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Category: Movies

Spider-Man talks too much

Rose and I were watching the Criterion Collection Chasing Amy DVD this weekend (why is Chasing Amy in the Criterion Collection, anyway?), and the deleted scenes gave me a newfound appreciation for the movie. If you think the final cut of the movie is preachy (and I certainly do), just wait till you see the deleted scenes. There’s an extended skee ball scene in which Alyssa takes about five minutes to explain why straight boys shouldn’t call each other fags and cocksuckers. There’s an extended darts sequence in which Alyssa tells a several-minute story about the true meaning of love. (In short, a guy’s girlfriend is raped and killed in a dark train station while waiting for him to arrive for a visit, and he donates money to the station to install more lights and then spends the rest of his life riding the train every day, apparently out of some misguided sense that such activity will assuage his obsessive guilt and grief. Remember that this story is about the true meaning of love.) There’s a scene in which Kevin Smith performs a cinematic equivalent of burning his detractors in effigy, a moment of meta-preachiness. The movie already has dozens of sermons (from Why I Became A Lesbian by Alyssa to Chasing Amy by Silent Bob). Kevin Smith has trouble integrating his moral ideas into a narrative. The result is a moral fable that seems more simplistic than it needs to be. It’s annoying, because the characters become generic speech-givers who continuously tell me about abstract moral concepts I’ve already figured out.

I want less Alyssa lecturing on her decision to become a lesbian because she didn’t want to force herself into a heterosexual role she wasn’t sure she’d fit, and more scenes like the opening one in which a couple of cruel fanboys mock Banky for being an inker, a task they mistakenly believe involves mere tracing of the pencilled comics pages. The former scene is boring because it’s clear from that opening scene that the movie’s going to be about open- and closed-mindedness and the problems with pigeonholing people into roles they don’t really fit. Note how the opening convention scene gets the point across with relative subtlety and freedom to interpret, while Alyssa’s lecture lazily falls back on telling you exactly how you’re supposed to interpret the text.

Of course, this is a highly subjective issue, and plenty of people obviously have no problem with Chasing Amy. I personally have no problem with stories that explicitly address thematic material in narration, but I generally loathe (as you may have noticed by now) the results of authors allowing unprocessed thematic material to get into the dialogue. I despise characters who act like they know what the story’s about. I prefer ambiguity to certitude.

This post wasn’t supposed to be about Chasing Amy, though. I was going to write about Spider-Man 2, and I only mentioned Chasing Amy because those preachy deleted scenes helped me clarify a problem I had with Spider-Man. Now, Spider-Man 2, as all the other comics bloggers have already pointed out (and as anybody familiar with Spider-Man comics presumably guessed anyway), is about that old Spidey Slogan, “With great power comes great responsibility.” The first movie introduced the theme, and the second complicates it. Basically, his Spider-Man identity has caused Peter Parker two related problems:

  1. He neglects more mundane responsibilities (getting an education, paying the rent, delivering pizzas on time) in favor of devoting all his energy to his superheroic responsibilities.
  2. He avoids his friends and family, not exactly because he neglects his responsibility to them but because he takes too much responsibility for them, especially for Mary Jane. He believes his Spider-Man identity will endanger them if he remains close, so he pushes them away. (His avoidance of Harry is a little more understandable, since Harry actually wants to kill Spider-Man.)

Peter has to decide who gets to call the shots—Peter Parker or Spider-Man? Whose responsiblities are more important? Otto Octavius allows “Doc Ock” to call the shots (the fact that Otto is able to take control and save the city by destroying his fusion device suggests that he does allow the octopus arms to control him), and look where it gets him. Spider-Man’s urges are undoubtedly more heroic than Doc Ock’s, but that distinction doesn’t actually matter much. Doc Ock’s monstrous urge may threaten the entire city, but of course we know Spider-Man will take care of the city. The really engaging question raised by Doc Ock’s monstrous urge is whether he will manage to pull himself back from the brink—will he die a monster? So it is with Spider-Man: his superheroic (but equally monstrous) urge doesn’t threaten the city, but it does threaten to sever the ties of friendship and family. Will Spider-Man become a superheroic monster, a Fiorean solipsist, or will he pull himself back from the brink?

So that’s the stakes, and fine stakes they are. The problem, of course, is that the movie gets so damn preachy in addressing them.

