' ' Cinema Romantico: 300

Monday, March 12, 2007


America needs to get its hands on a gang of 300 spartans and send them over to Iraq pronto. They would have this whole mess straightened out and spiffed up in a jiffy. They wouldn't take no s---.

The film is based on a graphic novel (which I haven't read) by Frank Miller telling the story of the infamous Battle of Thermopylae, pitting a band of 300 Spartan warriors against a gargantuan army of Persians commanded by the wannabe' god Xerxes.

Much like the other movie a couple years ago based on Miller's work - "Sin City" - this one makes prominent use of blue screened background, and I think it works to great effect here. It heightens everything and lends to the myth of the story being presented, not the facts. It also assists in making lines such as King Leonides' growling "Immortals? We'll put that name to the test" sound far more plausible than if everything was drenched in reality.

I think of movies like "Troy". You watch those thousand ships out at sea and you, of course, know you're watching computer graphics but you also know the filmmakers are trying to make it seem as real-looking as is humanly possible. But in "300" when you watch the Persian ships in the hurricane-like storm smashing up against the gigantic waves you, of course, know you're watching computer graphics but you also know the filmmakers AREN'T necessarily trying to make it seem real-looking. They just want it to look cool. They want to look how it would look in your head when you were a little kid hearing about the Battle of Thermopylae. THAT'S what I want when I see a movie like this. Who wants facts, man? I want the myth.

I also think of "Gladiator" and where it fell apart for me. "Gladiator" should have just been lean and mean. When Russell Crowe was kicking ass, it worked. When they tried to focus on politics and Joaquin Phoenix repeating the same thing over and over and over and over in long, long, long speeches, it didn't work. "300" revs it engines up at the start and just keeps going. It's an action movie in every sense of the word. Granted, "300" does have a little bit of the political game in the form of the Queen attempting to address the council to offer aid to her King and his other 299 spartans. But then you see how the Queen's address to the council ends and well........it may be the most applause-inducing part of the whole enterprise.

I would heartily recommend that everyone get out and see this one in the theater. Some movies are meant to be seen in the darkness of the theater and this is one. And none of that stadium seating crap. Head straight for a seat in one of the first 5 rows, lean back and let the screen ensconce you. Drink it all in. Soak everything up.

When I was a kid I would leave a (good) action movie and go home and immediately pick up a stick, or some other object, to substitute as a sword, or perhaps a gun, and act out everything I'd just seen. Last night as I was walking home after "300" I saw a stick on the ground outside my apartment building and came pretty gosh darn close to picking it up and stabbing an invisible Persian in front of me.


Rory Larry said...

I concur this movie was a heck of a lot of fun to watch. No it isn't the most historically accurate (as far as our ancient sources tell it) it is thematically accurate. The Greeks defined themselves in the 5th century bc by painting themselves as the sophisticated lovers of freedom who were opposing the other: barbarian, uncivilized monstrous Persians led by a wicked tyrant bent on enslaving the world. This movie nails that theme on the head. Yes, I'm afraid you actually did learn something about the ancient world. Also the hoplite phalanx scene which was shown only once was largely accurate as to how ancient warfare was conducted.

Unfortunately my friend also pointed out what other theme this movie represents. Neoconservatism. Superior western values (Spartans) fighting for a noble truth (democracy, freedom) against a seemingly unstoppable terrorism (the Persians). Add in the idea that in times of crisis one should not play realpolitik but rather stand up for your ideals and you have a neo-con's new favorite movie to espouse about the Iraq problem. I'm not saying Zack Snyder or Frank Miller encourage neocon ideas but its certainly going to be read that way.

All that being said, it was still a fun movie. Gerard Butler was chewing up scenery like it was candy and I loved it, I was anticipating scenes from the trailer and quoting along with the movie (silently mind you).

The Fab Miss B said...

I absolutely cannot wait to see this movie. It looks wickedly spectacular and like pure fantasy (which is what we go to the movies for in the first place, right? Fuck the neo con reading of this. People love to say that war movies are meant to support whatever war is happening at the time, but the truth is that we are vaguely sick people who love to watch violence acted out for us. Are we any better than the ancient Romans who watched people killed as if it were sport? Okay, well maybe a little. But its still the blood and guts we come for.) We saw previews before watching "The Prestige" which Eric and I both enjoyed immensely, and I am hoping that you write a nice long review of that one as well. I think you'll dig it.

Anonymous said...

Reading too deeply into things, particulary cinema, is an American pastime. For instance, I could tell you in just 26 pages why the plight of John & Alexandra Cameron and their frontier cabin in "Last of the Mohicans" is a metaphor for the Great Depression.

And I have seen "The Prestige". I think I blogged on it back in October. And while I did like the look of the movie and David Bowie, it left me kind of indifferent.

Anonymous said...

On September 12th, 2001, the most-requested movie at video stores across New York was "Die Hard With a Vengence." Sometimes our artistic tastes are directly tied to that around us, without political intentions. Also, I give this movie 5 stars.

Anonymous said...

Ironically, Richard Roeper's article today in the Chicago Sun Times addressed the very issue of reading too deeply into "300". He mentioned a particular critic who apparently stated that "300" was a perfect movie for the "Ann Coulter crowd" and that it would make a perfect double bill with "Triumph of the Will".

Uh.......seriously? "Triumph of the Will"? Did someone really write that?

Did I actually not watch "300"? Did I buy a ticket for "300" and somehow wonder into the wrong theater and see a different movie about Sparta?