Pale Wire (Popscene)

Saturday, June 19, 2004

A "Little Illiad"

Daniel Mendelsohn has written the most literary review of Wolfgang Peterson's craptacular epic Troy we'll probably ever see.

If, like me, you don't know dick about classical literature, you'll find it very informative.

Click here for a look.

And so Troy goes, flitting from one event to the next, from one undernourished conceit to another, anxious simply to get to the inexorable end that we all know is coming and for which the producers, eager to show what nearly two hundred million dollars can buy in special effects, are clearly impatient. But there's nothing to hold Troy together, apart from its lumbering momentum to the narrative finish line, following the outlines of the Greek legends while gutting them of any sense or meaning: no heroic code to motivate the characters, no ideal of honor or glory compelling enough to warrant the violence that we keep seeing, no relationship (other than first-cousinage) dramatized sufficiently to explain the homicides and revenges that the filmmakers nonetheless dutifully represent. The movie manages, in the end, to be (literally) a textbook example of everything an epic shouldn't be, which is to say both tedious and overstuffed at the same time. Or, to use the correct Aristotelian diction (for of course Aristotle could have predicted all this), "too extensive and impossible to grasp all at once," but also "far too knotty in its complexity."

Even though I went into the theater with a fraction of Mendelsohn's knowledge about Greece, my reactions were much the same. As he says in his piece, it feels so "hollow."

On the other hand, my dad loved it.