May 14, 2004

It's a Good Thing Homer Was Blind ...

GAD. NOW THAT EVERYONE has let the cat out of the bag about "Troy," we realize we really wouldn't enjoy it all that much if we went to see it. This is unfortunate.

You see, when we saw "The Passion of the Christ," we noticed that "Troy" was one of about four films featured during the previews to the former movie. As we were impressed with such gutsiness -- this is back when everyone was condemning The Passion without seeing it -- we thought we would reward the distributors by plunking down $8 when "Troy" finally came out. Sadly, time has worn away our resolve, and the bad reviews we've seen of "Troy" basically finished it off.

Now, we note that Emily Jones has put the following question to the readers of her excellent site: "Is it acceptable for screenwriters and directors to take liberties with original works of fiction when translating them to film or is this too objectionable? Why?"

Our answer to this question is that it is acceptable for moviemakers to take some liberties with original works of fiction. However, they must be cautious; there is a difference between adapting -- say -- any Robert Ludlum novel, and adapting FRICKING HOMER for the silver screen. With the former, they can do anything they like as long as the actors show enough emotion to convey that Ludlum writes in all italics. With the latter, only time constraints should result in leaving things out, and they ought generally stick to the story as written.

Now, when we say "generally stick," we do see reason for exception. Including the Fall of Troy, as the reviewers say the filmmakers did, makes sense in terms of making a movie audiences will want to watch. On the other hand, in the old literature the Fall of Troy was not exactly pleasant. Basically, the poets wrote that it was conducted in such a downright wrong manner that it caused scandal and inquiries and all manner of chastisement. (Of course, this set up the stage for all the later poems, but never mind).

Anyway, our point is that the filmmakers screwed it up, as the New York Post's Jonathan Foreman has pointed out so well. They screwed up the Trojan Horse bit and they kept certain characters alive while killing off others and did far more than we have time to relate. Mr Foreman's done a fine job in this regard; see here for some more choice excerpts.

Still, we must admit we are disappointed to see that no critic has gone nuclear in condemning the film, simply because there is one condemnation so clever and so obscure that it fits perfectly for this occasion. While our failure to see the movie prevents us from offering it as criticism, we would like to offer it up to any critic who needs a quick and snappy review for the film, should they think the moviegoing public ought not watch it.

Now, readers who have studied the classics may be familiar with a lesser Greek poet known as Stesichorus. Stesichorus lived in the 7th and 6th centuries before Christ. He is little known today, but we personally believe he may be the first established curmudgeon in Western history. Sadly, only fragments of his poetry remain. But if the reviewers are correct, there is one fragment in particular which sounds quite fitting for this movie:

The story is not true.
You never sailed on the benched ships.
You never went to Troy.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at May 14, 2004 11:32 PM | TrackBack

Ben - someone left a comment on my site about this very issue, thought you would find it interesting. Basically, the person's theory is that it is okay to do ANYTHING if it WINS. If it is a SUCCESS, then it's fine. (He gives multiple examples). But if, like with Troy, you take liberties with the well-known tale, and THEN it is a failure: all bets are off.

I guess I agree.

Posted by: red at May 15, 2004 10:30 AM

The idea that this adaptation was intended to be an adaptation of the Iliad--which, as disappointingly few of the negative reviews have noted, begins and ends in medias res, not covering the choice of Paris, nor the Trojan horse, nor the death of Achilles--is mistaken. It's more an attempt to present the historic events on the ground which might have formed the framework for Homer's creation. With that in mind, it's an interesting and enjoyable epic, sans endless repetitions of "godlike Achilles" and "wine dark sea".

I've seen it twice, and I think Foreman's wrong. Watch it and form your own opinion.

Posted by: Kerry at May 18, 2004 12:16 PM