The movie’s not all preachiness. The first scene, one of the best, lays out the moral landscape without spelling it out too much. The opening shot is of Mary Jane once removed: a billboard Peter watches longingly. “She looks at me every day,” Peter tells us—but he misspeaks, as Jim Henley notes, “for ’she’ is simply a billboard of MJ at her most made-up and ethereal—flat, creamy, dreamy, two-dimensional and, we might note, looking out at nothing from our left.” This is as close as Peter believes he can get to MJ without putting her life in grave danger. Later in the scene, Peter is fired from his pizza-delivery job after failing (and for not the first time) to deliver a pizza on time—he delayed the delivery to assist the police in apprehending a couple of criminals. “Joe’s 29-minute guarantee is a promise, Peter,” his boss tells him. By this point in the movie, an attentive viewer should understand the central conflicts of the story. The opening scene is a skillfully constructed narrative that explains the conflicts concretely, and the movie does not need to resort to more abstract moral explanations—intelligent viewers can figure it out for themselves. Unfortunately, the filmmakers didn’t have the confidence to let the narrative speak for itself, and they ended up shoveling nasty thematic material right into the characters’ mouths.

By far the most offensive scene is the one in which Aunt May explains the concept of heroism to Peter. The basic idea for the scene is a good one: as Jim Henley notes, May’s speech seems motivated not by any healthy notion of heroism but by a weirdly sadomasochistic urge to punish Peter for his responsibility for Uncle Ben’s murder:

It’s . . . a bit . . . unsettling. There’s the possibility that she’s announcing Peter’s punishment: make it up to me by giving up your one chance at happiness. It’s also possible that we’re simply seeing where Peter’s own maladaptation to the problem of self-sustenance versus altruism comes from: Aunt May knows that she and Ben sacrificed much for the sake of their nephew, and she expects Peter to do the like when presented the opportunity. Giving what you can’t afford to give comes naturally to her. It’s the dangerous lesson her ward has absorbed.

So Aunt May wants to give Peter a disturbing Christ complex. That’s a great way to raise the stakes, but too bad the scene doesn’t live up to its potential. Aunt May really shouldn’t need more than a few seconds and a few well-chosen suggestions to sow her poisonous seeds in Peter’s soul, but the scene drags on for long minutes as she foolishly belabors the point. By the time she wraps up, she’s oversold her heroic ideal so much that Peter looks like a blind idiot for not realizing she’s trying to manipulate him.

Then there’s the Uncle Ben dream sequence in which, as I recall, Uncle Ben actually goes so far as to say aloud “With great power comes great responsibility.” Peter’s decision to toss his Spider-Man costume in the trash, the subsequent (and hilarious) “Raindrops keep falling on my head” scene, are all we need to figure out what Peter has decided to do with his life. We remember from the first movie that Peter feels guilty about Uncle Ben’s death. Trundling out the ghost of Uncle Ben to explain all this to us indicates a stunning lapse of taste on the parts of the filmmakers.

Luckily, the movie recovers its wits in time for the ending, which dumps the characters back into lovely moral confusion. Mary Jane’s decision to stick with Peter is the movie’s response to Aunt May’s masochistic ideal of heroism. See how her decision is packed into that one all-important sentence, “Isn’t it time someboday saved your life, Peter?” and that one final closeup shot that shows her inability to decide whether she’s made the right decision? Just imagine how much the scene would have lost if Mary Jane had been required to explain herself in an Aunt May-style speech.

My point, as I said, is that I can’t stand characters who talk like they’ve read the script and know what the story’s supposed to be about. Characters who act as mouthpieces for authors who are too lazy or too scared to construct a narrative that stands on its own. Spider-Man 2 is most disappointing as it establishes a strong narrative but then falters and gives in to sermonizing.

My spidey-sense is not so great.

Like just about everyone else, I’ve seen Spider-Man 2, but since everybody else has already taken the opportunity to comment, I’m not sure what to say. Well, maybe I am: Peter trying to use “The Song of Hiawatha” as a seduction tool may be the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. Ok, not ever, but I was amazed and giggly for a good while afterward. But most of the things that struck me were absences rather than actual scenes.

Maybe it’s because the script went through so many authors’ revisions that it just didn’t mesh well or maybe there’s a lot more that will be in the DVD’s deleted scenes or maybe it’s because everyone knows there will be a sequel that no one bothered to tie up any non-MJ plot, but I found all of that somehow disappointing. There were plenty of campy scenes I expected and while they might have annoyed me had they arrived, I missed them when they didn’t.

