Sunday, March 11, 2007

Review of 300 (all the good stuff said comes from teenagers)

Well folks, I took one for the team.

300 could have come close. Even factoring in that it was taken from a comic book, even factoring artistic license, even taking three teen age boys, it was hard to sit through.

The history was twisted and wrong. I couldn't see a reason for that. They overdid the opposition. There weren't any elephants, had they been there the ground that was chosen would have negated any impact they might have had, yet, there were not only elephants they were cartoon elephants.

They missed a lot of good things they could have said. In many ways the picture they gave of Sparta was closer to the "SpartaLand" that the Romans set up after defeating Philip of Macedon. The Romans also focused on the harsh training of the Spartan boys. They went straight for the Sado-Masochism without any thought of how it turned out the most feared fighting culture of the day.

You also would have thought that the battle was the Spartan's idea. They participated at the request of their old rivals the Athenians. They only sent 300, the rest of Greece (which really wasn't an entity, it was city by city, voting to send what volunteers they could) sent close to 8,000. There was a lot of loose talk about fighting for "freedom" which was truly not a Spartan ideal. As a matter of fact their military was mostly used to keep their slaves (mostly other Greeks from Messina) in line. They were a small monarchy. Much like the American South, the slavery that they based their economy on held them back. It took so much time, effort, and military expense to keep the inefficient slave labor on the job that they missed out on a whole lot of riches to be had from trade and commerce. They were slave drivers who were content to lord over their hirelings in relative squalor all the while complaining about the effete airs and dangerous freedoms of Athens (who twenty years previously had kicked some serious Persian ass at Marathon which the Spartans declined to participate in with even a token force). They also have the Spartans talking about how the Athenians are homosexual child molestors, then go to battle wearing speedos. Historically, the Spartans made homosexual initiation part and parcel of barracks life. On their wedding nights their brides dressed like cadets. But, the whole homosexual angle was no big deal to the Greeks. As long as your inclinations didn't interfere with your married duties they really didn't care.

It was the Athenian admiral Themistocles (who gets zero mention here) who kept the Persian fleet at bay, finally bringing the whole invasion down at Salamis. Leonidas and the Spartans made a suicidal glory stand that had little, if any, tactical or strategic impact. Psychologically they might have put some doubt in the Persian minds, some hope in the minds of the Greek allies, but, Athens still got burned.

There is some really lurid crap about the oracles of Greek religion. Making them like pagan strippers. It's pretty rude, but, hey, nobody believes in the Olymipic gods anymore so I guess it's fair game.

The whole movie, when they aren't fighting their cartoon fights (had they even tried to make it slightly realistic there would have been gore to spare from showing a hand to hand battle with seven foot spears and swords) is stupidly trite.

Even some of the most historic moments were twisted around and lost their meaning.

The most blatant of these was when they totally misrepresented the context of the laconic quip of Diekenes. In the original Heroditus account a Greek scout reports that he has seen the archers of the Persians taking their practice. He says that their arrows blot out the sun. Diekenes says "Good, then we shall have our battle in the shade." It's gallows humor. The Spartans knew they were expected to die. Every one of the Spartan similars that was at Thermopolye was the father of a son. That was what the Spartans did when there wasn't much chance of returning alive. It kept the bloodlines going. In the movie he says it angrily to a Persian envoy. Again, it was a twisting that I couldn't see a dramatic reason for.

The teenagers loved the action and the gore. They loved the bare tits (even cartoon tits can excite these boys) on the oracle. They loved the ass kicking fire of the Spartan women (which was pretty accurate).

I recommmend passing on this one. It's really not worth the money. The action is cartoonish and lurid. The script is stupid and factually unsupportable. The part that puzzles me is why they did it at all.

It will be too easy to rent in about four months. After two weeks of people coming out and talking about what a dog this is it will go to cable right away, and be out for rentals soon.

They are also making a live (real people with a minimum of CGI) version of Stephen Pressfield's Gates of Fire. Let's wait for that one.

3 B's


Blogger BadTux said...

What? Hollywood movie is historically inaccurate and cartoonish? You don't say!

I haven't seen anything out of Hollywood worth watching for years now... everything any good is either foreign or indy (as in, *really* indy, not the "fake" indy that Hollywood puts together).

11:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You might find this take on the movie amusing.

- oddjob

6:23 AM  
Blogger Pogo said...

Hopefully, it will end up on Showtime or Starz - neither of which I have.

8:19 AM  
Blogger pissed off patricia said...

Doesn't sound like my kind of movie. I like movies that make me laugh. Real life is brutal and sad enough. Just give me an animated movie about a little lost clown fish and I'm content. :)

3:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review, and your historical comments are right on, so far as I know.

I think the best (and most sympathetic) portrayal of this event and Spartan culture can be found in Steven Pressfield's novel, Gates of Fire. After reading it, I'd be hard-pressed to settle for a distorted comic-book version.

12:23 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Good review, Minstrel. Normally, I avoid this sort of movie like the plague (that ravaged Athens during the Pelopennesian War), but the hype has been so strong I was tempted.

But I needed to hear this sort of thing to calm me down. I hated Gladiator and I hated Braveheart, so I'm assuming this is in their league.

Damn. I thought we'd turned a corner.

4:33 PM  
Blogger Sherry Pasquarello said...

but, hey, nobody believes in the Olymipic gods anymore so I guess it's fair game.

be careful there. you never know. ; )

5:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sherry said...

> but, hey, nobody believes in the >Olymipic gods anymore so I guess >it's fair game.

> be careful there. you never know. ; )

There are more of us than many people realise.

Answering to Hermes...

8:10 PM  

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