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Is George Bush Leonidas, or Xerxes?
March 9, 2007 8:24 PM   Subscribe

300 opened today. Slate's reviewer didn't like it -- "No one involved ... seems to have noticed that we're in the middle of an actual war. With actual Persians." Some people took him/her to task over it. Still others asked the director, "Is George Bush Leonidas, or Xerxes?" Obviously, the Frank Miller fanboys love it. And one of the guys from AintitCool says, "Just ass kicking that kicks ass that, while said ass is getting kicked, is kicking yet more ass that’s hitting someone’s balls with a hammer made of ice but the ice is frozen whiskey." But who knew the trailer's catch phrase "Then we shall fight in the shade" is actually lifted from Herodotus?
posted by frogan (192 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Hmm, it just seems the sexed-up-violence-obsessed-questionable-historical-accuracy genre is really not going away.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:29 PM on March 9, 2007 [4 favorites]


Wesley Morris didn't like it, either.
posted by yhbc at 8:31 PM on March 9, 2007


Hmm, it just seems the sexed-up-violence-obsessed-questionable-historical-accuracy genre is really not going away.


I'll gladly take that over the snipped-balls-passive-pedantic flicks any old day of the week.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:34 PM on March 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


"But who knew the trailer's catch phrase "Then we shall fight in the shade" is actually lifted from Herodotus?"

Those of us who studied Latin from Wheelock got "In umbra, igitur, pugnabimus!" from Cicero.

.
posted by RavinDave at 8:35 PM on March 9, 2007


Dean Barnett reacts to the Slate review.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 8:36 PM on March 9, 2007


Is George Bush Leonidas, or Xerxes?

Tell me which one of the two would be described as chicken hawks and i'll tell you who Bush is.
posted by nola at 8:41 PM on March 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


I haven't seen the movie yet but I can't imagine how it can improve on the original book, seeing how so much of the drama and performance was a result of Miller employing amazing wide-page spreads.

Also, it's the best writing Miller's ever done. Hands down, the lines delivered in 300 top anything in the Sin City or Dark Knight books.

Odds are the book costs less than a pair of tickets to the movie, and you get to keep it. Take the better deal.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:41 PM on March 9, 2007


"If 300, the new battle epic based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley, had been made in Germany in the mid-1930s, it would be studied today alongside The Eternal Jew as a textbook example of how race-baiting fantasy and nationalist myth can serve as an incitement to total war. Since it's a product of the post-ideological, post-Xbox 21st century, 300 will instead be talked about as a technical achievement, the next blip on the increasingly blurry line between movies and video games."

Ouch.
posted by homunculus at 8:41 PM on March 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


I was pretty unsurprised by the reviews but color me a Frank Miller fanboy, I'm going to see it tomorrow afternoon anyways.
posted by saraswati at 8:42 PM on March 9, 2007


Also, it's the best writing Miller's ever done. Hands down, the lines delivered in 300 top anything in the Sin City or Dark Knight books.

As a rabid fan of Miller's work with Batman I'm going to have to kill you for that comment.
posted by saraswati at 8:43 PM on March 9, 2007


Re: An actual war with actual Persians.

Or, as I like to explain it 'round Casa Docgonzo, the reason why I find 24 abhorrent.

Good thing Guantanamo isn't a prison!
posted by docgonzo at 8:44 PM on March 9, 2007


I saw it a few weeks ago. Beautiful to look at. Nice choreography. Well edited. Overall? The movie's poo. Shallow characters, little story, atrocious narration and, worst of all, captital- B Boring. The friend I went with walked out 20 mins in. I wish I'd followed him.
posted by dobbs at 8:44 PM on March 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ya gotta love a movie that brings out the venom in critics; both Joe Morgenstern at the WSJ and A.O. Scott at the NYT came up with some great lines today as they slammed 300. Morgenstern said there were two battles going on, the Spartans against the Persians and "millions of fans of brainless violence against a gallant band, or so I choose to think of us, who still expect movies to contain detectable traces of humanity." Scott starts off by saying it's "about as violent as Apocalypto and twice as stupid."

Morgenstern's usually spot on, for what that's worth.
posted by mediareport at 8:46 PM on March 9, 2007


I saw the movie this evening with my my fiancee and we both walked away pleased with the experience. Her general takeaway was that it was satisfying and entertaining, though she might say the same about Jackass 2 or Borat. I, on the other hand, really wanted to come home and play 300 the video game, but quipped, as only a person who no longer owns a PS3 could, "It would probably be a PS3 exclusive."

