How Accurate Is: Troy (Film, 2004) Part 1

Troy poster

Hello everyone! I know it has been a while, but hopefully from here on in posts will be somewhat more regular, as the last month has been very busy for me. Today’s post is on the movie Troy, released in 2004, and starring Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom, and Eric Bana. The topic of Troy, as might have been evident from the title, is the Trojan War. This is technically not a historical event, it is true. However, given the length of time the story of the Trojan War has been in circulation, it would seem to be reasonable to hold media which attempts to interpret the story to a standard similar to that applied to historical media. As a film for this site, Troy is an interesting case. Had Troy not been based on the Iliad, it would have been a decent movie, if not a particularly inspired one. Eric Bana as Hector was particularly good in this film, and the battle scenes were excellently choreographed throughout. Furthermore, the script writers for this film did a wonderful job, and almost every line in the movie was highly quotable (“I see fifty thousand men, brought here to fight for one man’s greed”); some, no doubt, were inspired directly by the Iliad.

However, Troy is based on the Iliad, and therein lies the problem. The story veers so heavily from its source material that it becomes unrecognizable; only the bare bones of events remain the same. Because there are so many differences, it is a good idea to divide the differences into four categories:

  1. Condensation
  2. Anti-Mythical Realism
  3. Hollywood Romanticism
  4. Fact-based Omissions

Because the movie is fairly long and there is so much to talk about (particularly with numbers three and four), only the first set of differences will be covered in this post. For more, continue past the link.

The first set of differences is easy to identify. The film begins with Paris sailing off with Helen (in, it must be noted, a remarkably amicable fashion given the borderline kidnapping implications in the Iliad, but that is a point for part 3), and less time than might be expected passes before the fall of Troy. This is not necessarily a mistake on the part of Wolfgang Peterson, the director. The Trojan War, after all, takes place over the course of ten years; nine of those years do not actually appear in the Iliad, and it is implied that little happens in them.[1] Therefore, it is understandable why Peterson might have wanted to excise some of this dead weight. What is less understandable, however, is that nine years, and even most of the tenth year, are removed from the film; many of the scenes that do appear in the film could easily have been shortened to make way for montages or cuts between time periods. This would have made it evident that the siege, as all good sieges do, took longer than the four weeks, at most, presented in the film (twelve days of which are skipped entirely, as the funeral games for Hector).

Poor Diomedes, who did not make it into the film.
Poor Diomedes, who did not make it into the film.

In order to condense a year into four weeks, many of the original characters of the Iliad had to be removed; gone is Diomedes, for example, the Greek hero who wounds two gods, kills numerous Trojan heroes, and generally receives more attention and does a better job than Achilles himself throughout the Iliad.[2] Gone in a similar fashion are the vast majority of heroes on both sides of the conflict, leaving the slimmed down cast (of heroes) of Odysseus, Achilles, Patroclus, Agamemnon, Nestor, and (briefly) Ajax on the Greek side versus Hector, Glaucus, and Paris on the Trojan side. Some of these omissions are understandable, perhaps, but not all of them. While the Iliad noticeably sags under the weight of the names one has to remember, Troy could, perhaps, have done with a few more.

Similarly, many of the most important events of the Iliad have been cut for the film. Gone are the majority of the “Aristeia”, the lengthy fight scenes which provide the majority of the action in the Iliad and which give the heroes a chance to show their prowess, usually aided by a god. In their place, there are three lengthy fight scenes which, though well-choreographed, see remarkably little accomplished; furthermore, due to Hollywood Romanticism, it was difficult to enjoy any fight scene which did not see the Trojans winning.

Overall, though the changes made in the condensation category were the most understandable from any of the categories, the movie would have benefitted from less condensation and more story. The Iliad, after all, is one of the oldest stories known in Europe; it does not need significant modification to be interesting. Out of the other three categories, Anti-Mythical Realism is the least harmful, and will be the subject of the next post. I hope you enjoyed this post, and that you have a good day.

References:

1 University of Pennsylvania. “The Trojan War.” Last modified 2009.

http://www.classics.upenn.edu/myth/php/homer/index.php?page=trojan

2 Duke University. “Homer’s Iliad: Summaries.” n.d.

http://people.duke.edu/~wj25/UC_Web_Site/epic/ilsum.html

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