Adv. English 12
18 October 2004
Film Review of The Odyssey
The Odyssey Hits the Big Screen
The Odyssey, an epic poem written by Homer in 700 BC, has finally found its way onto the big screen. Hallmark Home Entertainment Inc. has given Director Andrei Konchalovski the opportunity to turn this poem into a big screen thriller with an all-star cast. Odysseus, played by Armand Assante, goes to war and, due to disrespect to Poseidon, is forced to make a very arduous journey home. Odysseus’ loving wife, played by Greta Scacchi, suffers equally as suitors destroy the home that belongs to her loving husband. The greatly renowned Greek actress Irene Papas has been given the role of Odysseus’ mother. Former Miss America, Vanessa Williams, plays the part of the goddess Calypso, who falls deeply in love with Odysseus. Athena, the daughter of Zeus and goddess of wisdom, greatly assists Odysseus in his journey and is played by Isabella Rosellini. These actors with the leadership of their director have put together a 165-minute movie based on the ancient poem The Odyssey.
The special effects used in this film range from good to horrible, but they effectively give the audience an image of what is occurring. The battles are portrayed very effectively, and the special effects make them very bloody and realistic. The scene in which the suitors are slaughtered by Odysseus and Telemachus is portrayed like it is described in the book. They do not cut out the gruesome deaths, but instead show suitors being pierced by arrows and gouged by spears. All the mythical creatures described in the poem are also pictured in the movies, including creatures that were not in the book. With the exception of the Cyclops, these creatures fit well with their description and show to the audience that this story takes place in ancient Greece. The Cyclops was not thought out as much as the other creatures and looks a little fake. The Cyclops’ eye is offset since the just covered up his other eye and his appearance is not believable. While Odysseus walks through the hall of Hades, we will see several good and bad effects. The balls of fire falling from above are very realistic but the lava running down the walls looks horrible and really fake. Using special effects is necessary though, since the descriptions cannot be given as they are in the book. This was probably a great challenge for the director to be able to effectively portray all the scenes, as Homer would want them. Overall the special effects are good with the exception of the few poor effects mentioned above.
Anyone who has read the compelling poem, The Odyssey, has their own mental images of what the gods might look like. In the movie the gods and goddesses are portrayed somewhat differently than they were described in the book. Athena was described many times in the book as the gray-eyed goddess, yet in the movie she was given deep blue eyes. She was also given very tame hair and was less playful than the other gods. The former Miss America, Vanessa Williams, portrays the goddess Calypso in this movie. By using someone so beautiful to play her, they show how difficult it was for a mortal to resist a god. This gives Odysseus an excuse for betraying his wife and he can still claim to be faithful even though he has been with another. Aeolas, god of the winds, seems very goofy and does not take anything seriously. He constantly makes jokes and teases Odysseus the entire time he is within his presence. This shows his unimportance and insignificance compared to the other gods, especially Poseidon. Poseidon’s image is left to the minds of the audience, and Poseidon is given a very deep, male voice. The scene in which Poseidon talks to Odysseus through the waves gives him an immense amount of power. Odysseus’ life has been put in the hands of Poseidon and can be ended at any moment if Poseidon wants. Displaying these gods with these different characters and appearances creates a hierarchy between the gods that is formed in the text with lengthy descriptions and formal knowledge of the gods.
The director makes many changes to the script in order to make his film more dramatic than the book. The movie starts out with the birth of Telemachus, but the book does not even describe this event. The movie depicts Odysseus as a very loving husband and father; this must be assumed in the poem. The book begins after the Trojan War has taken place, but the movie actually shows the Trojan War. Most of today’s audience like movies to be “action packed,” so depicting the war adds more action to the movie. These scenes provide background information to the audience, so that they are not lost as to what is going on. The story line is rearranged in the film to create a more chronologically ordered plot. The book tends to skip around in the story and actually has Odysseus tell part of the story to the readers. Many scenes of Odysseus’ family at home are added to show how much his family misses him. His own mother even kills herself out of grief for the loss of her son. Many of the subtractions from the film are to save on screen time and because they are no longer needed. The Phaeacians are completely removed from the film because in the book it is where Odysseus tells his story. Since the film shows you what happens there is no need for them to show Odysseus visit the Phaeacians. Even with the director’s additions and subtractions from the original the film is still able to get across the same point as the book does.
Overall this film tells Odysseus story very well and there are no major changes from the epic poem. The film shows how powerful the gods are and how futile it is to try to escape them, just as Homer’s version does. This film is aimed at teenage and adult audiences and has earned a rating of PG 13. It contains several bloody and gruesome battles that are not suitable for young children to see. Reading the poem will provide more information than the movie provides and is more exciting than the film. Even those who have never read Homer’s The Odyssey will still find this film appealing.