Category: 300 Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: March 17, 2007 | Publication: Donhall.blogspot.com | Author: Don R Hall
The More We Change, The More We Stay the Same
Adapted from the graphic novel by Frank Miller
Directed by Zach Snyder
Featuring Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, David Wenham
There's been a whole lotta hoo-hah about Frank Miller's (by way of Zach Snyder) epic retelling of the Spartan stand against the Persian hordes being an allegory about the war in Iraq. I think that that's a lot of crap.
300 is a metaphor for all wars. Christ - this thing was actually waged 2500 years ago and in the end resonates with the same exact themes of nearly every war fought since - the quest for more power in the world met with the defiance of those who wish to determine their own fate and are willing to die to preserve their right to free will. If there is a lesson in the telling it is simply this: despite the Utopian ideals we aspire to, war is a part of being human and the real challenge is to fight for noble and just causes rather than for gain or revenge. Humans are savage and the thing we as a species are best at is killing each other.
The film did something rare for me - it met all of my (very high) expectations. It handled all the cliches of both war films and gladiator stories with enough fresh perspective that it seemed like I was watching the "David vs. Goliath meets The Turncoat Outcast meets The Father Who Loses His Son in Battle meets the Warrior King" story for the first time.
Visually, this thing is a knockout. Granted, it is the spewing of blood, the tearing of limbs, and the barbarous, vicious fighting of men without bombs to distance themselves from their enemies that looks both stunning and, at times, poetic, but 300 is a feast for the eyes regardless of what it glorifies in the process. From the sinewy bodies of both men and women to the darkly amber tone everything is bathed in, this is one gorgeous film.
I've read critiques of the film that state that the CGI 'perfection' of the look has no depth or organic 'feel' - that it lacks the earthiness and imperfections of a living, breathing world and feels sterile and cold. The same cats couldn't handle CDs and loved vinyl because of the pops and scratches - gimme a break. If you want earthiness and imperfection, a sense of the organic, go see some live theater, jackass.
The only thing I found off was the makeup on the Turncoat Outcast. It was lumpy and fake looking (this in a movie almost entirely generated by computers) and he looked too much like Sloth from The Goonies - I half expected him to show up with a Superman T-shirt and yearn for kinship with Chunk.
The storyboards were all Frank Miller. The vision belongs to Zach Snyder. The movie is the total property of Gerard Butler. His Leonidas is a wonder of super-macho poses and a completely believable oratory style that made me want to strap on some togs and a shield and join him in a glorious death for Sparta. After playing the The Phantom in the awful film version of The Phantom of the Opera, this cat comes out and pummels every scene to a pulp. The guy rocks in this film.
If there is a downside to 300 it is that it would be easy to write it off as warmongering pornography and leave it at that. The "Glory in Death" thing is a tough one to sell to a society that will eat beef but shudders at how cows are slaughtered; that thinks nothing of bombing the shit out of other countries but can't stomach the thought of abortion or 'pulling the plug' on braindead family members; that will tie a yellow fucking ribbon around a tree but turns a blind eye at the paltry conditions our wounded soldiers must endure.
A species that has evolved on so many levels - medicine, hygiene, science, travel, education, technology - it seems unlikely that we're ever going to 'get over' our natural tendencies for war. If on a smaller scale, we laud and magnify the heroics of The Greatest Generation and the men who sacrificed their lives in the American Revolution, perhaps it isn't killing and bloodshed of war that is our bane - perhaps it is the reasons we go to war with each other. Perhaps if we emphasized less the suppression of our violent tendencies but focus more on the ethics of why we fight, then we can embrace the idea of a glorious death in a righteous struggle.