Wednesday, March 07, 2007


I wasn't sure about the 300. The trailers looked cool, sure, and while I don't spend much time reading funny books graphic novels I really dug Frank Miller's 'Dark Knight' novel and 'Sin City' (the movie).

But then I read this ..
There is irony here. Oliver Stone's mega-production Alexander spent tens of millions in an effort to recapture the actual career of Alexander the Great, with top actors like Collin Farrel, Anthony Hopkins, and Angelina Joilie. But because this was a realist endeavor, we immediately were bothered by the Transylvanian accent of Olympias, Stone's predictable brushing aside of facts, along with the distortions, and the inordinate attention given to Alexander's supposed proclivities. But the "300" dispenses with realism at the very beginning, and thus shoulders no such burdens. If characters sometimes sound black-and-white as cut-out superheroes, it is not because they are badly-scripted Greeks, as was true in Stone's film, but because they reflect the parameters of the convention of graphic novels, comic books, and surrealistic cinematography.
Alexander was a bit of crap, true. Any film that is (as it were) the anti-Alexander is going to be good.
. . . but what was not conventionalized was the martial spirit of Sparta that comes through the film. Many of the most famous lines in the film come directly either from Herodotus or Plutarch's Moralia, and they capture well, in the historical sense, the collective Spartan martial ethic, honor, glory, and ancestor reverence.
"Come and take them!"
"Then we'll have our battle in the shade."

Those are the words of men who know what they're doing and what the cost will be.
Why—beside the blood-spattering violence and often one-dimensional characterizations—will some critics not like this, despite the above caveats?

Ultimately the film takes a moral stance, Herodotean in nature: there is a difference, an unapologetic difference between free citizens who fight for eleutheria and imperial subjects who give obeisance. We are not left with the usual postmodern quandary 'who are the good guys' in a battle in which the lust for violence plagues both sides. In the end, the defending Spartans are better, not perfect, just better than the invading Persians, and that proves good enough in the end. And to suggest that ambiguously these days has perhaps become a revolutionary thing in itself.
A movie that drives a stake in the ground and says 'this is a good and right thing to do"? Sign me up.

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