
2 hours, 42 minutes, Rated R for graphic violence and some sexuality/nudity.

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