Where was the bang/whimper joke when Doc Ock rejoins (or doesn’t, depending on his/your view of any afterlife) his beloved wife? If it wasn’t setup for a bang/whimper joke, why was there so much talk about T.S. Eliot?? (As an aside, I still think his last words, “I will not die a monster,” leave open the possibility for his return, because it’s quite possible that he won’t die, not that he won’t be a monster any longer.)

What, did Peter somehow magically pay the rent while not having a job but doing better in school? All of a sudden his previously obsessed landlord stopped asking for it. And why, when Mary Jane escaped her own wedding and ran dramatically to Peter’s doorstep, did the landlord not spoil the moment by accosting her and demanding Peter pay him? Or, worse, why didn’t he send his besotted daughter in to coerce Peter to pay and get her heart broken in the process? I don’t know; they just disappeared.

And Aunt May makes her huge speech and then disappears to her new apartment, which is maybe a good thing since while her husband gets to return from the dead, his comeback is far from a highlight. I’d say that deus ex machina runs in the family except that I’d have to assume they’re not blood relations. Maybe it’s why they were so well-matched?

And then there are general quibbles. Why does the generically Slavic landlord have a daughter named Ursula? (Yes, name issues always bother me, as I’ve said here previously. If you’re going to bother to give your characters some kind of ethnic identity, it’s really not hard to follow through. I swear. It’s easy, and it makes you look bad if you don’t bother, even if only to me.) And how did Peter and MJ and Harry all end up at the same high school anyway, since they’re not from similar economic backgrounds and they wouldn’t exactly belong at an academic magnet school or anything like that? And while I’ve complained, too, about the inappropriately high-stakes danger plots in comics-to-movie adaptations, it seemed a bit odd that having more than the power of the sun causing problems in New York twice wouldn’t generate much attention at all. All part of the superpower-heavy world, I guess.

And all this makes it sound like I didn’t like the movie, which isn’t the case at all. It was enjoyable, though uneven (and outright annoying when heavy-handed) and I had fun and would have had fun even if there hadn’t been Longfellow jokes. I would have liked it even if it hadn’t had a particularly goofy and tacky rendition of The Importance of Being Earnest. I liked the way Peter has trouble finding a balance between power and responsibility, particularly in the way he dealt with both in relation to the people he cares about most. And now that MJ has crossed his boss and complicated his life, what next? Will he be able to manage normalcy, when it’s the normal day-to-day life that has been draining him so far? What will MJ’s third wet-tshirt scene look like, and will she ever realize that Spider-Man’s girlfriend is better off choosing pants over skirts? I have no idea, but I have no doubt I’ll be willing to find out when the time comes.


I’ve been too busy with cleaning, packing and crankiness to write about comics this weekend, and you can expect that to continue for the next few days at least, though I promise to get back to The Filth and hope it will be sooner than expected.

However I didn’t spend my whole weekend being productive and cranky. I saw Saved! yesterday, and it was much more effective and affecting than I’d expected. Since about age 21, I’ve been fascinated with the way being a teenager is being presented to teenagers, though I no longer think I’ll ever get around to writing this up formally. As a result, I still read some YA and am willing to watch movies that aren’t just standard romances. Because I went to a single-sex Catholic high school and because of who I was while there, I didn’t have anywhere near a normal high school experience, so I’m interested to see what Hollywood thinks normal is, but I’m not well-equipped to judge its relation to reality. I assume that a high school in an area as wealthy as the location in Mean Girls seems to be might have that much conspicuous consumption, and even our uniforms didn’t keep some girls from having visibly nicer cars or haircuts than the rest of us, so I think that’s clear enough. I asked Steven whether couples made out in the halls as in Joan of Arcadia, and he thinks so but wasn’t really paying attention. We had people change clothes basically in the hall after school and probably more offers to lend people tampons than his school did, but I don’t expect to see that in the movies.

Anyway, my point is that the realistic details don’t matter as much as the politics and the heart when I’m looking at these things. Saved! has more heart and better politics than I expected. I know it’s got an audience problem, trying to appeal to Christians and anti-Christians or former Christians alike. But basically it’s not about God any more than Joan of Arcadia is. It’s about what you’ll do to fit in and how that differs from belonging. and the ending, in which everyone remembers that Jesus spoke out in favor of forgiveness and kindness and even those who don’t care about Jesus think that sounds like a good plan, is perhaps predictable but not a cop-out, and each character had to take time and make a decision to love or to reject love. As far as messages go, I’m comfortable with that one, but there’s even more going on.

Unlike in Mean Girls, the gay character actually gets to have a relationship, not just remain a comedy figure checking out all the hot guys. This is an important distinction.

