Legendary Pictures/Warner Brothers, 2007
Miscellaneous review
300
The sun blotted out by arrows. Good to finally see a mainstream gay movie that isn't a tragedy.
Mediocre acting and worse writing. Quasimodo. Madness.
Madness? THIS! IS! TERRIBLE!
2


Like any great movie, 300 will have you asking some questions throughout. While watching it, I found myself asking questions like:

Why do the Greeks take their oracular lessons from an exotic dancer in a dystopian science-fiction movie?
Why is the Spartan battle cry a manly "awoooo" like a gruntier but infinitely more gay "Werewolves of London"?
Why do the Persians have a cave troll?
And Holy Hand Grenades?
That make the battlefield look like a dance club?
Why does Leonidas make so much about the phalanx when the Spartans spend most of the movie running about in broken ranks?
How does Astinos somehow start acting so much better without a head?
Why has Xerxes voice been masked to preserve his anonymity?
Doesn't the Persian orgy look a lot more fun than "beating on tigers with sticks to prove their manliness" or whatever ridiculousness it is the Spartans do to relax?
Who wrote this dialogue? The Rock?
Haven't I seen this ending before? Were they just rushed for time and they happened to have a DVD of Gladiator on hand they could rip?

Obviously, merely compelling someone ask questions isn't always the mark of greatness--particularly when the question is "what? Why did you make this movie?" or "why am I watching this?" or "do you know anything about ancient Greeks? Was the entirety of your understanding of Greece gained by doodling pornographic images on your menu while you waited for gyros at Daphne's Cafe?".

Of course, most of my questions can be easily enough dismissed by claiming that the color of the movie, the periodic fantasy overtones, or the cinematography (bonus points for the scene where the one guy falls in a well and he flails on a black screen like the opening of the one porn movie in The Big Lebowski. Perhaps appropriate, given how much of ancient Sparta was predicated on fucking people in the ass) is all part of the "artistic style". Fine. Artistic style can still suck.

Moreover, "artistic style" doesn't explain the absolutely godawful dialogue. Nor does it explain why Xerxes is dressed up like a cross between the gimp from Pulp Fiction and a gold necklace. Nor does it explain the characters, for whom "flat, dull and uninteresting" are some of the more charitable adjectives that spring to mind on watching it. We might call them "pizza box" figures--cardboard and stinking to high heaven of poor-quality cheese.

Some people have raised concerns over what they see as the troubling racial elements of the story--pitting the forces of caucasian goodness against dark-skinned Arabs and orientals. This, I think, is terribly overblown. The movie is simply too incompetent to ever have even considered such issues between fight scenes involving men with silver masks, an inexplicable cave troll and a rhinoceros cameo. Even the atrocious Rules of Engagement could be rationally discussed in this context. 300 is too self-confidently juvenile to make the attempt.

For that matter, the concern could have been raised more cogently over Tropic Thunder, a substantially better--not to mention more serious--movie. When one of my first thoughts upon watching a movie is that it is not nearly as good as a comedy in which Ben Stiller plays a retarded man on purpose, I am inclined towards scepticism. For any other artist, this would just be sad. For Frank Miller, who one might expect better from, it's completely inexplicable.

Some people, too, have raised concerns over the violence (I am not inherently opposed to movie violence, as I said in my blog post on Funny Games). This, too, is overblown. Violence for violence's sake is done more compellingly in Saving Private Ryan, more entertainingly in Gladiator, and more chillingly in Schindler's List. Here it's splattered across the screen with a leering grin, but the silliness of the enterprise strips it of any kind of significance and comes close to stripping it of entertainment value, too.

In the discussion of Funny Games, myself and Galluskek exchanged views on the concept of messages within a movie. Not anvilicious "STOP HURTING THE PLANET" or "CORPORATIONS KILL" messages, but simpler ones like "watch out for robots" or "aim for the head" or whatever. Searching for a message in 300 is hard. It limply clutches for a few before wandering off to return to its glorious depiction of the forces of butch homosexuality fighting the forces of effete homosexuality. Indeed if I had to put my finger on a message it would be something like "Thank you for your $7.50. SILENCE! Silence the cellular phone that lurks within your pocket! ENJOY! YOUR! POPCORRRRRRRRN!!!!"

But I didn't.

I'm sure there are some people who will say, or think, that I am missing the point. That the movie wasn't meant to be taken seriously, that it was intended as over-the-top comic-book (hmm) style violence without any deeper meaning. I raise one primary objection, which is that the movie incompetently tries for a couple of deeper truths and simply fails to deliver them, like when you abandon a courier mission in Grand Theft Auto to shoot old people in the head instead. And even if I'm wrong, and it doesn't try for these, I simply didn't find it any fun.

It is as Bosquet said, watching the disaster unfolding at Balaclava:

C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre.

He continued, then:

C'est de la folie.

No, Bosquet. Ce n'est pas la folie. C'EST SP--

Sorry.

Anyway, this may be magnificent, but it is not fun.

Fifty years from now, this movie may be looked back on fondly as the height of the camp you get when you let Frank "DARK AND GRITTY! NO! DARKER! GRITTIER! YEAH BABY GIVE ME THAT AMBIGUOUS MORALITY!" Miller do his own thing. In the present day, it's a waste of time and money. About the only thing it's good for is a graphic (ha!) demonstration of what happens when you aim for "ridiculously over the top" and just barely manage to hit "ridiculous".
Galluskek
18.06.2009 - 9h28
Comrade Alex
19.06.2009 - 5h00
Galluskek
19.06.2009 - 7h23
bersl2
24.06.2009 - 8h00

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