It's exceptionally violent and sexualized, but it's not over the top for the narrative. Other than some gratuitous nipples, which may or may not be period or genre appropriate, the sex and violence flowed nicely with the plot.

I'd recommend it, but I'm not entirely certain I'd take my mother to see it. For a point of reference, I saw 40 Year Old Virgin the unrated version with her and had to leave in the first fifteen minutes because my liberal mother was clearly shocked to be seeing such filth. Thankfully, she left so I could enjoy the filth in relative privacy with my fiancee.
posted by sequential at 8:46 PM on March 9, 2007


As a rabid fan of Miller's work with Batman I'm going to have to kill you for that comment.

I'll just have to come back as a clone with new super-powers then before you dump me in a pit of lava.

Also, the goddamn Batman already called me a retard.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:48 PM on March 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


Dean Barnett reacts to the Slate review.

Well, that was pointless.
posted by mediareport at 8:50 PM on March 9, 2007


At least one review I skimmed today noted that the Spartans, as tkchrist once put it were assholes. No, wait, what was noted was that they were slaveholders. My bad. What tkc noted bears repetition:

The Spartans, while oozing with valor and badassness, were at their very core complete fucking assholes and their society doomed as a result of that.

posted by mwhybark at 8:52 PM on March 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


Batman Year 100 sounds interesting.
posted by homunculus at 8:55 PM on March 9, 2007


The Spartans ... were at their very core complete fucking assholes

Spoiler alert!
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I find it interesting that none of the reviewers seem to notice that, in the Miller version of the story, it is precisely their assholeness about those deemed unfit to be a Spartan that is the ultimate downfall of the heroic 300 of the story.
posted by frogan at 9:04 PM on March 9, 2007


Oh, and I kid you not that watching this extended trailer is as much satisfaction as you'd get from watching the film. You'll just have a lot more time on your hands when you're done. (Trailer has some nudity and a shot of Rorschach from Snyder's next piece of shit adaption at 1:52.)
posted by dobbs at 9:04 PM on March 9, 2007


dobbs said:

Beautiful to look at. Nice choreography. Well edited. Overall? The movie's poo. Shallow characters, little story, atrocious narration and, worst of all, captital- B Boring. The friend I went with walked out 20 mins in. I wish I'd followed him.

Yep.
posted by bigmusic at 9:07 PM on March 9, 2007


Victor Davis Hanson. "...purists must remember that 300 seeks to bring a comic book, not Herodotus, to the screen."
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:11 PM on March 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


I was really excited about 300, went to the midnight showing at the IMAX, and left with mixed feelings. I did not expect much in terms of plot or character but even still I felt somewhat disappointed. The film was visually stunning, well choreographed, and I enjoyed the camera work. It was satisfying to watch the Spartans fight, but everything else was boring filler. The film could have been a good deal shorter and still had the same effect.

But don't compare the movie to current events in the world. The movie was made solely to be a feast for the eyes, not deliver some deep, preachy message.
posted by god particle at 9:13 PM on March 9, 2007


That was possibly the gayest fucking movie I have ever seen.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:15 PM on March 9, 2007 [3 favorites]


Persia = Iran

And did the Spartans wax their chests?
posted by joseppi7 at 9:21 PM on March 9, 2007


I object to the title. There were 4,900 other Greeks in addition to the 300 Spartans.

Oh, and I kid you not that watching this extended trailer is as much satisfaction as you'd get from watching the film.

That trailer was stupid.
Except for the titties.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:30 PM on March 9, 2007


So what does that tell you?
posted by nola at 9:34 PM on March 9, 2007


After two days of battle, a Greek shepherd showed the Persians an alternate way through the mountains. Because of that, the battle became hopeless. Leonidas told the other 4900 Greeks (or as many of them as were still alive) to flee, and he and his 300 stayed and fought on. They all died. That's why it's called "300".
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:38 PM on March 9, 2007


Did it have the historical man-man love? Or did that, you know, not happen?
posted by adipocere at 9:43 PM on March 9, 2007


300 : How to make million-person epic battles boring as fuck

Just walked out in the middle of it at IMAX.
Last movie I walked out of was Shrek....or The Mummy Returns. One of those pieces of shit.

Anyhoo...

This thing was boring as fuck. Note to director: when you shoot EVERY DAMN THING in slow motion, it becomes boring as a slap fight in a candle store. At regular speed this is a 25 minute film. Tops.

And before you jump to conclusions, I didnt go in expecting art at all.
I just wanted eye candy and some kickass battles. They had some pretty cool batttles choreographed, and then sucked the fucking life out of them by shooting EVERYTHING in slow motion.
Everything.
Im not kidding.
Even in-between shit like people walking across rooms and stuff was in Epic SloMo.