And like in both Mean Girls and Joan of Arcadia, there’s a somewhat androgynous (at least by movie standards) nonconformist who ends up in a romantic relationship with the male nerd character. While in Saved! no one intimated that Cassandra was a lesbian, I think this setup works for several reasons. For one thing, none of them ever denies that bisexuality is an option or that you have to define your orientation for good in high school, which seems like a minor point but will be meaningful to the people who need to hear it, I think. It’s also interesting that nerds (and I count Roland in this group even though Saved! entirely lacks classroom scenes, but I’m working with stereotypes here) are now getting realistic girlfriends rather than none at all, ever, or fantastically attractive airheads, as either comedy or wish-fulfillment fantasy. And it’s good to see that (at least implied) bisexuality isn’t solely the realm of drunken sorority girls looking for attention, which seems to be a common representation.

And the Christians weren’t evil and weren’t perfect. Yes, many things were dumbed-down and mocked, but that’s how it goes in high-school comedy. All of them were struggling and trying to make sense of the world. And that can mean being a gung-ho Christian but not knowing the difference between Moses and Abraham, or being willing to lie to a superior to protect a student’s privacy, or doing bad things in hopes of getting bad people brought to justice, but none of the characters were zombies. They were all trying to do what’s right but first to figure out what’s right and how you can tell.

I realize this probably isn’t much to recommend the movie, but I did enjoy it. The teenagers looked like teenagers, with a few beauties among a lot of awkward classmates. The adults had foibles and blindspots but weren’t hopelessly irrelevant. There were some very funny lines and even though the ending is in many ways ambiguous, it’s more satisfying than if everything had been resolved in explicit detail. The future is open, and that’s the point. It’s time to graduate and move into the real world, where things generally don’t get tied up nicely. And that’s a good thing to know.

Turn Your Quivering Nerves in My Direction

What’s up with Scots and psychedelia anyway? I decided to take a night off Grant Morrison to seam up the shirt I’ve been knitting and generally lounge around, which meant I finally got to watch my new copy of The Incredible String Band movie, Be Glad for the Song Has No Ending. My mother watched, alternately amused and chagrined by her own memories, since it was her records that had made me a fan of the band in the first place. In fact, I’m not only a fan of the String Band, but I think many of the musicians I’ve come to like since share common traits with them, most notably Robyn Hitchcock and Rose Polenzani.

But I felt like a fool watching a movie that far predates me of a band that disbanded before I was born, because my first thought was, “They look so young!” And they were young and blooming with exuberance and honesty and songs I love, making it an endearing movie. One thing I noticed quickly was the way my relationship to The Psychedelic has changed since I was a teenager. Then I was mostly put off by the idea of drug use, which hasn’t particularly changed, but there wasn’t any of that visible in the film anyway, and I don’t know to what extent it was a part of their reality. Instead what I realized is that I’d been intrigued and repelled by psychedelic imagery because some of the ideas resonated with me but they were couched in what seemed to be nonsense gibberish. And at that point I realized I hadn’t avoided thinking about Morrison at all.

See, stories in which magical drug insights give a character (or author, I suppose) insight into reality-as-it-is always seemed unsatisfying to me. Morrison seemed to undercut the sincere spirit journey version in Animal Man with all the scenes in The Invisibles that suggest that while you can believe you’ve taken a drug, you can never trust yourself to believe you’re in reality. New X-Men has an awkward anti-drug slant, and drugs other than sex and reality seem to be basically absent from The Filth, which is odd. OK, they’re not absent, but they’re not consciousness-altering either. Tony needs his cat medicine, though what medicine and for what condition is both unclear and crucial. And the president has to take drugs to become a crack whore, so I’m not sure if that means the drugs he takes bring him into closer contact with his real self or not. And then there’s the medical marijuana sequence at the end, in which a guy who nearly killed himself while stoned prolongs his painful status quo (and maybe dulls the pain) with more drugs. So apparently I was crazy in thinking drugs don’t figure in much, but it still seems odd to me that drugs don’t show up more in the filth of the world than they do. I guess it’s still significant that they don’t seem to bring any extra awareness or sensitivity and that just living “normally” clouds your mind too.

