NOTE: This review-of-sorts was written years ago so please do not be bothered by certain stuff in this post that has to do with time. I have edited it to lessen confusion and correct grammar as I am only human. Oh, and all photos belong to their producers, okay?
Frankly, what I remember about Homer‘s Iliad, I got not from reading the actual book. I learned them from my high school Literature teacher and from a smaller, much thinner book aptly called Greek Mythology, which summarized the story. Throw in The Odyssey, too. It is for this reason that my friends and I are now inclined to read the actual, entire book I have to be able to see which versions about the Fall of Troy, city of the Achaeans (Greeks), is more accurate – the made-for-TV-movie Helen of Troy (Desire is War) (2003) (let’s call that ‘HT‘), or box-office hit Troy (2004)?
Should I depend on what I actually know or remember, however, HT definitely wins in terms of faithfulness to text. Not without errors, though, I should add.
Being both spectacular, comparisons between the two masterpieces are quite inevitable. For starters, people have now begun to argue. Which Helen actress looks more the part and is fit to be called “The Face That Launched a Thousand Ships”: Troy‘s Diane Kruger or HT‘s Sienna Guillory?
One person online even commented that he would never build a ship for one of these women, not even a raft…But there should actually be no contest, if you think about it.
Kruger and Guillory are both very beautiful women. I hardly think any of them would be given the part if she didn’t register very well on camera. The role absolutely called for it, no ifs, no buts. My vote goes to Guillory, though, simply because she has more scenes and more of her is literally seen, pun intended. It is necessary. The title says it all, HELEN of Troy. It is the story about the woman Helen and the Fall of Troy, the fall triggered but not all caused by her beauty. How else would you make the audience believe that she could cause this? She has to look and act and be desirable, make it easy to believe that men all over would adore and desire her.
In Troy, more is also seen of Achilles (Brad Pitt) rather than of Helen. Kruger’s scenes are few and far between, her acting is limited (probably not her fault, still people have harsh remarks about it), and unfortunately yet as expected, she doesn’t have that much chance to share scenes with the real main character in the story, Achilles. Rose Byrne as Briseis has much more challenge and much more fun romancing Pitt.
The story of HT follows the story of a beautiful young girl, Helen of Sparta, whose famous beauty reaches far and wide, something that she starts to see as a kind of curse. She gets kidnapped, finds out the truth about her birth, learns her first lessons in love, loses two loved ones, and is finally won by Prince Menelaus (James Callis), brother to Prince Agamemnon (played very convincingly by Rufus Sewell, just look at those eyes!) who, much earlier, marries her sister and becomes High King.
One night, Helen meets Prince Paris (Matthew Marsden) of Troy. They immediately fall in love and he escapes with her to Troy. Angered, Menelaus follows them to claim back his wife. He threatens to get her at all cost, with his ruthless brother at his side, and other kings and warriors (including the half-God Achilles, played by Joe Montana, and the intelligent Odysseus essayed by Nigel Whitmey). The city does not return Helen and a ten-year war follows, until Troy, deceived by the Trojan Horse, falls to its fiery end.
Troy‘s plot, as compared to HT:
Basically, almost the same plot happens to Troy. However, in this story, the focus is more on Achilles rather than Helen or Troy. [Ed. I am inclined to think that maybe, the title should have been changed to Achilles instead.] It is not really about the Fall of Troy, but the “humanization” of Achilles. Here, he is shown as more human and capable of love and kindness, compared to the other movie’s mean one. He seems more mortal. He does not die with just a single arrow shot on his heel, for one.
Also, considering that it is part of Greek Mythology, Troy does not exactly delve on the idea that it is. No magic or supernatural occurrences at all. His mother does not appear out of nowhere, their conversation does not reveal much of what he supposedly is, which is part-God. He destroys Apollo’s statue and nothing happens to him (although it is not expected). Lastly, Cassandra never, ever appears.
The “humanization” of Achilles has actually made me like HT more. Troy has joined the ranks of war epics. HT, on the other hand, is also a war epic and offers more. By not veering away from the stuff that make mythology mythology, the audience is first made to understand the reason behind the lovers’ betrayal of Menelaus. It is, after all, the fault of the three High Goddesses of Olympus – Hera (Andreea Radutoiu), Athena (Gina Nalamlieng), and Aphrodite (Emily Kosloski) – particularly Aphrodite, who, in their petty concerns, bribes Paris to make him say she is fairest among them. Somehow, the lovers see each other prior to their actual meeting, and then come to believe that the gods and goddesses have willed them to be together.
The inclusion of Cassandra in the story certainly adds “credibility”. She does, after all, figure prominently in the Iliad. Emilia Fox and her large, expressive eyes give justice to her role quite wonderfully. Meanwhile, I am not sure of whether Paris does become a shepherd or not in the book, but the movie makes it all the more reasonable.
However, from what I remember, Paris is not supposed to be very brave and good in combat. On the contrary. Here, Orlando Bloom‘s Paris is more accurate. Marsden as Paris, however, is really much admirable, lovable and, at the risk of getting the ire of people, I say, better-looking. Nothing against Bloom – I love Legolas! But as this is not Lord of The Rings…I mean, hey, he did not even shine in Pirates of the Caribbean, right? Hmnn…must be in the hair.
What’s more, in their desire to concentrate on Achilles and on Pitt’s behind, the producers of Troy have somehow neglected to improve on the story about the Fall of Troy itself, something HT gives attention to. The second explores relationships, whether man-and-woman, father-and-child, husband-and-wife, between siblings,…It’s there.
There are many other things that would be worth pointing out in both HT and Troy. Accuracy, inaccuracies, better or worse portrayals, etcetera. But the point is, whichever version, if you’ll just take it as it is (which is a movie), it would actually be worth watching for. So grab a copy now of Helen of Troy and wait for Troy’s release on video. Evaluate, compare, do whatever! Just as long as you watch them and enjoy!
Have you anything to add, share or debate about with regards to this post? Feel free type them all down in the comment box! I welcome a lively discussion 🙂