A beautiful-looking bore and a half.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 9:44 PM on March 9, 2007


Shallow characters, little story, atrocious narration and, worst of all, captital- B Boring.

In other words, a faithful latter-day Frank Miller adaptation.
Aside from the occasional bit of artistic flash, most of his work in the last 15 years reads like unintentional parody - the forced, embarrassingly self-conscious "This is an epic, can't you see this is epic, I dare you to say it isn't epic, god, this is so fucking epic" tone of 300 is a particularly good example of his failings as a writer.

Still wouldn't mind seeing the flick, though. Purty lookin' pitcher.

That said, Stevens' review was a hoot in its wrongheadedness, getting plot points wrong (I could swear that the fifth paragraph originally said that Leonidas killed a messenger, implying one of his own men, not a Persian envoy. Otherwise, what the hell does a breach in diplomatic protocol - if killing a representative of an invading force counted as such back then - have to do with being a tyrant?) and far overestimating the box office influence comic readers really have in her rush to get her political licks in. Disingenuousness or complete obliviousness indeed.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:46 PM on March 9, 2007


Miller's stuff was shit-hot when I was 15. At 33, not quite so much. I think I would have thought Sin City was the best thing evar if I'd seen it as a teenager, but when I saw it last year, the only impression it made on me was "Man, this guy's got some serious issues with women."

When I saw the trailer for 300 in the theatre, a couple of guys were loudly counting out each of the "AAAAARRRRGGGHHHH!!!!!"'s, which kind of took away from the awesome epic-ness, not to mention cracked up the rest of the audience.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:01 PM on March 9, 2007 [3 favorites]


Some entertainment cable station interviewed Dad the Emeritus Historian of Graeco-Roman Egypt today about the film's fidelity to the historical record. It's non-existent, apparently, which I'm sure comes as a shock to...er, no one. Dad did find the whole nude warrior thing rather amusing, though.
posted by thomas j wise at 10:03 PM on March 9, 2007


MetaFilter: Overall? The movie's poo.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:03 PM on March 9, 2007


Did the guys who volunteered to fight alongside the spartans at the battle show up in the movie? There were more of them than there were spartans, in real life.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:05 PM on March 9, 2007


Yeah they did, but the general theme is that they were pussies that werent really warriors anyway.

I learned from 300 that the Spartans were dickbags.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:07 PM on March 9, 2007


My biggest problem with this movie, which I haven't yet seen, is that they really didn't figure out a way to yell "Sparta!" compellingly with a British accent. "This... Is... Spaaaah-Daaah!" isn't quite doing it for me.
posted by staggernation at 10:13 PM on March 9, 2007


I saw this last week. I was so hyped to see the "fight in the shade" line. I still don't know how I felt about the film. It was gorgeous. But the violence was so choreographed and slo-mo'd that it stopped feeling violent. It was a dance. Also, the scenes they added with Gorgo that weren't in the book did nothing but slow it down. I too felt uncomfortable with the vilification of blacks in the movie. The blacker the member of the Persian empire, the more evil. Also, the one thing I didn't like about the book was the freakishly deformed turncoat. it was too over the top. Snyder seemed to view it instead as a license to add even more freaks.

One interesting comparison that I haven't seen anyone make is how this movie was in many ways the exact opposite of Troy. Troy took the Illiad and attempted to strip the myth out of it and make it seem much more real. 300 took a real event and made it into myth.
posted by thecjm at 10:16 PM on March 9, 2007


Dulce et decorum est, the movie. Your entertainment dollars this week are way better spent on The Host.

And Dana Stevens is a she.
posted by muckster at 10:21 PM on March 9, 2007


Some entertainment cable station interviewed Dad the Emeritus Historian of Graeco-Roman Egypt today about the film's fidelity to the historical record. It's non-existent, apparently, which I'm sure comes as a shock to...er, no one.

We should simply have faithfully adapted the works of the Greeks, who were famous for nuanced, absolutely accurate presentations of their own history.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:28 PM on March 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


I love how the default Hollywood european/foreigner/figure from the classical period is always British.

"Ok boys, we'll do the whole they speak in the bog latin for a minute jibber-jabber and then we zoom in on the guys mouth and zoom out and everyone's a fucking Brit."

No I mean I really love that, it helps me out. Nothing more exotic than a dude with a spray on tan and a tonsured neckbeard for me please.
posted by Divine_Wino at 10:40 PM on March 9, 2007


Did it have the historical man-man love? Or did that, you know, not happen?