What I found revealing about Be Glad was that contrary to what I’d gathered from their songs, The Incredible String Band didn’t believe there were lots of gods in the world. They believed they were gods, creating for their own enjoyment and amusement, and audience was of little concern. I like being ignored like that, because it means they don’t bother to pander to me. It might be that this is what Grant Morrison does too. Some readers think what he does is just playing with whatever he finds intriguing at the time, and I can’t totally disagree. I just think I have enough overlap that the ideas remain interesting without so much that I find them trite, but I guess the question is whether this matters to Morrison. It only matters to me inasmuch as I’ve described; the way he writes is interesting to me, and so I stay interested, not very exciting. And sometimes I think he fails completely at synthesizing things, and that’s interesting too. But while The Incredible String Band was not commercial (or at least I hope they didn’t have commercial aspirations, since their fame was fleeting) and could stand to say heartfelt but unhelpful things to Newsweek interviewers, beaming while their girlfriends embroidered tunics in the background, Morrison is making a real living writing comics and doing fairly well. Does this mean he has an obligation to give his audience what it wants? My standard answer when this question arises in comics is that that would be a horrible idea, because I really don’t want to see Wolverine battling a set of breasts the size of Connecticut. But obviously Morrison has to take audience into account to some degree if he wants to make any money, and I really don’t know how he or others manage this.

So I didn’t talk about The Filth much, but that’s because this was a night to think about what it means to be creating a good world in art and in life. I’m never sure I’m up to it, but there also doesn’t seem to be an acceptable alternative. And there’s another gnomic statement you can use to sum up The Filth. Perhaps I ought to start collecting them, and maybe that would be a start.

And I bid you good night.

Hollywood Clobbers Manhattan. Again.

Hollywood Clobbers Manhattan. Again.: From The New York Times. In this topsy-turvy post-9/11 world, New Yorkers are once again ready to witness NYC destroyed by huge waves and icebergs in disaster movies such as The Day After Tomorrow.

26 May 2004 by Steven | Permalink | Comments disabled

Oliver Stone’s Alexander

Oliver Stone’s Alexander: I'm waiting for the Baz Luhrmann version myself.

Via: Ken Lowery

26 May 2004 by Steven | Permalink | Comments disabled

My Troy

As Steven said, we saw Troy this weekend, and my response is close to his. I’ve read portions of all the pertinent epics in the original, so I had strong feelings going into the movie and mixed feelings coming out.

My favorite part, as everyone knows, is when Hector was racing down the stairs To His Doom and was met by his stern-faced wife holding their lovely son. Poor heartbroken Hector peers down at tiny Astuanax, who promptly bursts into tears, terrified by his father’s hair-capped helmet. Hector takes it off for one last cuddle before suiting up again. Of course, this wasn’t in the movie, because somehow it doesn’t matter to other people as much as it does to me, but I was expecting that. At least all three of those characters got appropriate depth and screentime.

What impressed me most was the way all the characters who were relatives managed to look alike. I’m not sure about making Achilles and Patroclus cousins, but it explained the necessary resemblance well and allowed a palatable reading of Patroclus’s adoration, although the parallel to the similarly retconned Briseis cousin status seemed weird. The women were all excellent, which was a comforting surprise. I went in a Rose Byrne fan, which helped me avoid being too troubled by some of the stereotypes Briseis played out.

And the fighting! Well, all the one-on-one stuff wasn’t too impressive to me, but watching the shields collide and the blood flowing out to make the earth wet was just amazing and saddening. I know this is how it works, but it was hard to watch and harder to ignore. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such compelling battle. We watched like Priam’s family, gauging the trends while keeping our eyes on the heroes. The desecration of Hector’s body was similarly captivating and all the more poignant because I wanted Achilles to follow his lead and be a hero, treat him with respect and felt myself mentally urging him on to honor, even knowing how the story would go.

And then there’s all that stuff about not knowing how the story goes, but it wasn’t too much of a problem. It’s not as if I think Homer wrote a definitive history, and I’m quite sure there wasn’t a Homer, so while I think some of the changes didn’t work on a story level, I wasn’t hoping for a fully accurate translation. In fact, my favorite scene actually in the movie played on some of the ambiguity and conflicting stories and implications of choosing a focus. Helen tells Paris something like, “Every day I was with Menelaus, I was a ghost. Only now am I real.” And certainly that’s the sort of thing people say when they’re in love and when it’s true, but it’s made even better and truer by the story that Helen never went to Troy but was spirited off to Egypt while a war was fought for the sake of her ghost in Troy, and only later was the deception revealed. This made up for some of the lack of ambiguity and subtlety in much of the rest of the plot dealing with the motivations for war, and so I choose to believe it was intentional.

Troy, The Gabriel Cut

25 May 2004 by Steven | Permalink | Comments disabled

Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids!

