Fucking Hollywood or Why I Hated the Fuck Out of ‘Troy’

Hollywood’s studio ranks are staffed by execs with MBAs and blow where their brains should be. That in itself explains why so many choices made in the industry are so bewildering. With that said, one thing that kind of pisses me off is the fact that ancient myths and folklore aren’t given a fair shake by these guys.

It’s a known “fact” that you can’t come up with an original story. Everything is merely a variant on some outline of plots that were written millennia before the invention of the steam engine. The best stories however, are those that are tried and tested: the ones that have been told and retold time and again across the ages because there’s something universally resonant about them. Many of these stories are fairy tales and myths, and their influence is so great that if you were to look at a good chunk of modern storytelling, you could see the roots of these latter works in the details of what came before.

So back to Hollywood. Studio execs want something tried and tested. They want established properties, hence all the attempts to create franchises from comic books and erotica for suburban housewives who want to be kinky (but not too kinky). So why the lack of love for the myths of old? Because when you think about it, the ingredients for a blockbuster are all there. Want a classic love story? We got Tristan and Isolde for lovers of star-crossed affairs. Want an epic fantasy involving dragons and the badasses who slay them? We got Garshasp to supply your needs. Want a war filled with badass soldiers and demons on both sides with a scale makes anything Peter Jackson wrings out of a computer look pitiful in comparison? Read the Mahabharata and get ready to show off just how cultured you are to the plebeians around you. Hell, wanna read a story about a dude getting a magical spear literally shoved up his ass? Then I suggest you check out the Ulster Cycle. There’s good reason as to why J.R.R. Tolkien saw fit to base Middle Earth on Northern European myth. It’s why the comic books of today are often compared to the tales of antiquity. And the best part? It’s all in the public domain.

Not that Hollywood hasn’t tried. After the success of Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, movies like Troy and King Arthur tried to cash in on what coke-addled execs believed to be a possible trend. Aside from that, you can build a small library of flicks that attempted to adapt the stories of King Arthur (or one of the Knights of the Round), Robin Hood, some of the cooler parts of the Bible, and so on. Hell, Greek mythology has gotten some love in recent years, with Clash of the Titans getting a remake, the Percy Jackson series, and two flicks about Hercules just last year. But the problem with these adaptations, regardless of their merit (with some being much better than others) and the fact that sword-and-sandal flicks aren’t the most popular things right now, is that their budgets and special effects aside, it was as if the studios had no fucking idea how to handle these properties. They tried to get at the “truth” of King Arthur in the earlier mentioned film by removing all the elements of chivalry and adventuring, the magic and the mystery, and turned one of the greatest (if not the greatest) examples of how a famous legend transforms over time in its retellings into a generic and ugly looking sword-and-sandals movie(also, Sir Dagonet was transformed from a short and cowardly court jester who was knighted as a joke into a hulking badass who didn’t talk much, which was weird).

I mean seriously: why the fuck would you adapt an epic fantasy with larger than life heroes and beings, and then proceed to remove the fantastic elements and tint everything some shade of gray? I don’t want to see yet another butchering of a classic tale created by a committee of dumb fucks who think that this is what it takes to appeal to the average movie goer. You know what appeals to people? Good looking movies with well-tested stories executed in the best way possible. Not fucking Blank Slate Chick from Twilight trying to emote as Snow White, who for some fucking reason is wearing armor and wielding a sword despite not having any fucking training while all the colors of the world that might make me actually want to look at the screen are so fucking washed out that I’d swear the theater projector was having problems with tones. Not everything has to be so fucking bland and grimdark. Fucking hell, man.

All this brings me to one famous flop that tried to ride on the coattails of Gladiator: the aforementioned Troy. Now, of all the myths and legends I have familiarized myself with over the years, my earliest interests lay in Classical mythology (although there was and remains interest in East and Southeast Asian stories). Among the classics, my favorite series of stories are those of the Trojan Cycle. I love the Cycle so much that at the age of nine, I was reading the work of Edith Hamilton and buying illustrated copies of The Iliad. As you can imagine, these stories are particularly dear to me. So when I heard about Troy, I was fucking stoked. It had a large budget and a great looking cast, so as far as I was concerned at the time, it should have been awesome.

It wasn’t. To get at the truth behind the myth (always the fucking truth behind a perfectly good story, because it’s not like Hollywood doesn’t already rewrite history to suit its needs), there were no actual deities involved in the story (although it was a bit ambiguous in the case of Thetis). Instead, Troy became a purely political (as opposed to a mix of this, the moral, and the divine) conflict. The war, which lasted for several years, was shortened to less than a month. The Trojans were cut off and never had help from their awesome as fuck allies. Agamemnon and Menelaus became flat and purely unlikeable dickweeds. Ajax went from one of the ultimate defensive fighters to a berserker who got killed off on the first day of battle. Hector went from a flawed, though still noble man to easily the nicest character among the main cast. Paris was treated so fucking sympathetically that the detestable little shit from the original works got to get away with his life and Helen. Diomedes was completely absent despite being based as fuck. And Brad Pitt was playing a variant of the Brad Pitt persona except giving even less of a fuck than usual.

Fuck this movie. Fuck it for reducing my favorite story of all time into something that, in attempting to put an “authentic” spin on an old tale, turned it into shit. The only things that stand out to me today are the fight scenes and Eric Bana’s Hector being likeable enough that his death felt all the more tragic. Also, Sean Bean survives the movie, but he’s playing Odysseus, so it makes sense. Wonder if I should make a list of movies and shows where Sean Bean doesn’t die.

If you’re going to do something, do it right. And unfortunately for the stories of old, I highly doubt Hollywood in its current iteration is capable of such a thing.

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