This is a slightly different approach for a war movies month subject. While we now know that there was a historic walled city called Troy, and it was completely burned sometime in the 12th century BC, there isn’t a lot of historic writings on the city of Troy, or a war. There is debate as to whether this war happened, or if it’s mostly a legend. That’s the thing about Bronze Age Greece. Although they were very good at writing philosophical theories and mythology, they weren’t all that meticulous about recording their actual history. Even so, in ancient writings, the Trojan War is considered to be among the most important events of Greek history.
Regardless of the historic reality behind the Battle of Troy, 2004’s Troy came around a time when epic historic war movies were at their peak – in the aftermath of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Kingdom of Heaven released the year after Troy, and while that movie’s theatrical cut is mediocre, its director’s cut is a masterpiece.
Despite the debate about the historicity of the Trojan War, this movie strikes a good blend between looking at the general myth and finding a realistic approach to the actual battle. The end result is an overall profitable movie, earning $497.4 million on a $175 million budget. It also received a number of nominations at big award ceremonies, including Best Costume Design at the Academy Awards, a number of actors received nominations, and the Director’s Cut specifically won several awards after its release in 2007. That’s the version I’ll be looking at.
I couldn’t find a whole lot of behind the scenes details on this movie. Most of the movie was filmed on either the island Mediterranean nation of Malta or Mexico, specifically the resort city Cabo San Lucas. The filming in Mexico was delayed a couple of weeks because of Hurricane Marty. The Malta locations included Fort Ricasoil, a 17th century fortress built by the Order of Saint John, and Mellieha, a small tourist town in North Malta.
The music was initially composed by Gabriel Yared. He worked on the score for over a year, having been personally hired by Director Wolfgang Peterson. However, the test screen reactions to the incomplete score was negative. Instead of allowing Yared to rework the music, he was fired in less than a day. James Horner (Titanic, Amazing Spider-Man, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids) took over, and composed the replacement soundtrack in 4 weeks. Both versions of the soundtrack included Macedonian singer Tanja Tzarovska performing background vocals. Horner also collaborated with Josh Groban and Cynthia Well to write “Remember Me”, to be included with the film credits.
Some major character fates were changed from the original myth, especially the fates of Paris, Helen, Agememnon, Achilles, and Menalaus. For example, despite the Achilles tendon literally being named after Achilles, who was a mythical fighting legend with only that tendon as a weakness, he actually survived the original myth, which ended with Achilles killing Hector. It’s other sources that state he was killed by Prince Paris.
This movie features a star-studded cast, both old and young (at the time). Brad Pitt (I’m surprised that I haven’t reviewed a movie with him yet) plays Achilles. Eric Bana (Black Hawk Down, 2003’s Hulk, Star Trek 2009) portrays Prince Hector, the greatest warrior among the Trojans and commander of their armies. Orlando Bloom (Legolas in Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, Kingdom of Heaven) plays Prince Paris, Hector’s younger brother. Sean Bean (Boromir in Fellowship of the Ring, 006 in Goldeneye) plays Odysseus, King of Ithaca, in a rare role where he actually survives in a movie where most major characters die. Brian Cox (X2: X-Men United, Red) plays Agamenmon, king of the united Greek states, while Brendan Gleeson (Kingdom of Heaven, Alistor Moody in the Harry Potter films) plays Menalaus, King of Sparta and Agamenmon’s younger brother.
To round out the cast, Diane Kruger (Joyeux Noel) plays Helen, the catalyst for the Trojan war. Rose Byrne (small role in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, Moira McTaggart in X-Men: First Class and Apocalypse), and Tyler Mane (Sabertooth in X-Men, and retired wrestler) plays Ajax, the second greatest warrior of the Greeks in the Trojan War. Last, but certainly not least, Peter O’Toole (Lawrence of Arabia, Supergirl, Ratatouille) portrays Priam, King of Troy.
Overall, the movie received mixed reviews, earning a 54% on Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 6/10. Roger Ebert gave the movie 2 out of 4, saying “Pitt is modern, nuanced, introspective; he brings complexity to a role where it is not required.” That seems to be the general consensus. Most of the cast is praised for their roles, especially Pitt, but the movie itself is heavily criticized for being a mindless action movie, even if the duel between Achilles and Hector got widely praised. Even Pitt and O’Toole criticized the film. O’Toole apparently walked out of the film fifteen minutes into a screening, slamming the director as “a clown”. Years later, Pitt said in an interview, “I had to do Troy because … I pulled out of another movie and then had to do something for the studio.” “It wasn’t painful, but I realized that the way the movie was being told was not how I wanted it to be. I made my own mistakes in it … somewhere in it, Troy became a commercial kind of thing. Every shot was like, ‘Here’s the hero!’ There was no mystery.”
The director’s cut is generally seen as a much better movie. It expands on character motivations, shows more violence (especially during the burning of Troy and how brutal it may have been), and more details on the conflicts between Troy’s religious priests and their military commanders.
As for myself, I saw Troy in theaters, and a couple more times after my brother bought the DVD. The theatrical cut is a bit of a mindless action movie, and while it’s good for that, and you can see the budget on the screen, it’s nothing special. The director’s cut, while not a masterpiece, is a big improvement. It goes into a lot more detail with character motivations. That in itself improves the performances, which again are strong overall, but you don’t feel the effort when so many character moments are cut out from the theatrical cut. The expanded debates between the priests and the commanders, especially Hector and his king father, very much improve the film’s balance between the somewhat historical realistic approach and the Greek Mythology.
There are actually a couple things cut out from the Director’s cut that I wish they kept in, like a scene where Helena is tending to Paris’s wounds, female vocals are often cut from the soundtrack, and of course, Groban’s song is removed from the credits. There’s also a strange moment where they add some of 2001 Planet of the Apes’ soundtrack to the fight between Achilles and Hector. The scene works better with the original soundtrack, and would arguably work better without music period.
With all that said, just a heads up in case you care, there is a bit of nudity added to the director’s cut not present in the theatrical cut.
Troy isn’t what I would call an amazing film, but the Director’s Cut is worth checking out. The Director’s Cut improves the film enough to stand out from an overly crowded historical epic war genre from the early 2000s, while also touching on Ancient Greece, a genre that Hollywood seems to struggle with making good movies about.
Next week, I’ll be looking at a much more modern war. That and it’s a movie that shouldn’t be taken all that seriously. How non-serious is this movie? You’ll see. Next month, I’ll celebrate Christmas by making fun of 4 or 5 very cheesy Christian movies, starting with Second Glance. On the week closest to Christmas, I’ll most likely look at Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas, which is quite possibly the most pro-commercialism Christmas movie of all-time, despite supposedly being a Christian movie. As for next year, I’ve got a lot of ideas, but for now, January will be Western Movie Month.