David Jones (a.k.a. Latin hedonist extraordinaire Johnny Bacardi) on Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill:

Tarantino’s simply making film as collage, passing on the styles he loves- no more, no less. He’s not really aspiring to ART, even though if it happens during the course of the flick that’s just fine with him.

Most certainly! However, I’m not so sure the ‘artistic’ stuff in Kill Bill (the parts that seem to make a ‘statement’) are quite as accidental as David implies. I don’t think Tarantino is aspiring to art, I think he’s aspiring to undermine art. Every scene in which B.B. appears is full of critical commentary on the very revenge flicks Tarantino references incessantly. Bill’s Superman speech is especially perceptive in rejecting exactly the ending which the movie eventually gives us. Superman isn’t really Clark Kent, can’t really be Clark Kent, and Beatrix Kiddo can’t really be Mrs. Tommy Plimpton. Being a Mommy isn’t enough to get you out of the killing life, as Kill Bill so effectively demonstrates in its depiction of the Bride’s bloody revenge—revenge motivated by, how ironical, the loss of her child. Of course, you might aruge that Mommyhood does allow the Bride to escape her killing life, and the reason she goes back to it for her gory revenge is that she has lost her child and thus her ability to escape. But Bill’s argument is that this is a false hope, that maybe Beatrix thinks she can just be a Mommy and a non-assassin civilian, but she’s (ha ha) kidding herself. Besides, her escape into Mommyhood really was only temporary, and ended abruptly when her past arrived to murder her and her new surrogate family in the church. (Besides, being a Mommy redeems you? If that were really the ‘point’ of Kill Bill, what a cloying mess of smarminess it would be!) So the movie seems to go out of its way to point out that Beatrix is kidding herself with this Mommy stuff, but then it comes up with the most cynical possible ending, which is that yay, Beatrix gets to be Mommy and live happily with little B.B.! Tarantino seems to say, “You may think this movie means something, but I’ve made damn sure it doesn’t.”

Which I suppose is part of why I didn’t get a lot out of Kill Bill. I guess I liked it fine, but by the time it’s over Tarantino seems to have flipped right off the deep end of pomo whatever, and I’m not so sure I want to follow him. I much enjoy the collage aesthetic (I usually call it a remix or DJ aesthetic), but I prefer the playful expressiveness of, say, Moulin Rouge to the cynical play of Kill Bill.


Oh, and Rose and I saw Troy this weekend. Hector was perfect. Eric Bana’s performance just about makes up for the two horrific bits which I’ll complain about in a bit. Saffron Burrows as Andromache and Diane Kruger as Helen were also excellent. I know some people were disappointed by Helen’s beauty, which they felt might launch at most a few rowboats, but certainly not a thousand ships. I must disagree, and anyway Kruger did a fine job with the part, so I say she passes. Oh, and Peter O’Toole as Priam? Well, we all know Peter O’Toole is the greatest man that ever breathed, and he remains so in Troy. These four characters are just about the only ones whose complexity in The Iliad survives the cinematic translation. I don’t think much of the words are translated directly from The Iliad, but Hector especially captures all the great subtlety, the heroism and ambivalence about his role as warrior that I fondly remember from reading the book in my Greek class. Achilles, on the other hand, loses all his subtlety and ends up sort of too much of a good guy for a lot of what he does to make sense. (Still, although the motivation isn’t clear enough, I much enjoyed the scenes of Achilles dragging Hector’s body back to camp and Priam arriving to beg Achilles to return the body for proper burial.)

Now. I said Eric Bana’s performance just about makes up for the two horrific bits, and here they are! Just wait till you find out how Oddyseus comes up with the Trojan Horse idea. He sees somebody carving a little wooden horse? What the fuck? And then there’s the “we need to reference The Aeneid” scene, which goes something like this:

Paris: “Aeneas, you must go do the stuff in The Aeneid, except instead of carrying around your little statues of household gods, take the Sword of Troy, which is easier to explain to the audience.”
Aeneas: “I will, sir!”

Paris’s dialogue is slightly paraphrased there, but Aeneas’s is word for awful word, directly from the movie. Ack!

The good parts are as good as it gets in swords ‘n’ sandals epic cinema. The bad parts are hilariously egregious in their badness. That’s pretty much what you should expect from a good epic, I think. Actually, a good epic should be four hours long and have an overture, intermission, and entr’acte, but I suppose I have to accept modern Hollywood’s commercial necessecities w/r/t very long movies, alas.