Epic war movies are no longer a big deal in Hollywood. The scope of these films have surpassed historical true stories, literary adaptations, and even mythological beginnings. While modern day warfare stories have always had a place in Hollywood, the more grandiose mythological warfare is something that wasn’t really conceptualized until Wolfgang Peterson’s epic Greek tragedy film, ‘Troy’.
‘Troy’, released in 2004, went on to become one of the biggest hit of that year, and gained even more commercial success worldwide as it reached many lists of highest grossing films through out its existence. The film marked one of the very few times that a massive ensemble cast of A-list actors of the time, came together for a story which had multiple protagonists and redefined the way big budget films were made in the Industry. So let’s take a look at how ‘Troy’ made epic historical war films, a viable genre in Hollywood.
As may be common knowledge, the story of ‘Helen Of Troy’ is from Homer’s ‘Illiad’, an epic Greek poem that covers a broad range of stories from that time and in an era of Gods and supernatural beings; basically mythological elements that are in scientific debate to this day. The story revolves around a forbidden love story that occurs during a shaky peace treaty between the Trojans and Greeks. When a Trojan man falls in love with the wife of a Greek King, war breaks out between the two lands, as the marital betrayal is used as a political means to take on a strong power like Troy.
The Greeks call in their mercenary, the legendary Achilles, whose infamy as a warrior has ties to the Gods themselves, and the rest is history as families are ruined, lands are taken and countless are killed in a truly epic story that has permeations throughout history and pop culture.
The Massive Cast
‘Troy’ succeeded for a variety of reasons, one of which was the large ensemble cast that was gathered for the ambitious film. Leading the charge of course was Brad Pitt as Achilles himself, the main lead of the film, but who could also be called the anti-hero as well. Pitt needs no introduction, as he’s remained one of the most consistent leading men in Hollywood.
Fresh off of his most notable role at the time, ‘Hulk’, Eric Bana was cast as Hector, the true protagonist of ‘Troy’, having to take on Pitt’s Achilles himself. Bana’s performance in ‘Hulk’ showed his quiet restraint, and got him cast as the doting older brother and prince of Troy who has to defend his younger brothers’ folly, with his own life.
Already with a fan following with supporting roles in blockbuster franchises like ‘Lord Of The Rings’ and ‘Pirates Of The Carribbean’, Orlando Bloom was cast in ‘Troy’ in something different than what he’d been seen in thus far. Playing Paris, as the man who fell in love with a Greek woman, Bloom goes from brave action star from both of the previously mentioned franchises, to a man who is a lover not a fighter, especially in contrast to the much more capable characters around him. It was a great opportunity for the young actor at the time, to display his range.
The rest of the cast was well supported and rounded off with powerhouses like Brian Cox, Brendan Gleeson, (‘Harry Potter’) Diane Kruger, Sean Bean, (‘Game Of Thrones’) Garrett Hedlund, (‘Pan’) and the, then unknown, Rose Byrne. Even veteran actor Peter O’Toole returns with a powerful performance as the king of Troy, sharing an iconic scene with Brad Pitt.
While ‘Troy’ got some mixed reviews with critics, over all the film performed very well; both from a commercial and entertainment perspective. The film outperformed its initial budget globally since its release, and was able to be deemed a commercial success.
The story itself was engaging enough to keep audiences entertained. Most interesting was seeing a Greek story that all know too well, come to life at a time of cinema where the resources, technology and money existed to be able to convincingly recreate that era of myth.
Pitt’s performance of a silent yet tortured anti-hero invoked sympathy despite a brutal demeanour. Bana’s reluctance to defend his brother, but his duty compelling him to do so conflicted audiences as to who to root for. The story by David Benioff (‘Game Of Thrones’) provided humanizing moments for both sides, so as to provide clear division between audiences’ affections, as well as fleshing out the conflict, instead of demonizing one side over the other.
‘Troy’ was a masterpiece in many ways, the least of which was not a brilliant stroke of casting. Every actor in every role was suited to perfection. The characterization of each role further drove the story forward, to the point that no character’s motivation or reasoning was ever in question. The film performed wonderfully with the direction of Wolfgang Peterson, and looked sublime visually. The cinematography further reflected the story’s set pieces; hot and dank on the Greek Beaches, and lavishly adorned inside the Trojan Castle. All of this things in conjunctions with one another made ‘Troy’ success that it was, and further legitimized the grand scale of epic historical war films in Hollywood for generations to come.