Not only does Spartan man-man love not happen, I'm told, but Miller actually turns Sparta into an uber-hard hetero bastion, and uses faggy gayness to evil-ize the Persians even more. The Voice review is fun:

Delicacies of dismemberment aside, 300 is notable for its outrageous sexual confusion. Here stands the Spartan king Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and his 299 buddies in nothing but leather man-panties and oiled torsos, clutching a variety of phalluses they seek to thrust in the bodies of their foes by trapping them in a small, rectum-like mountain passage called the "gates of hell(o!)" Yonder rises the Persian menace, led by the slinky, mascara'd Xerxes. When he's not flaring his nostrils at Leonidas and demanding he kneel down before his, uh, majesty, this flamboyantly pierced crypto-transsexual lounges on chinchilla throw pillows amidst a rump-shaking orgy of disfigured lesbians.

On first glance, the terms couldn't be clearer: macho white guys vs. effeminate Orientals. Yet aside from the fact that Spartans come across as pinched, pinheaded gym bunnies, it's their flesh the movie worships. Not since Beau Travail has a phalanx of meatheads received such insistent ogling. As for the threat to peace, freedom, and democracy, that filthy Persian orgy looks way more fun than sitting around watching Spartans mope while their angry children slap each other around. At once homophobic and homoerotic, 300 is finally, and hilariously, just hysterical.

posted by mediareport at 10:41 PM on March 9, 2007


He's like Sean Connery doing Robert Duvall in "Apocalypse Now" in a chicer version of the costume Connery wore in "Zardoz."

...and you, Wesley Morris, are like Dennis Miller doing TV's Frank in a cheaper version of the sweatsuit Jay Sherman wore midway through the first season of "The Critic". You have laid for us a mystery wrapped inside an obscure reference wrapped inside a big ol' who-gives-a-poop tortilla wrapped inside the Boston Globe.

Now, Frank Miller...there's a dude who writes from the heart.
posted by unregistered_animagus at 10:50 PM on March 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oh and did I mention that theres a narrator that sounds like a cartoon wizard that shows up just to describe the inane shit that you are LOOKING AT AT THE TIME?

Fuck this movie.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:55 PM on March 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


You know what really pissed me off? The blatant pandering to 9/11 by Peter Jackson in naming the movie "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" The title is clearly meant to refer to the attacks on the World Trade Center. In this post-September 11 world, it is unforgivable that this should be allowed to happen. The idea is both offensive and morally repugnant.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:57 PM on March 9, 2007 [3 favorites]


I just got back from it. I expected a 50/50 retarded/awesome ratio but it ended up more like 80/20.

Someone said above that the movie should have been 25 minutes long. With no slow motion, they could have hit 20, I think.

Not as bad as Sin City was, but still not good enough.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 11:14 PM on March 9, 2007


I kind of have the impression that Dana Stevens wanted them to do to this story what Oliver Stone did to Alexander the Great.

Only problem is that movie making is a business, and Stone's "Alexander" lost a bundle.

300 cost a lot less to make ($60 million instead of $150 million) and apparently didn't try to repaint the story with a thick coat of modern sensitivity and multiculturalism, and I bet it ends up being profitable. Say whatever else you will about them, knuckle-dragging Neanderthals have a lot of money to spend on tales of martial prowess with well-delineated good guys and bad guys (and I don't mean their muscles), and larger-than-life heroes.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:15 PM on March 9, 2007


Senor Cardgage: "This thing was boring as fuck. Note to director: when you shoot EVERY DAMN THING in slow motion, it becomes boring as a slap fight in a candle store. At regular speed this is a 25 minute film... A beautiful-looking bore and a half."

Did you not like the movie or something?
posted by Effigy2000 at 11:21 PM on March 9, 2007


AFAIK, adult male homosexuality was not an accepted part of Spartan culture. They did practice pederasty, however.

Based on some of the reviews linked here, I have to say that I'm a little bemused at the near-hysterical reaction emanating from certain segments of the Left--and I say this as a man of the Left myself--in response to this harmless, if surprisingly dull, film. Why does a brainless action flick with a veneer of historicity have to be interpreted as a political allegory? Why does being a fun, if hollow, exercise in macho heroism open a work up to charges of crypto-Nazism? I'd hate to see Dana Stevens do a retrospective review of Patton. She'd eviscerate it with all the overpoliticized earnestness of a teenage Marxist.

I'm glad to see that Nathan Lee at the Voice gets more into the spirit, but the whole 'The Spartans are really masculine; that's really gay. The Persians are really feminine; that's really gay.' thing has all the depth of a schoolyard taunt.

