I watched this film when it first came out. Luckily, it was a free screening at SDSU for students so I only lost the 3 hours of my life, and not $8.00. That would have only added insult to injury.
I always like to use Troy as an example of a horrible literature-to-film adaptation. In 2004 I hadn’t even read the Iliad yet but from taking a Classical Drama course, where I learned about the Trojan war through Aeschylus’ Oresteia trilogy, I knew the film was lacking.
So, it’s now 2008 and I decided to watch the film again, to give it another try. I’ve since read The Iliad, The Odyssey, and the Aeneid multiple times.
The second time around was actually more excruciating than the first. There are so many narrative inconsistencies between the “facts” of the Trojan War, and what Peterson presents to the viewer. A few are listed below:
-Patroklos, in the Iliad, is described more like an uncle or friend to Achilles, but in the film he is a nephew of Achilles.
-Ajax is killed almost immediately in the film, but in the narrative of the war “myth” itself, he commits suicide after Achilles’ death.
-The time frame presented in the film makes it appear to have a diegetic time frame of about a month (who can tell really), when in actuality the war lasted between 9-10 years.
-No mention of Helen’s daughter (Hermione) in the film.
-Hektor refers to knowing something’s up with Paris on the boat when they were sailing home from Sparta, by saying something to the effect of “when you were ten years old, you came to me with that same guilty look when you stole father’s horse” or something like that; when in actuality, Paris and Hektor didn’t grow up together because Paris was techically an orphaned son of Priam and Hecuba who came into their lives much later, after the “Judgment of Paris” where he chose Aphrodite (because his prize from her was Helen!) over Hera and Athena. No mention of that in the film. It makes it seem like they grew up together. They didn’t.
-Briseis kills Agamemnon in the film, which is entirely WRONG because Agamemenon is killed by his wife (Clytemnestra) and her lover (Aegisthus) when he returns home after the 9-10 year war was over.
-Hektor kills Meneleus in the film, which is wrong also because we know from the Odyssey that Meneleus and Helen leave Troy and get detained in Egypt for a while, and don’t return home until 7 years after the end of the war.
-Agamemnon kills Priam in the film, which is wrong. Priam is actually killed by Neoptolemus/Pyrrhus (a son of Achilles). Matter of fact, it is a NASTY death for Priam at the hands of Neoptolemus–Virgil documents it well in the Aeneid.
-The viewer is led to believe Achilles has no children (because his mother, Thetis, in the beginning of the film) says he COULD HAVE a wife and kids, OR fame and infamy. It’s true Achilles chooses a short but infamous life over a long and happy life, but he already has kids–we know this because one of his kids, Neoptolemus/Pyrrhus is old enough to fight by the time the war has ended (9-10yrs after it started).
-And, at the end of the film when Paris is helping usher the Trojans out of the city through the tunnel, he looks to a young boy who is helping an old man along and says: “What’s your name?” The boy answers “Aeneas.” And Paris gives him the Sword of Troy and tells him to protect his people. This interaction makes one believe that Paris and Aeneas had never seen each other in their lives when in fact Aeneas and Paris were cousins. Aeneas was a warrior in the Trojan War and was married (to Andromache) and had a son (Ascanius/Iulus). At least Peterson got the “old man” on his arm right–that being his father Anchises whom Aeneas bore on his back out of the city in the myth.
Well, those are just a few of the narrative inconsistencies in the film. All of which, and more, severely inhibit the enjoyment of this film the second time around. I was weary to watch it again but thought I’d give it another try. That didn’t work very well. I have to admit that some of the worst films I’ve seen star Brad Pitt–Babel and Troy are just bad films overall.
But I have to say the worst part about this film is that overall it is “rewriting” history; granted, it’s “mythical” history, but still. What we have is a Hollywood appropriation of a set of classical tales. When such “truths” are rewritten and represented to the modern audience, it rings of cultural manipulation. What’s the point? Why? One can only assume that in 2004, Wolfgang Peterson was doing his best to allegorize our own world conflicts at the time (that are still going on today). And while I can appreciate a certain degree of artistic manipulation, an absolute bastardization of some of the key elements of the stories results in a total annihilation of Peterson’s ethos.
As the film’s final credits roll, a phrase comes up to the effect of “Loosely based on Homer’s Iliad.” I think I’d rewrite that to say “Barely based on any Truth at all.”
I will say that Eric Bana as Hektor was appealing and appropriate. Paris was presented as a cowardly weakling, which is true. And Peter O’Toole as Priam was compassionately played.