The Iliad explodes in its first lines like a spurting artery:
“The rage of Achilles — sing it now, goddess, sing through me the deadly rage that caused the Achaeans such grief and hurled down to Hades the souls of so many fighters, leaving their naked flesh to be eaten by dogs and carrion birds, as the will of Zeus was accomplished.” -Book 1, The Iliad, Homer
Unfortunately, the BBC version of the story is a slow burn that just barely gets to a boil in the last episode.
There are good moments, but overall, I found it forgettable. It barely kicked me in the guts, stirred my blood, or gave me goosebumps. There were very little ‘rewind that‘ moments for me and the reasons are explained below.
David Gyasi who played Achilles, was flat as Coke set out on the counter overnight. This is especially true for a story that is primarily about Achilles! It hardly captured the sense of standing in the presence of a titan as presented in the Iliad. When Homer describes Achilles in the Iliad, you understand why he has become the mythological archetype of the warrior.
-“Like a bearded lion . . . gripped by piercing rage” (18.369, 374).
-“…inhuman fire raging on,” “like a frenzied god of battle trampling all he killed” (20.554, 558).
-“like something superhuman” (21.256).
-As he is approaching Hector the Iliad describes him this way:
“…Achilles was closing on him now like the god of war, the fighter’s helmet flashing, over his right shoulder shaking the Pelian ash spear, that terror, and the bronze around his body flared like a raging fire or the rising, blazing sun.” (22.157-61)
-“Would to god my rage, my fury would drive me now, to hack your flesh away and eat you raw” (22.408-9).
Re: The Men
As for some of the other men characters: I thought Priam, Odysseus and Agamemnon, then maybe Paris, were the only believable and memorable ones. I felt the ‘rage’ of Agamemnon far more than Achilles or even King Menelaus who lost Queen Helen to her paramore Paris of Troy! Ajax was ok, but not near enough screen time for me and most of the other men characters were competent but not ancient heroes that moved me.
Re: The Women
The love or lust didn’t convince me or make me swoon or fantasize about losing all the world for the beauty of one female face. The other female characters were awkward, odd, broody, butch or mere baggage to be handled. Andromache, Hector’s wife, played by Scottish actress Chloe Pirrie was my least favorite female character, she was not a woman I could see the mighty Hector sacrificing all to protect and honor. The women of the Iliad moved nations, and drove men to give up their lives to regain or protect, none of the women in this version of the story seemed to fit that category.
Re: Nudity and Sex
There was less nudity and sex than I thought was going to be introduced in this post Game of Thrones world but that is not to say it wasn’t present. It seems Netflix is jealous of HBO and is bent on pushing the line for more and more gratuitous sex in their productions. TVMA is the dominate rating for most of its adult shows these days. So be forewarned you will be disappointed if you thought you could expect a show more like the other classic BBC offerings, this one has the America appetite in mind.
Re: The Violence
For a story that takes place in the throes of battle, this was a very tame rumble more than a cataclysm, except during the last episode. There were only a few battle scenes that resembles the visceral and ominous depictions and descriptions of the Homeric tale. I am sure we are way too desensitized to violence in our entertainment appetites but in this tv/movie culture, depictions of war, modern or ancient have to engaging and filmed well to maintain interest. Troy offered up a lackluster amount of battle that made me longing for much more. If Hobbit movies outdo the Iliad, than someone needs to go back to film school.
The last issue I would like to address is the direction the script took with exploring the idea that Achilles and Patroclus were gay lovers as well as battle hardened, blood brothers of war.
I am not someone who has a hard time with diversity or inclusivity in film. I get the arguments being made in popular culture about identifying and including heroes and heroines of various kinds to empower and encourage those who often feel left out of stories or depictions of the real world. I may not approve of or support those choices or lifestyles but I do not think the whole world is expected to look or act like me or according to my own faith and values. That said, I am not a fan of historical revisionism or politically correct ideologically driven agendas. When not appropriate to the story, all of that heavy handedness weighs down the film and makes the issues of the day or the director’s focus eclipse the art. It’s like a third party shouting over a couple having a conversation, it’s annoying, distracting and obnoxious no matter how well intentioned.
In reference to the issue of presupposed homosexual insinuations and undertones in the lliad, I will point to C.S. Lewis’ thoughts in his chapter on ‘Friendship’ in his book ‘The Four Loves.
“Those who cannot conceive of Friendship as a substantive love but only as a disguise or elaboration of Eros betray the fact that they have never had a Friend.” –C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
“Finally, the exaltation of instinct, the dark gods in the blood; whose hierophants may be incapable of male friendship.”-Friendship, The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis
“This imposes on me at the outset a very tiresome bit of demolition. It has actually become necessary in our time to rebut the theory that every firm and serious friendship is really homosexual. The dangerous word really is here important. To say that every Friendship is consciously and explicitly homosexual would be too obviously false; the wise-acres take refuge in the less palpable charge that it is really—unconsciously, cryptically, in some Pickwickian sense—homosexual. And this, though it cannot be proved, can never of course be refuted. The fact that no positive evidence of homosexuality can be discovered in the behavior of two Friends does not disconcert the wiseacres at all: “That,” they say gravely, “is just what we should expect.” The very lack of evidence is thus treated as evidence; the absence of smoke proves that the fire is very carefully hidden. Yes—if it exists at all. But we must first prove its existence. Otherwise we are arguing like a man who should say “If there were an invisible cat in that chair, the chair would look empty; but the chair does look empty; therefore there is an invisible cat in it.”
A belief in invisible cats cannot perhaps be logically disproved, but it tells us a good deal about those who hold it. Those who cannot conceive Friendship as a substantive love but only as a disguise or elaboration of Eros betray the fact that they have never had a Friend. The rest of us know that though we can have erotic love and friendship for the same person yet in some ways nothing is less like a Friendship than a love-affair. Lovers are always talking to one another about their love; Friends hardly eves about their Friendship. Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; Friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest. Above all, Eros (while it lasts) is necessarily between two only. But two, far from being the necessary number for Friendship, is not even the best. And the reason for this is important.”
In an era when we have so many men and women among us who have grown up during war and/or served in it, it’s unfortunate that the deep themes explored in the Iliad surrounding soldier life, get reduced to rage around the death of a supposed lover.
Men know (or need to know) they can love a brother without the intrusion of sexuality. In fact it is essential in my understanding of men and soul work to provide and facilitate the bonding of brotherhood in order to help men develop holistically and healthfully. Men need mature abilities to differentiate feelings, desire, impulse and thought in their inner lives and actions. Equating or injecting the homosexuality issue into the story hurts more than helps in my estimation. I know that would be contested in popular culture from the angle of someone who is coming to their own conclusions about their sexuality but as a conservative traditionalist, that’s my perspective. Men need to learn to love their children, their wives and their brothers, but in different ways, I think C.S. Lewis’s book helps with that education.
Re: The Soundtrack
It stunk, especially compared to the work of composer James Horner in the 2004 movie: Troy. (https://youtu.be/8YT3jTtLbb0)
In closing, I would give ‘Troy: The Fall of a City’ 3 out of 5 stars. It is worth watching and entertaining enough but I doubt many would watch it twice.
P.S. I would add that one of those stars is given in response to the performance of Odysseus and the hope that his storyline was a set up for a crack at ‘The Odyssey’. I think his character development and the agony of the role he played was salivating for a return performance.