Now, to make the circle complete, we just need a review from the Right interpreting 300 as an all-American, pro-Bush tribute to our war against the godless Oriental hordes.
posted by Makoto at 11:23 PM on March 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


(The British being honorary Americans, of course, except in Mel Gibson movies.)
posted by Makoto at 11:26 PM on March 9, 2007


Based on some of the reviews linked here, I have to say that I'm a little bemused at the near-hysterical reaction emanating from certain segments of the Left--and I say this as a man of the Left myself--in response to this harmless, if surprisingly dull, film. Why does a brainless action flick with a veneer of historicity have to be interpreted as a political allegory? Why does being a fun, if hollow, exercise in macho heroism open a work up to charges of crypto-Nazism?

Because it celebrates martial prowess, and could be interpreted to mean that there are things worth fighting for, worth killing for, and worth dying for. To the lefties to which you refer who are having this near-hysterical reaction, that idea is obscene.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:36 PM on March 9, 2007


The trailer for this film just looked awful, so I'm not sure what people were expecting. Consider the elements:

1. Lost cause.
2. Aggressive, irrational, frothing leader.
3. Dickbags.

All the ingredients of a profound film, right?

Regarding Frank Miller: After listening to his interview on Fresh Air a few years ago, I pretty much gave up on his work. The ridiculous assertion that '9/11 changed everything' hasn't lead to anything particularly rewarding yet, and I can't imagine it ever will.
posted by Kikkoman at 11:51 PM on March 9, 2007


The History Channel or Discovery Times has an interesting piece running currently addressing the historical context of the story of the 300 and it's pretty interesting. Check it out if you can.
posted by iamabot at 12:05 AM on March 10, 2007


from the spartans re: your fabled fight

we'll keep digging you up 'til you get it right
posted by pyramid termite at 12:13 AM on March 10, 2007


could be interpreted to mean that there are things worth fighting for, worth killing for, and worth dying for.

It's interesting you should mention that, because the 300 referenced in the crappy movie were ostensibly fighting, killing, and dying for sovereignty against foreign invaders. Ponder that while you bravely risk carpal tunnel.
posted by dirigibleman at 12:32 AM on March 10, 2007 [4 favorites]


This thread is confused. I haven't seen the movie, but I'm familiar with the Battle of Thermopylae:

1. Herodotus is one of the main sources on the Peleponnesian War -- how is the quote surprising? It's apocryphal, but commonly attributed to a Spartan soldier.

2. There were more than 6,000 other Greeks at the battle (I've never heard the 4,900 figure before), but the fighting was almost all done by Spartans. And it's generally accepted that the Spartan contingent was the decisive factor, especially given their strategic experience, unit discipline, and that they never really got a chance to rotate out of the front lines. Also, armored Hoplites were significantly different than regular infantry, as was demonstrated many times before and after during the war. In this case, the pass faces the ocean, so the Spartan phalanx would set up diagonally and the advancing Persian infantry would essentially roll off into the ocean. That wouldn't have been possible without a unit that was trained to fight in formation (the shields have to overlap in a particular way).

3. "300 took a real event and made it into myth." Ummm... the Illiad is a myth, true. But, the battle of Thermopylae did occur, and aside from the literary embellishments, it did happen much as it seems to be portrayed in the movie. That's why it's a good story.

4. The "slavery" line strikes me as somewhat nonsensical. The Lacedaemonian state was run by the Spartan warrior-class, who were in theory above the helot worker-class who were "owned," but the Spartans weren't allowed to own material possessions or trade in currency. Hence the term 'Spartan living' -- it's not as if they were some bourgeois class living in luxury on the backs of their workers. The soldier life was in many ways pretty harsh and miserable, even if they were the nominal leaders of the state. If anything, it's reasonable to characterize the relationship between the two classes as symbiotic.

5. "Leonidas told the other 4900 Greeks (or as many of them as were still alive) to flee, and he and his 300 stayed and fought on. They all died. That's why it's called "300"." It's generally considered important that 700 Thespians -- who weren't professional soldiers nor members of the honor guard -- stayed behind and were killed with the Spartans. But whatever.

6. Oh, and as long as I'm on the topic, Dana Stevens is a fucking idiot, and has no idea what he's talking about:

If 300, the new battle epic based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley, had been made in Germany in the mid-1930s, it would be studied today alongside The Eternal Jew as a textbook example of how race-baiting fantasy and nationalist myth can serve as an incitement to total war.

