Of History and Comic Books
Category: 300 News | Posted by: maryp
Article Date: March 3, 2007 | Publication: Le Journal de Montreal | Author: Unknown
Since "Gladiator" put back the peplum in fashion, we cannot stop counting the number of productions bidding on a kind of historical reconstitution of the Antiquity. After Gladiator, Troy and Alexander, here is then 300, a war drama which takes root in the Spartans past... and of American comic books.
This movie which will be on our screens next week, is based mainly on a legendary encounter between the Spartan forces and the Persian army, some 480 years before Jesus Christ.
On account of the immiment invasion by Persia of their lands and continent, King Leonidas and his 300 elite soldiers stopped thousand of Persians at the gates of Thermopylae, to give time to the Spartans and Athenians to recoup.
This epic shock between two civilisations is also the base for the comic book 300, written and drawn by Frank Miller, the same one who also gave life to the very famous "Sin City". Like the characters in Sin City which went easily from the 9th art (comic book) to the 7th art (cinema), the graphic novel of Miller is translated on the big screen under the direction of Zack Snyder.
"Over the rigorous considerations of the graphic novel and of the history, I wanted that the movie be attractive for the moviegoers, explains Snyder, which revisited in 004 the George Romero
A solid basis
In spite of the relative freedom that Warner Bros. was ready to allow him, Snyder faced the recurring problem of adapting a comic book to the big screen. Too near the comic book, you look like some kind of a purist. Too far, you are accused of treason by the readers.
"The choke hold imposed by the graphic had its advantages and its disadvantages, esteems Snyder. Notably with Frank in the area - in his quality as executive producer -, a man whose work I esteem. I did my best not to mess it up."
300 is not only a violent movie. It is a movie where the violence is one of the most important fibers on account of the social and political conventions of the time. The Spartans, born in the city of the same name, were the hellenic warriors the most fierce of the Greek Empire.
It is not for nothing that Gerard butler, who plays King Leonidas - as well as his principal co-stars, seems to have been born right out of a training gym. When you see Butler face to face, you realise that he mustn't have had to over train as he is a very imposant man. It is not that aspect though that he finds the most important in the movie.
Determined to the excess
"Whether it is conscious or not, you know that actors always look for excuses with regards to the actions of their characters. Not here. Nobody... When you look at the movie, you know who those guys are and what they're doing. The motto is: >We will not give up" You know they are not well seen, but at the end, you know that they are respected and that there are people who will appreciate what they did. I would like to be as determined as those guys."
300 almost never saw the day, on account of the timing. "We believed at some point that the movie would not be shot, explains Snyder. I had the script in my hand and I was doing the tour of studios at the moment where most of them already had such a movie in production. Whether we think of Troy or of Alexander. So that is why there was a delay."
"We thought at some point that we would be doing it on an independent basis, which could have been interesting, but for which you need a very important quantity of financing and energy. It was at that moment that I decided to do Dawn of the Dead, but the project was still available when I completed Dawn..."
The Historical Context
. The City of Sparta was one of the most powerfu ones of Antiquity for two hundred years, from the VII to V century BC. Its domination was extended from Laconia to Messenia. She is mostly known for the rigorous military training that young boys had to undergo from the time they turned 7 years old.
. Sparta was an oligarchy. All the citizens could participate to the City Assembly, but the power was held by the richer ones. The government was constituted by five echors elected for one year by the members of the Assembly. When a citizen being part of the city elite turned 60 years old, he haed the possibility of becoming one of the twenty-eight gerontes which formed part of the Council for life, very high institution at the time.
. The principal gods were the same for all the hellenic people of the Antiquity, but each area had its own local divinities.
. Throughouth history, the cities of Sparta and Athen were sometime allies for several different causes. This was the case during the two Medic Wars, where they united their strenght to fight the Persians. It is when the second conflict took that 300 Spartans under the command of Leonidas sacrificed themselves by blocking heroically the Hot Gates of the Thermopylae to delay their opponents and to thus allow the Athenians to retreat securily.
The man behind the comic book heroes
Frank Miller, the man behind 300 and Sin City, started his career over 25 years. Small chronology of his work.
. Miller debuts at GoldKey in 1978, but it is while drawing for Marvel the Spectacular Spider-Man series, editions 27 and 28 - when Spider-Man teams up with Daredvil - that he attracts the attention.
. Miller takes over the dying Daredevil at number #158 which is a success on account of the mortal combat between Daredevil and Deathstalker. Miller will have the title reborn of its ashes for three years with the introduction (168) and death (181) of Elektra, the rebirth of Kingpin and the emergence of Bullseye joining the rank of the best "baddies" that ever were.
. In 1986, his miniserie on Batman titled The Dark Knight Returns creates a phenomenon in the story of American comic books. Never the rereading of a character in an ancient context - Batman was then 50 years old - would ever know such a success.
. With David Mazzuchelli, he creates Batman Year One in 1987 - which is the biggest inspiration for the movie Batman Begins - and proposes the most important reform of Batman's origins since its creation by Bob Kane in 1939.
. In 1991, this time at Dark Horse Comics, Miller gives birth to Sin City which becomes a model for this mvoie genre at the beginning of the years 2000.