Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 5)
Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Running time: 163 minutes
Language: English
Opens May 22
[See Japan Times movie listings]

As the first major war of the 21st century rages on, continuing to dominate our collective consciousness, cinema takes us back to the most legendary battle of antiquity with "Troy," director Wolfgang Petersen's opulent re-creation of Bronze Age conflict. The question is, in re-visiting one of Western civilization's bedrock myths, what can we learn from it today?

Well, apparently not much. We learn that life is short and war is hell, but glory on the battlefield is immortal. And that's about it. Sit back and enjoy the swordplay, but be aware that screenwriter David Benioff, author of "25th Hour," has also been hacking away. His target? Homer (the bard, not Simpson) and his magnum opus "The Iliad," from which the writer has chopped a considerable amount of timeless wisdom.

First and foremost, "Troy" is a film concerned with spectacle, with the height of its battlements and the size of its armies. While that makes the film watchable, often enjoyable, in a popcorn-flick sort of way, it does a disservice to the myth. For myths, aside from being action-packed and fantastic stories, are also supposed to serve as allegory -- primal tales that contain universal, timeless truths about human nature.