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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

300 (2006)

Frank Miller is easily one of the most well-known comic book creators of today, and many of his works have managed to make it to the big screen, but it was when in 2005 that director Robert Rodriguez helmed the adaptation of his graphic novel Sin City that non comic book fans took notice (Its worldwide box take of over $450 million dollars can attest to that). So it’s not surprising that a year later we saw another one of his hyper stylized graphic novels making a big splash on the big screen.
“We do 300 crunches a day to get abs like these.”
As adaptation go this and Sin City are probably the most faithful to the source material, using the Green Screen Back Lot the filmmakers were able to translate the panels perfectly from the comic book right to the screen. But does this make it a good film? Visually this film is stunning, the images leap off the screen in stark bold images and colours, but in the acting and writing camp things are bit shakier. “Gerard “This is Sparta!” Butler is in full hero mode and does his best to create this larger than life figure of Spartan King Leonidas, but often he comes off as a bit over-the-top cartoony. Lena Headey as Queen Gorgo is more evidence that Frank Miller may have some issues with women, and Rodrigo Santoro as Xerxes pretty much sums up Miller’s views on certain ethic groups.
"I'm just a sweet transvestite."
So director Zack Snyder had to decide to either be faithful to the source material or just base his movie on the graphic novel but still do his own thing. Those of you who have watched many of Snyder’s movies know that he doesn’t really ooze all that much in the creativity department. No one can knock his ability to give us stunning visuals but too often they are in service to poor scripts with lazy plots (Sucker Punch to date is one of the biggest WTF movies I’ve ever seen. Gorgeous! but makes no sense at all). This kind of makes Snyder the perfect choice as 300 the book is all about style over substance.
 “Um, Leonidas, we kind of drink out of that well.”
 Historical Accuracy: In an MTV interview Zack Snyder stated that, “The events are 90 percent accurate. It’s just in the visualization that it’s crazy…. I’ve shown this movie to world-class historians who have said it’s amazing. They can’t believe it’s as accurate as it is.” I’m not sure where he found these “world-class historians” but thank god I never had any of them as history teachers. Frank Miller has said that “The inaccuracies, almost all of them, are intentional.” I can respect that because an artist taking liberties with facts is nothing new and I’d be hard pressed to name a movie that didn’t fudge the truth if not out and out make shit up. So when watching a movie that is “Based on True Events” it comes down to two questions; “Did this film entertain me?” and “How dear is the subject matter to me personally?”

This Oracle is certainly easier to watch than Fox News.
When I walked out of Mel Gibson’s film Braveheart, I’m betting my reaction was a lot different than say a scholar of the period who would be well versed with the events pertaining to the real life of William Wallace. The same goes for 300, if you just go in with the expectation of seeing a silly over-the-top action film you will most likely leave happy, but if you know anything about the Spartans and the Battle of Thermopylae your feelings may differ greatly. Below are a few things that bothered me and not all of these have to do with his historical accuracy.
• 7,000 Greeks marched to block the path at Thermopylae. Leonidas and his 300 were an important part of that army and crucial when they were outflanked and he and his men stayed to guard the rear, but they certainly weren’t as depicted in this movie.
• Leonidas kills the Persian ambassador. This does not make you a badass. This means any ambassador you send out into the world has the life expectancy of a may fly.
• The Ephors where not leprously deformed priest who got handed drugged virgins. They were elected citizens of Sparta.
• Leonidas gives great speeches about not kneeling to Persia as they will not give up their freedom. Sparta was a slave state. So he was basically talking about his citizen’s freedom and not the thousands of slaves that do all the work while they are off fighting.
• Leonidas goes on and on about how awesome the phalanx fighting formation is and why one hunchbacked soldier would ruin the whole thing, but in this movie they stay in that formation for about half a minute before running willy-nilly into battle, and as outnumbered as they were this would have resulted in them being as quickly slaughtered.
• Leonidas makes a crack about the Athenians being “Boy Lovers”. Many scholars site Sparta as the first city state to formalize pederasty where a pubescent boy would enter a sexual relationship with an older male mentor.
• I do wish the Persian army in fact had giants, vampires, and arm-bladed mutants.

“Welcome to Xerxes Side Show of Wonders!”
Zack Snyder does do an amazing thing at the end of his film; we find out that the narrator, Dillios (David Wenham), is recounting the story of the Battle of Thermopylae to his troops about to go into battle themselves, this makes the entire movie a propaganda story, completely excusing any and all inaccuracies. That’s just brilliant.
Frank Miller and Zack Snyder have created a visual feast for fans of action and spectacle, but sadly not a very fair our accurate look at history.  Though as poorly as I think this movie was written it still better than it’s sequel 300: Rise of an Empire.

Somewhere the wolf is still circling the boy.

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