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I saw "300" this weekend at the local Imax theatre.
I was very excited - I loved the graphic novel, and as we discussed last week- Thermopylae is one of the most stirring examples of heroism in human history, as well as the setting for two of the ten manliest things ever uttered.
How can you make a boring movie out of that? I was anticipating two hours of non-stop charge of the Rohirrim. What I got was two hours of a hyper-violent cartoon with no grounding in humanity.
Three hundred Spartans standing tall against a million Persians is a hell of a story - not leastwise because one empathizes with those Spartans. What was it like to brace shoulder-to-shield, with white-knuckled grip on the long spear against charge after charge by a million thralls of Xerxes?
We won't find out from this movie - the fears. wounds, exhaustion, hurts and regrets of the Spartans simply doesn't enter into it.

The movies is visually stunning -every scene is carefully rendered in an astonishingly hyper-real artistic palette that is remarkably evocative. Every shot is iconic, every frame evokes Frank Miller's graphic novel perfectly. But in Miller's work, the characters are also stylized - whatever interior experience they're having is mirrored in line and brush-stroke. The movie, however, has human actors ... and as such, there's just no connection with what's going on in the hearts and heads of the 300. They're tireless, fearless, and formidable. The action is very violent, but it's done up so digitally that it's removed from the human suffering that would make it hurt for the audience. That being the case - it's just a spectacle, not a horrifying and stirring example of human persistance against all odds. It's the stoic courage of the Spartans that makes Thermopylae such a famous story in history - but when the movie's Spartans seem never to fear, never to tire, and never to hurt - their sacrifice seems less human. Show me three hundred dudes fighting a numberless horde, and I'll probably think it's cool (I will) - but make me feel like I'm there, covering my brothers from ankle to throat with a thin layer of bronze, and covering my city, my nation, my family with nothing but my resolve, my courage and my spear - and I'll stand up in my seat and holler something blasphemous. I was hoping for the latter - I got the former.

Still, it's worth seeing. It's visually stunning, it's still a good story - and it's very true to the source material. Also, the oracle. I can't say I didn't like it - it's just that I didn't like it as much as I thought I would. The characters are flat and essentially replaceable, the fights don't seem to very tense - and the Persians appear to be made out of marshmallow, given the ease with which their limbs or heads are lopped off, or spears and swords are jammed right through their chitlins, out the backside, and then hauled back out. Why don't the Persians attack at night, and never let the Spartans rest? Why aren't the Spartans exhausted? Why is David Wenham's voice so weird?

I wanted 300 to be a 10. It was more like a 7.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 14th, 2007 02:00 am (UTC)
Didn't Gates of Fire get optioned a few years ago?

I liked that much more than the Frank Miller re-telling...much more human IMO.

And 300 surely had no equivalent to "Wek up to thees!!".
Mar. 14th, 2007 04:46 pm (UTC)
I would really love to see a properly done re-telling of Thermopylae. In fact, I would love to see a resurgence of the historical epic in in general. how many great movies could be made out of Thermophylae, Cannae, Waterloo, Ardennes, Austerlitz, Trafalgar...

Mar. 14th, 2007 09:59 pm (UTC)
This is EXACTLY how I felt about the movie. I was waiting for something to make me stand up and shout and it never happened.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )


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