Monday, January 12, 2009

The Odyssey (1997)

[Image: (c) NBC, Fair Use - low-resolution version to provide critical commentary]

The Odyssey
was a 1997 TV mini-series produced by Francis Ford Coppola, later cut into a 3-hour movie and released on DVD. It won a couple of Emmys (for best director and special effects) and was nominated for two Golden Globes (best mini-series and best actor). It follows (loosely) the plot of the epic poem by Homer. I'm watching all the films set in Ancient Greece that I can get my hands on at the moment, so I thought I'd give it a shot.

So, what did I think of the movie? Well... In some ways it tries hard to avoid the usual stereotypes. Armand Assante's version of Odysseus is arrogant, ruthless and violent. He contrasts sharply with the likes of the fresh-faced, dim-witted Perseus in Clash of the Titans. Odysseus is a thug in this movie - an Achaean Rambo.

It's true that Telemachus, Odysseus's son, is the typical snotty-nosed, floppy-haired youth - but instead of having an easy time, he's thrown from one humiliation and degredation to another at the hands of the suitors, until finally being transformed into a believably angry ball of rage, actually displaying characteristics other than "pureness of heart" and chivalry.

These things were appreciated, and overall (although it lags in places), the movie is decent. There are two scenes which really stood out, though...

The first is the encounter with the monster Scylla in the caverns. The special effects were fantastic - and this scene was (for what I assume was a primetime network TV series) actually fairly violent. Not that I'm particularly bloodthirsty - but if used properly, the sight of a six-headed monster chewing up one of Odysseus's crew-members in torchlit gloom can be pretty effective.

The second scene was Odysseus's massacre of the suitors. The suitors had been portrayed as a horrible bunch of bastards throughout the film, but it was still a shock to see Odysseus carry out what was essentially a massacre of unarmed men. The movie's producers decided not to include the part from the play where Telemachus hangs twelve of Penelope's maids for sleeping with the suitors. Or the part where they cut off the goatherd's nose, ears, hands and feet and pull his genitals off whilst he's still alive (feeding them to the dogs). You see - this is what I'm talking about when I say that Greek heroes were horrible!

All in all - I'm satisfied with this version of The Odyssey. It's not perfect, but it's still perfectly watchable.

Rating - 7 out of 12

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