Mobilizing 300 men out of a 10,000-man-army is an incitement to total war? That's fucking moronic. And actually complaining that the movie portrays the Greeks and Persians as being physically distinguishable? Would it have been preferable to give everyone the same skin color? What a twit.

One of the few war movies I've seen in the past two decades that doesn't include at least some nod in the direction of antiwar sentiment, 300 is a mythic ode to righteous bellicosity.

Yeah, because god knows it wouldn't be a war movie if it didn't have some of that good old token antiwar sentiment. And of all the "Greek cultures" Dana Stevens manages to somehow lump together in a monocultural mass (note to moronic Slate reviewers: unified "Greek" culture was still a couple hundred years down the road at the time), surely it would have been much more accurate to portray them as Athenian diplomats.

What a fucking ignoramus.
posted by spiderwire at 12:47 AM on March 10, 2007 [18 favorites]


And incidentally, did it ever occur to anyone that maybe there's not a fucking historical parallel to be drawn here? Why does everything have to be about the United States? It's ancient, city-state-era Greece, for christ's sake. Get a grip.
posted by spiderwire at 12:49 AM on March 10, 2007 [2 favorites]


Because it celebrates martial prowess, and could be interpreted to mean that there are things worth fighting for, worth killing for, and worth dying for. To the lefties to which you refer who are having this near-hysterical reaction, that idea is obscene.

I think they're reacting to its resemblance to Fritz Lang's Niebelungenslied, and to a plethora of other nationalist epics drawn out in spectacle and male sacrifice.

Now, I happen to love the classical epic form, but I'm not going to dissemble and claim that the pure heroics of the Aeneid, the "arma virumque," do not share the page with appeals to Roman national pietas, with shameless bootlicking of Augustus, with politics, cheap and simple.

The Chinese martial arts film is of this same species. The genre is on its face a celebration of stylized martial prowess, but any familiarity with it also reveals brazen allegories of national superiority, of triumph over assorted Euro/Jap racial and cultural bogeymen. To not see it, you'd have to want to miss it.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:58 AM on March 10, 2007


Also, Filmfreak's review of 300 is good.
posted by kid ichorous at 1:00 AM on March 10, 2007


Just saw the flick. Seriously, I wanted it to be longer, not shorter. A set-up about fighting first with your head, then with your heart, and no pay-off. I wanted to see smart Spartans showing the hordes what-for. Some amazing visuals. Not quite enough punch to go with them, though.

I'm sure it'll be a fixture in every high-school football team's locker room, though.

how is the quote surprising?

Because it sounds like a scriptwriter's line. It's too good to be true (or apocryphal).
posted by frogan at 1:01 AM on March 10, 2007


The genre is on its face a celebration of stylized martial prowess, but any familiarity with it also reveals brazen allegories of national superiority

True 'dat. The Jet Li movie Hero was a giant hand-job for the Chinese ruling party. The king simply must oppress his subjects. You know, for the good of all China.
posted by frogan at 1:03 AM on March 10, 2007


I'm going to go see 300 for two reasons:

Frank Miller's original comic. Memories are a bit fuzzy, but it was pretty damn awesome.

An actor from my graduating film is in the film.
posted by slimepuppy at 1:12 AM on March 10, 2007


It's generally considered important that 700 Thespians -- who weren't professional soldiers nor members of the honor guard -- stayed behind and were killed with the Spartans.

Yeah, but they were just actors. Who needs 'em?
posted by erskelyne at 1:31 AM on March 10, 2007 [2 favorites]


"Yeah, but they were just actors. Who needs 'em?"

Whenever I hear about the Thespians voting to stay behind and fight with the Spartans, I always picture their general giving a grand speech. It ends something like: "Your sacrifices will not be forgotten. After this battle, the word Thespian shall always stand for courage, honor, and valor in combat."
posted by Mitrovarr at 1:42 AM on March 10, 2007 [4 favorites]


Okay, a cartoon wizard narrator?

I mean, I was looking forward to watching this. On about the same level that I looked forward to watching Ong-Bak or Iron Monkey, but, still.

Of all the gibbery words that have been typed about that movie in the past whatever months and on this very thread, this alone gives me pause. Oh, man.
posted by furiousthought at 1:58 AM on March 10, 2007


Wait, we're at war with Persians?

Did we invade Iran when I wasn't looking?

...anyway. I haven't seen 300, and I don't plan to. The acting seems overblown, the action scenes I've seen look extremely silly, and most importantly, I didn't like the graphic novel.
posted by Target Practice at 2:54 AM on March 10, 2007


"Since it's a product of the post-ideological, post-Xbox 21st century"

You damn kids with your damn Xboxes! Back in my day, we had ideals. Get off my damn lawn!

