6 thoughts on 300

About every six months I get a chance to sneak out and catch a film in a real movie theater. Today I took in 300 at Cinetopia, and here are some gut-shot reactions:

1) If you are going to see this film, spend the time to seek out a digital theater. The textures and colors in Zach Snyder’s 300 are simply stunning; if you thought Robert Rodriguez’s production of Sin City had incredible eye candy, you will be among the many oooh-ing and ahhh-ing in the room. Fellow Portlanders, damn few things are worth crossing The River into The Couv for, and this is one of them. Cinetopia provides a great experience all way around (cheesecake + beer? what’s not to love?)

2) While the film is technically superb, the plotline and characterizations are ones you’ve seen a hundred times before. Troy and Alexander, unfortunately, both have more nuance than does 300 in these departments.

2a) I wonder if Frank Miller worries about the larger impressions 300 might leave with Western audiences, especially here in the United States as it feathers itself up for war with Iran. My hope is that he at least thinks about it, and that his impressive graphic novel that spawned this film will inspire some people to dig a little deeper into the complexities that lay underneath. What I’m getting at is the portrayal of Persians in this film is, for me, singular and discouraging, and implies an easy Us vs. Them conclusion. The Spartan king Leonidas of Sparta is uncomplicated as another uber-hetero ancient warrior who has an incredibly anachronistic, post-9/11 view of “freedom,” and smacks a consistent social-progressive vibe (no slaves! equality for women!). His antagonist, Xerxes of Persia, comes across as an effeminized megalomaniac bent on conquest for conquest’s sake and, apparently, into all sorts of fetishes that paint him as a precursor to Michael Jackson.

2b) I’m probably hypersensitive to this stuff right now because my comics & lit class is working through Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis this term, and I can’t help but feel that portrayals of Persians like what we see in 300 are part of the reason she feels compelled to share her personal history, and to challenge readers in the USA and UK to confront their own misconceptions and ignorances of Persian culture. It will be interesting to see how Satrapi’s own big screen adaptation tackles these issues.

3) It’s never surprising to me to see English language films so laudatory of Greco-Roman culture, but I always find it curious. As much as we in the USA like to think of ourselves as culturally-diverse, it never quite rings true, and this film is probably another example of that.

4) It wouldn’t be fair to talk about this film’s historical accuracy, as clearly that is not the agenda here. But in the end of the film, we are led to believe that a triumphant unity of Greek nationalism will save the day, and that a new age of progressive socialism is somehow dawning. This couldn’t be further from the truth; Athens and Sparta were the bitterest of enemies throughout history, and it wouldn’t be until the 19th century that this notion of Greek nationalism finally takes root (at the behest of British rabble-rousing no less, personified by the likes of Lord Byron and other cultural elites back on The Island who saw it as their “enlightened” duty to “liberate” Greek culture from the nefarious (and Islamic…) Ottomans (sound familiar…?)).

5) All of the above probably sounds as if I disliked the film, which is definitely not the case. Again, it is a brilliant film stylistically, and as someone who first tuned into comics because of that guy named Frank Miller, 300 had more than its fair share of hardcore fanboy-isms for me. Some will inevitably make the claim that the battle scenes in this film are The Matrix meets Braveheart, which is probably fair on the surface of things, but ultimately fails to see the real impact comics are having on film-making. The Battle of Thermopylae and Herodotus’ legend thereof is a seminal Western metanarrative about heroism and sacrifice, and while 300 holds true to those thematics, it is clearly a film filtered through Miller’s synapses in nearly every way. This is a mostly good thing, and on occasion, a great thing.

6) The best part of the whole experience for me actually came before the film even started. I had heard rumors of a teaser trailer for the upcoming Watchmen joint (which, not coincidentally, is being directed by Snyder), and I was wincing at the thought of being a captive audience for something I have absolutely no desire to see come to the big screen. Luckily, the 20 minutes of trailers were completely Rorschach-free. *whew*

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3 responses to “6 thoughts on 300

  • Evorgleb

    300 is getting more good press than it deserves. I just did a review of 300 over at Highbrid Nation if you care to read it. In the end it was just another movie that did not live up to the hype to me. Can we say “poor man’s Gladiator”? Most people will likely disagree with me though, lol

  • Oscar

    I have to say that I disagree with your Evorgleb. I think that although the plot was a bit thin, the visual splendor of this film was incredible! I think that it is going to change the way that action films are made from here on out.

    I stumbled upon some cool behind-the-scenes and production footage on this site Zannel and I’m telling you that you will have a serious appreciation for the actors’ skills and obvious hard work that went into making this film different and successful.

  • The Sainthood of Frank Miller « TREVOR DODGE

    […] I improvised a lecture/discussion in my Comics & Literature class at CCC, wherein we tackled the timeliness of Zach Snyder’s film 300. Our class is heading into finals next week, and although I […]

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