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Why Do We Need Movie Critics?

Category: 300 News
Article Date: March 18, 2007 | Publication: The Daily Duck | Author: Duck
Source: The Daily Duck

Posted by: DaisyMay

Peter Bart in describes the disconnect between the opinions of movie critics and the viewing public that has made "300", a historical drama about the battle of Thermopylae, a runaway hit:

Box office data this year suggests that filmgoers seem to be having a great time at the multiplexes. The critics, by contrast, may be shopping around for a new line of work.

In reviewing "300" last week, for example, A.O. (Tony) Scott of the New York Times, said the movie was "as violent as 'Apocalypto' and twice as stupid."

That comment reflected the consensus among critics not only on "300" but also on "Ghost Rider," "Wild Hogs," "Norbit" and the other movie miscreants unleashed on the public since Oscar time.
The reviews of "300" remind us that the literature of disdain is much more fun to turn out. Scott, the Times critic, for example, predicted that the movie would become "an object of camp derision," and would appeal mainly to "devotees of the pectoral, deltoid and other fine muscle groups."

Kenneth Turan"s review in the Los Angeles Times, basically a prolonged wince, also noted that "300" was "Apocalypto" violent," adding, "There is a limit to how often you can see soldiers speared and hacked to death and still stay involved."

Perhaps, but the first week"s "involvement" totaled some $70 million at the box office.

I stopped taking critics seriously after seeing "Pulp Fiction" at their behest. I saw "300" on opening day and thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a gory spectacle no doubt, but it taps into themes that ordinary people crave and critics despise. Themes like patriotism and manly virtue. The main character, King Leonidas of Sparta played by Gerard Butler, is not complicated. He loves his people, his wife, his state, and he will fight to protect them from tyrany and slavery in spite of the objections of priests and politicians. So there is little suspense about how the story will unfold.

The tale is narrated by one of the soldiers at the battle, Dilios, played by David Wenham. The surreal, exaggerated nature of the battle scenes is best understood as a recreation in the imagination of a young Spartan hearing the tale from Delios as he recounts it from memory. The Persian soldiers are bizarre and exotic, their war beasts are enormous. Elephants are 50 feet tall. The King of Persia, Xerxes, is a strangely effeminate giant who towers over Leonidas, both seductive and repellant in his splendid decadence. The movie presents both history and myth, a point that none of the critics grasped.

In that respect it has something in common with another movie that came out this year that did gain much critical acclaim as well as three Academy Awards, "Pan's Labrynth". I also saw Pan's Labrynth and have to say that it is much deserving of the acclaim, which shows that critics can actually get it right sometimes.


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