Are film people really that bitter and threatened by games growing in popularity? Or is it just that all the horrible video game movie adaptations have tainted their perceptions?

I mean "post-xbox"? What the fuck does that mean?
posted by blenderfish at 2:54 AM on March 10, 2007


kirkaracha

To be fair to Miller, he does show large groups of other Greeks fighting in the Battle of Thermopylae. Not 4600, but more than the Spartans.

...Of course, he also makes them out to be cowardly novices, but what're ya gonna do.
posted by Target Practice at 2:58 AM on March 10, 2007


Because it sounds like a scriptwriter's line. It's too good to be true (or apocryphal).

The point is that saying the quote was "lifted" from Herodotus is like saying that "These are times that try men's souls" was "lifted" from Thomas Paine. It's the original source.

And the term "Thespian" (as in actors) doesn't come from Thespiae the country, it comes from the actor, Thespis of Icaria.
posted by spiderwire at 3:02 AM on March 10, 2007


It was the most homophobic, gay soft-porn film I've seen.
posted by paddbear at 3:09 AM on March 10, 2007


No, wait, what was noted was that they were slaveholders.

As were the Athenians. Some reckon, and I agree, that the very flowering of Athenian culture around the fourth century BC to which the west owes so much could not have happened without the institution of slavery. It's uncomfortable, but no less likely an explanation for that.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:23 AM on March 10, 2007


Juat as an aside, smedleyman, you do realise that Tolkien wrote Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in 1954, quite a few years before Peter Jackson's movie and September 11... I'm pretty sure he didn't realise at the time that either of those were coming. (just in case anyone's interested, my flatmate worked on all 3 movies, in quite a senior role alongside Peter Jackson. She has some awesome photos of that period, and also got to dress up as an orc as an extra when they had to go back and shoot added scenes after production had all but shut down.)
posted by Jubey at 3:50 AM on March 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


The movie looks pretty and a bit over the top, much like the original comic was. It short, it looks like fun and worth $8. Movies are sometimes supposed to be fun, you know?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:13 AM on March 10, 2007


Also, Filmfreak's review of 300 is good.

From that review: "300 is a luxury-car commercial with beheadings." That's so true. It wouldn't feel out of place to a Lexus cruise through a scene or two.
posted by Meridian at 4:21 AM on March 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Okay, a cartoon wizard narrator?

No, there's not cartoon wizard narrator. The narrator is one of the Spartans. And yes, the narration tells us what's happening on screen, but it works, and makes sense by the end of the film.

I saw it in IMAX yesterday, and thought it was very entertaining. As that AICN review said, it's a bunch of guys killing the ever living crap out of a bunch of other guys. It sets the bar for fight scenes. There are some extended, balletic moments that are pretty damn amazing. The fast-slow-fast motion technique I didn't find distracting at all. Honestly, people are complaining about slow motion in an action movie?

I also wasn't distracted by the nakedness of the Spartans. Though I do wonder if all of those six pack abs were real or digitally enhanced.

I'm 36, so I'm no testosterone fueled fanboy. I'm not sure what those of you who proudly walked out of the thing were expecting. Did you not see the trailer? What part of the blood-spattered title, shouting Spartans, raging beasties, and writhing naked chicks confused you?
posted by schoolgirl report at 4:38 AM on March 10, 2007


Seriously, if you're going to see this movie, see it in IMAX. There's no other reason to see it. It's visually stunning, much like the Matrix, but without all the troublesome depth or, you know, plot.

This movie would be nothing without the following credit, either:

"Transsexual Asian #2: Cindy"

...I mean, how do you get cast in such a film and not rate being Transsexual Asian #1?
posted by thanotopsis at 4:38 AM on March 10, 2007 [3 favorites]


Honestly, people are complaining about slow motion in an action movie?

No. People are complaing about a slow motion action movie
posted by Senor Cardgage at 4:46 AM on March 10, 2007


Just as an aside, smedleyman, you do realise that Tolkien wrote Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in 1954, quite a few years before Peter Jackson's movie and September 11...

Hmmm, the conspiracy deepens...
posted by Meridian at 5:13 AM on March 10, 2007


how do you get cast in such a film and not rate being Transsexual Asian #1?

it doesn't matter ... you can always put #1 on your resume
posted by pyramid termite at 5:14 AM on March 10, 2007


the narration tells us what's happening on screen, but it works

No, it completely doesn't work. People were groaning in the theatre whenever the guy opened his mouth. We don't need voice over, EVER, to tell us what we're seeing. "The wolf circles..." No shit! Look, the wolf is circling. The narration started out hysterical and quickly became one of the most annoying things about a very annoying movie.
posted by dobbs at 5:20 AM on March 10, 2007


Wow.... so many people that just don't get this movie.

