By Mike Derderian
Far ahead into the mist shined an armor.
Terror prevailed for it was the Immortal.
Soldered by Volcan’s burning hammer.
Achilles wore his gift festooned with laurel.
With poor Patroclus being cast into Hades.
Not withstanding a waste of so gentle a youth,
Thetis in fear that Styx would fail her schemes,
A shield so strong for her son she ordered in ruth.
Alas, all men alike have flaws, mortals or gods,
Veiled with a shield or bare, the weakness surpass.
No longer wanton of war or shedding Trojan bloods,
Taken by Polyxena’s beauty a truce was no longer impasse.
Too late, for Paris’ venomous arrow was flung,
Avenging a city and a brother; treachery may it be.
Into the un-immaculate heel of our hero fixt it hung,
And fate’s emissary arrived from afar with all but glee.
No don’t be alarmed Cinerama is not turning into a poetry column; its just a transitional phase, I assure you. However, may I warn thee that I am planning to discuss the Merchant of Venice no sooner than you’d spell Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious—which means ‘Wonderful’ (Reference: Mary Poppins).
Affected by Wolfgang Peterson’s latest blockbuster, the 2004 Troy, which is based on Homer’s epic poem the Illiad, it seems that what inspired Achilles’ heroism rubbed on me while watching the film in the form of poetry—with one downside, which is I certainly didn’t end up with Brad Pitt’s physique. Boo hoo hoo!
With a star-studded cast of actors—like Brad Pitt (Achilles); Orlando Bloom (Paris); Eric Bana (Hector); Diane Kruger (Helen); Saffron Burrows (Andromache); Rose Byrn (Briseis); Brian Cox (Agamemnon); Sean Bean (Odysseus); Brian Gleeson (Menelaus); Garrett Hedlund (Patroclus); and the inspiring Peter O’Toole as old king Priam, and Julie Christie as Achilles’ mom Thetis—Troy became more than your ordinary epic drama.
Troy’s huge success doesn’t only lie in the cast, but in the epic itself. And in order to appreciate this epic, one has to read it in verse, as it was originally produced four thousand years ago by Homer, the blind enigmatic Greek poet; persevering the names of all the heroes who fought in the 10-year battle, known as the Trojan War.
The Trojan War—unlike present day’s wars—was triggered all because of a woman, whose name was Helen and whose beauty was so divine that they say a thousand ships sailed all the way from Greece to reclaim her.
One thing though, imagine the Greeks’ faces when they find weapons of mass destruction in Troy instead of Helen herself—wouldn’t that be the ultimate Hollywood spoof?
When the blind aging poet Homer wrote the Illiad, a man’s name was measured by his deeds in war, courage and honor, a point well expressed in the film’s beginning, when Achilles was summoned to fight one huge killing machine.
“The Thessalonian you’re fighting, he’s the biggest man I’ve ever seen. I wouldn’t want to fight him,” said the little messenger boy to Achilles, who in return answered snobbishly, “That is why no one will remember your name.”
Hollywood, as usual, tends to mix various elements (heritage) from different parts of the world in one production to create an all time blockbuster such as Troy. Take for example Achilles’ fighting techniques, which were actually a mixture of Chinese marshal arts in the spear fighting scenes; wrestling and Capoeira (an Afro-Brazilin marshal arts dance form) in the agile assault and foot moves scenes—which reminded us all of the phrase, “I fly like a butterfly but I sting like a bee,” only this time it’s Achilles.
The mano-y-mano fight scenes were great and intense, where both Pitt and Bana illustrated their excellent skills as emotionally charged heroes in a mortal combat; however, Peterson lost the edge in the mass-fight sequences that lacked focus and failed to present a clear view of what the audience actually was anticipating.
Peter O’Toole—who had more of a lead role in Troy than the one given to 60’s ‘sex-symbol’ Julie Christie—once again proved his supremacy as a performer when he depicted Priam, especially in the tear-inducing scene in Achilles’ tent. Why? I’m not going to tell you; go see the movie, its still playing.
Peterson’s direction and David Benioff’s screen adaptation of Homer’s work were true in the spirit sense of the whole poetic epic—despite their deliberate use of anachronism to ensure that one of the fan-worshipped actors will be alive and kicking until the end of the movie.
Still, we have to admit that Brad Pitt, as usual, succeeded in depicting the Greek legend and managed to run the gauntlet in every aspect, whether it was fitness, physique and, most of all, a powerful performance (a mixture of Legends of the Fall and Seven’s fervor).
Watching Troy will offer you more than just a bunch of Greeks sneaking inside a wooden horse, a lot of nudity scenes and a fiery romance between Bloom and Kruger, it will give you a few good laughs as well.
Especially, when the argument about Achilles’ immortality is summed up with the hero’s own words when the little boy inquires, “They say you can’t be killed.”
“Well, I wouldn’t be bothering with the shield then, would I?” answers Achilles.