I went off to watch "Troy" at the cinema in the afternoon, which I enjoyed. There were changes to the original stories, but the only one I really noticed was the time compression - the entire war now seemed to take a couple of weeks, rather than 10 years. Aside from that, everything I remembered was in it, i.e. all the moments that I was hoping to see. I particularly liked the cameo from Aeneas at the end (the protagonist in Virgil's "Aeneid"). Mind you, I'm not sure whether I've actually read "The Iliad" (I've definitely read "The Odyssey" and parts of "The Aeneid"), and I haven't really read any myths since I was at school. I do remember the story of the golden apple that precipitated the war (Paris judging a beauty contest between three goddesses), but it's reasonable to skip that here.
They made an interesting choice by leaving the question of the gods' existence rather ambiguous. The nearest we got to any proof of their existence was that Achilles claimed to have met them, but he could have been lying/gullible. And considering that his mother's supposed to be immortal, she seemed to be getting on a bit. Then again, Zeus is normally portrayed as an old man, so there may be an element of gods choosing what form they want to present (particularly if Achilles' mother is trying to keep a low profile). Similarly, the issue of whether Achilles was actually invulnerable seemed to be a bit open-ended. We saw him pull a few arrows out of his chest, that hadn't sunk in very far. Was that just his armour protecting him? Had they gone in but not harmed him? Had they gone in, and actually caused his death (rather than the arrow through his ankle)? I hadn't really thought about it before, but I wouldn't expect to die if someone shot an arrow through my foot, so just because his ankle isn't shielded that shouldn't make him weaker than average there. I'm going to assume that the Trojans were using poison-tipped arrows, and so the key point was that by penetrating his skin the poison got into his bloodstream.
I was impressed by the fight scenes in the film, particularly the duels. I was initially expecting Paris to win against Menelaus, due to his youth, but it swiftly became apparent that Menelaus simply had the raw power to win. It certainly had nothing to do with style - it was more like the "Star Trek" battle approach (keep pounding until someone's shields give way). The way Paris reacted wasn't heroic, but it was understandable, and it's unusual to see a lead character get scared like that. Similarly, when Hector fought Achilles, it did become apparent that Hector was getting tired after the first few minutes. Again, that's understandable when you're carrying X kg of metal around, but it's not something you normally see during sword fights in "Highlander", for instance.
One slightly odd thing about the film was the way that pronunciation of names varied between characters, e.g. pronouncing "Priam" with a long or short "i". I think it would be better to be consistently wrong, rather than have some characters getting it right and some not.
Another good thing about the film was that there were likeable characters on both sides, as opposed to a film like "Star Wars" where it is very much good vs evil. It reminded me of "The Eagle has Landed" in that respect (the book, since I haven't seen the film). At the same time, they were mostly flawed characters, so that made them more human. I think Hector probably came out best in it. It's a shame that Helen had the morals of an alley-cat, really...
Speaking of Helen, her relationship with Paris at the start of the film wasn't exactly subtle. The main advantage to the way it was portrayed ("I've made a lot of mistakes this week...") was that we skipped the start of it. So, rather than having them fall into bed together as soon as they met, it may be that they'd spent a month getting to know each other first. The main problem was when someone suggested sending her back to the Greeks, and this idea got vetoed. I can understand why the film wanted to address this point, but I don't think they came up with any compelling reasons as to why it would be a bad idea. I think that if they'd done it soon enough, a lot of problems could have been averted. However, by the time it got to the fight between Hector and Achilles, events had taken on their own momentum, so it was too late.
I mentioned that there were likeable characters on both sides. More generally, I think the Trojan army came out better, but that's mainly because they were defending their home. For instance, when the Greeks fled back to the beach, and the Trojans didn't follow, there was a short-term reason for that (staying out of range of the Greek archers). However, it also occurred to me that it wasn't at all in the Trojan interest to destroy the Greek ships, since the Greeks would then be stuck there. From a strategic point of view, it makes sense to say "If you come to us, we'll defend ourselves. If you want to leave, go ahead, we won't stop you." This effectively gives them the moral high ground of being brave, yet noble.
Anyway, all in all a good film, and I'm sure I'll watch it again in the future.
Then Eurovision in the evening, which was pretty much as expected. Cheesy music and incredibly political voting. Actually, I do quite like the song that won (Terry Wogan described the singer as "Xena: Warrior Princess") - you can watch the video here. And the award ceremony at the end was great - it took ages for the winning group to get up to the stage, so the announcers were having to ramble and repeat themselves in every language they could think of to stall for time. Then last year's winner appeared, but her high heeled shoe got stuck in a grate, so she had to stand there for a minute or so trying to fish it out...
The project is going a bit slowly, since I'm being distracted by all this, but this time last year I was busy with exams, so I'm not actually behind schedule, and I'll be able to spend more time on it later.