Monday, March 21, 2005

Strong Spectacle, Weak Story

Netflix has changed our video habits, that’s for sure. For my part, I’m actually watching movies again, about one a week now. Previously I’d given up on renting them at the likes of Blockbuster. It wasn’t so much the hated late fees, though I did hate them on the few occasions I was faced with them. Instead, it was the limited selection I disliked most. Whole walls of the latest confections, little else.

Last week I mentioned the new version of the curiously underrated Alamo. This weekend I sat through Troy. Yuriko is unaccountably fond of Brad Pitt, and so she wanted it added to the Netflix queue. I’m usually up for ancient spectacle, so we added it.

Spectacle it had. Nice battle scenes. Astonishing views of the 1000 ships. I don’t mind the computer-generated aspects of it—movies are illusion, after all. I don’t expect Ray Harryhausen to stop-motion animate each of the 50,000 Greeks and Trojans, not to mention the horse. I didn’t even mind Pitt’s Achilles, at least when he was fighting.

Moreover, it doesn’t have to be all that faithful to Homer and Virgil. It's a movie. Still, it was too much to bump off both Agamemnon and Menelaus during the siege. At the very least Agamemnon has to survive. He has an appointment with death back home in his bathtub, so the The Oresteia can come to pass.

Then there’s the matter of Achilles and Briseis. Fine, make Achilles enlightened on the matter of relations with a captured enemy slave girl. But this romance ruined the ending of the movie. Achilles, the greatest warrior the world has ever seen, dies for love… like a certain stowaway in a certain famous movie about a certain very large ship that sank in 1912. I smell the influence of focus groups.



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