5 out of 10


One of the World's Oldest Stories of Futility

It's Summer Blockbuster time! And Warner Brothers brings us one of the oldest stories in the world with one of the most expensive films in the world - the story of the Trojan War. Indeed, the Trojan War is so old it makes the Bible look like the lastest paperback out in Chapters and the Spannish Inquisition look like current affairs.

And why does the story of this "storm-in-a-teacup" war, so haunt our civilization, 3200 years later? Have a Trojan Horse virus working like a Trojan to find an Achilles heel in your system's defences? Even in our everyday Hi-Tech speech of the 21st Century, the Trojan War haunts us, and remains one of the most influential Wars of all time, yet Troy was a tiny, obscure, remote city that was detroyed by a primative army at a time, so long ago, that the Mammoth had only just become extinct a few centuries earlier, 99.99% of the world still lived in caves and even the Inuit had still failed to find Canada. The answer is a commonly overlooked development: POETRY. Whilst we just laugh it off as "ART", this was a vast leap forward in Bronze Age information technology, for its system of rhyming and repetitive clauses allowed news to be easily remembered and passed on to other poets and ultimately to the common man. Hence, Homer's "Illiad" reports not just the key people, but immense detail about the unfolding drama amongst the ordinary citizens and soldiers to whom we can even relate, with jealousy, tragedy, grief, setbacks, betrayal and above all the sheer pointlessness of war... all for the first time in history.

So, for all of you facing divorce and fear a messy settlement, think yourselves fortunate to be in this century and start valuing the invention of the marriage "counsellor". After years of being a playboy, Paris (Orlando Bloom) finally finds his true love, the intensely beautiful Helen (Diane Kruger). Unfortunately, she is already married, so Paris simply and tacklessly elopes with her. Sadly, Paris is also the youngest son of the King of Troy and Helen's husband is the King of a Greek city state and Paris is the youngest son of the King of Troy and Helen's husband is Menalaus, the King of a Greek city state and her brother-in-law is a powerhungry Empire building King, Agamemnon, so quickly politics becomes entwined in an already explosive situation, so this stressful situation is resolved the Bronze Age way - invasion, war and mass rape & slaughter by the supporters of the two camps.

Although Brad Pitt as Achilles is gaining all the front page coverage the film has, there are many others of note in the film. For instance, Peter O'Toole turns up, typecast as a senile King Priam of Troy, whilst Brian Cox is certainly gaining plenty of experience at playing doomed men of power, having also played the father in "The Ring" and Goering at "Nuremberg", and is resplendent as Agamemnon. In particular, Eric Bana, a virtual unknown is superb as the reluctant Trojan hero, Prince Hector.

Despite truly magnificent battle scenes, (filmed in Malta and Mexico), outstanding attention to historical detail (such as the black sail that Achilles sails under) and hand-to-hand fighting that can put any "Mortal Combat" game to shame, the film fails, precisely because of the story. Despite a masterful slimming down of a war that actually spanned 10 years, it's concepts of glory fall on deaf ears as, by our standards of the 21st Century. For us, it is the bad guys who win. It's just like watching an ending to a film where Hitler's Panzers are victoiously rolling through the streets of London or the Japs drop the nuclear bomb on San Diego and the USA surrenders. It all leaves us siding with the loosers who are worth little simpathy for their stupidiy, as the endless line of heros queue up to get a sword in their guts. Unlike "Gladiator", you just don't feel sympathy for any of these macho thugs, except perhaps, Hector, leaving the whole thing dragging its way through its 2 hours and 46 minutes.

Troy is also the world capital of irony. The film accurate the records a moment most might miss, the passing of the sword that founded Troy to Aenaus (Frankie Fitzgerald) by Paris. In real life (or rather legend!), he took the survivors and the sword and built a new village, far, far away, on the banks of the River Tiber, that would grow to become...ROME, whose empire would conquer all Greece a few hundred years later. Much later again, in the 20th Century, the lesson had clearly not been learnt with the Trojan War being almost precisely refought in the First World War: the British Empire sent the Australian and Kiwi ANZAC soldiers to land on almost exactly the same beaches as the Greeks did with almost the same idea, to beseige and capture Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire just a few miles away. With almost no prior contact with the Turks beforehand, the average Aussie had little or no idea what it was all about but simple dutifully engaged in some of the most costly, protracted and futile bloodbaths of the War. And so history repeats.

It is, though, quite poigniant that this is also the prologue to an apocalypse, for not only did this War see the obvious destruction of Troy itself, but the ten years of economic stress on the overpopulated, resource exhausted ultra-ancient Greece was to result in an almost total collapse of civilisation for many decades, a sort of miniature Dark Ages when almost every city in Greece ended up being ransacked by hordes of raiders. Maybe we should take note!

A Futile Film about Futility of War

Film Critic: Robert L Thompsett