Helen of Troy (review)

As it turns out, the “real story” of “the most famous war in history” — the ten-year siege of Troy over the daughter of a god, the most beautiful woman in the world — isn’t really as exciting as it sounds, at least not to hear USA Networks tell it. This four-hour miniseries takes a classic tale of power and corruption, of the passions and desires of towering personalities, and beats it down into a depressingly prosaic soap opera, one without a jot of mystery or magic to it, of the petty jealousies and trivial rivalries of a bunch of dudes who all dig this one hot chick. Helen (Sienna Guillory: The Time Machine) is pretty enough, but her childish petulance is fairly unattractive; then again, her lover, Paris (Matthew Marsden), is bland and tiresome, too. And Agamemnon (Rufus Sewell: Extreme Ops) — who comes to Troy to retrieve Helen on behalf of his brother, the King of Sparta, Helen’s husband — is nothing but a standard bully. Throw in some very contemporary psychobabble, and all the togas and old-fashioned human sacrificing in the Aegean can’t save this from feeling like a bunch of bad actors playing dress up. The siege of ten years lasts about 10 minutes onscreen, and then you end up just waiting around for the big horse to show up. And for all the money that clearly went into this, the whole affair still looks and feels cheap and dinky.

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