Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Frank Miller's and Zack Snyder's 300

Last Friday night we were out having fun with my friends from our victorious movie pub quiz team. Between hopping from one bar to another, we were at one of my team mate's place and watched the Blu-Ray edition of the movie 300. Someone might think that I'd go for a movie about sword-yielding Spartans, but I thought - and all of my friends - the movie sucked big time. There were several points in the movie that I really disliked.

First. There's no plot. The movie is basically one long battle scene. There is some intrigue behind the lines, but not enough to merit a mention. I think the same marred Ridley Scott's Gladiator for me: the plot wasn't just interesting enough.

Second. The movie is full of empty posturing. The dialogue is silly and full of meaningless one-liners. The movie is directed with a bent toward empty posturing. Some of the battle scenes are not very exciting, since Snyder likes to stop the action by showing blood flow in slow motion or some such nonsense. Everything looks nice on a photo, but the drama just doesn't move along.

Third. The movie is politically so appalling that you feel like John Milius is a Commie pinko. It's not very hard to understand that Sparta is the USA, the ugly, hideous and back-stabbing witches are the UN and the Persians are - well, Persians (or Iraqis). Miller and Snyder like to show everyone else but Spartans are ugly or weak (the other Greeks that come to help the Spartans; they are presumably the British). Or a homosexual and a pervert - when Xerxes, the King of the Persians, came on the scene I burst out laughing and started to sing Sylvester's disco classic "You Make Me Feel Mighty Real". The movie also shows that the conflict between Persia and Sparta is one-sided, that the Persians just move in on Sparta - oh poor, poor Sparta!

Aside from the political overtones (they really not undertones) of 300, it's possible to see the plotlessness and the slow-motion being good examples of the new Hollywood cinema that's more based on videogames and their aesthetique, and not on old-fashioned drama, like Spartacus or Ben-Hur. It's more about the cinema of attraction rather than drama. It's also possible to see that these new historical films take the genre back to the its older roots, the ancient myths, Greek myths, Beowulf, etc., where the plot is not the crucial matter. However, I can't stop thinking that both Gladiator and 300 are just utter bores.


JD Rhoades said...

Try watching it as a comedy.

Juri said...

Yeah, another friend said the same thing - he thought the campiness (if that's the right word here) of the film is purely intentional, but I don't believe that. Frank Miller's comments prove that he's dead serious about 300.

But truth be told, we really had a hilarious time with the film. We were laughing all the time, saying out loud things like "How's your ass, brother?" I mean, who are the real homosexuals in this battle?

Reijo Kupiainen said...

Another story: http://www.lacan.com/zizhollywood.htm

Juri said...

Reijo: thanks for the link. I just don't get what Zizek is saying there, seems like he's just willing to defend something all the others attacked and criticized.

Todd Mason said...

It was the most homophobic closeted film I've ever seen, indeed. By some distance. The notion that Spartans would toss around epithets for homosexuality was already insane enough without the rest of it...and that everyone, including the Hero and his wife, seem to engage in anal sex or at least seem to be getting into position for it (as when Xerxes "tempts" our hero into surrender, while standing behind him with both hands on Our Hero's defiant shoulders), it's all very low and perhaps actually unconscious camp, indeed. When Our Hero and his wife do it, after all, it's special and beautiful.

You left out the color-coding. And so much more that was awful. A good cast utterly wasted.

I wasn't a huge fan of SIN CITY, either, but at least THE SPIRIT was mildly enjoyable (and gave a sense of what Miller is like when he's Trying to be funny).

Juri said...

Todd: "when Xerxes "tempts" our hero into surrender, while standing behind him with both hands on Our Hero's defiant shoulders" - yes, that was one very funny scene! Especially when Xerxes's hands are so gigantic!

Todd Mason said...

And you Know what That means.

Xerxes is the only classical king who was fifteen feet tall, apparently.

Unknown said...

I rather think you are reading *into* the movie when you see political allegory.

The fact of the matter is that Persia *did* try to conquer the Hellenic peninsula, and the 300 Spartans *did* hold them back at the gates of the Bosphorus long enough for the remaining Greek forces to coordinate their efforts.

The heroic sacrifice of those Spartan warriors *was* a major turning point in western history: a small force of free men holding their own against a much larger army of soldiers/slaves, precisely because they had a greater, personal, investment in the continuation of their way of life.

But for the battle, the fragile concepts of liberty, autonomy, democracy would never have gained a foothold, crushed by the despotic, authoritarian rule of Persia.

Reading this as a political comment on our own current situation is going too far -- it was a stylized (maybe *over* stylized) rendering of a pivotal historic event -- nothing more.

Juri said...

Historical movies or other historical fiction (or any other fiction for that matter) has never been just that - they reflect our reality and the present day, the time in which they are made. Frank Miller's comments on the Muslim threat to the Western society show clearly what he wanted to say with his original graphic novel, 300.

JD Rhoades said...

Harp: It's hard to believe the filmmakers don't have a political message when they have the Queen quoting Toby Keith.

Anders E said...

The thing about this kind of ancient history is that we don't really know that much about what really happened, and besides history is written by the victors (anyone familiar with a Persian version of these events?). I myself believe that making it a case of fledgling civil liberties vs. old school tyranny is putting it into a much way too modern context. None of us would have liked either society, by far.

Another thing - I felt sort of the same thing about BRAVEHEART. My, what a piece of laughable crap.

Yet another thing - I find it hard to enjoy dramas set in ancient times since 1) I watched the BBC version of I, CLAUDIUS when I was 13 and it set an impossibly high standard, and 2) the comic books about Asterix the Gaul mocks the entire genre just too effectively. I tried watching GLADIATOR, but gave up after 10 minutes when I was giggling thinking about ASTERIX THE GLADIATOR.

Juri said...

Anders: excellent points, thanks for them. Asterix is excellent - I'm just wondering just how well they are known outsider Europe.