Disclaimer... I'm biased, my son is one of the producers, Zack is a friend, I watched days of the filming and sat through a few days of color and sound editing.. (that scene with the arrows... I beat Snyder at ping pong about ten times in the lobby of the Hitchcock Theater while the techs were adding all those little arrow hits on the shield... Zack's a great movie maker, not so much at ping pong! :)

That said..

At no time was there ever any discussion or thought of this as a reflection or comment on current events. They had been working on getting this production off the ground way before we stepped foot in Iraq.

Those that are looking for historical accuracy are looking at the wrong film, the whole intent was to recreate Millers look/feel.

Those that find too much/too little homosexuality content probably didn't read the comic carefully... it does it differently, but doesn't stray too far from the graphic novel.

The film is what it is, there was no doubt in my mind from the time I saw the first shot months ago that there would be those that loved it and those that hated it....

Personally, I think it is a nice work, worth seeing, and hopefully will allow my son to support me in my old age! :)
posted by HuronBob at 5:40 AM on March 10, 2007 [3 favorites]


At once homophobic and homoerotic

I'm going to use this to describe everything Miller's done from now on. It just fits.

Well, that and WHORES WHORES WHORES WHORES
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 6:05 AM on March 10, 2007 [2 favorites]


Can someone please, please explain to me the attraction of Miller?
Yeah, I get the whole "he revolutionized the genre" argument. But, really, when you step back from it all, all he seems to have brought to the table was psychotic violence wrapped in a thin, thin candy-coating of stilted, pop literary pretension.
I suppose it was interesting once.
All imho, of course
posted by Thorzdad at 6:06 AM on March 10, 2007


I can't believe people (above the age of 14) are actually going to see this movie. The reviews have been devastating. Since nobody's quoted A.O. Scott yet, I'll do the honors:
“300” is about as violent as “Apocalypto” and twice as stupid. Adapted from a graphic novel by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley, it offers up a bombastic spectacle of honor and betrayal, rendered in images that might have been airbrushed onto a customized van sometime in the late 1970s...

The Persians, pioneers in the art of facial piercing, have vastly greater numbers — including ninjas, dervishes, elephants, a charging rhino and an angry bald giant — but the Spartans clearly have superior health clubs and electrolysis facilities. They also hew to a warrior ethic of valor and freedom that makes them, despite their gleeful appetite for killing, the good guys in this tale. (It may be worth pointing out that unlike their mostly black and brown foes, the Spartans and their fellow Greeks are white.)...

There are a few combat sequences that achieve a grim, brutal grandeur, notably an early engagement in which the Spartans, hunkered behind their shields, push back against a Persian line, forcing enemy soldiers off a cliff into the water. The big idea, spelled out over and over in voice-over and dialogue in case the action is too subtle, is that the free, manly men of Sparta fight harder and more valiantly than the enslaved masses under Xerxes’ command. Allegory hunters will find some gristly morsels of topicality tossed in their direction, but you can find many of the same themes, conveyed with more nuance and irony, in a Pokémon cartoon....

In time, “300” may find its cultural niche as an object of camp derision, like the sword-and-sandals epics of an earlier, pre-computer-generated-imagery age. At present, though, its muscle-bound, grunting self-seriousness is more tiresome than entertaining. Go tell the Spartans, whoever they are, to stay home and watch wrestling.
And on the history front:

The "slavery" line strikes me as somewhat nonsensical... If anything, it's reasonable to characterize the relationship between the two classes as symbiotic.

Uh huh. From the Wikipedia article (fully referenced, for you Wiki haters):
Myron of Priene, cited by Athenaeus (XIV, 657 D), specifies the humiliations they were subjected to: they had to wear hats of dog skin (κυνῆ / kunễ) as well as sheep hides (διφθέρα / diphthéra) to distinguish themselves from others. The canine symbolism was clear to the Greeks: that of a servile and cowardly animal. Each year, the Helots were ritually flogged, apparently for no other reason than to affirm their servitude; though it seems that only a small group was actually flogged, symbolically representing the whole Helot population.

Plutarch (Life of Lycurgus, 28, 8-10) also indicates that they were forced to drink pure wine (which was considered dangerous - wine usually being cut with water) "...and to lead them in that condition into their public halls, that the children might see what a sight a drunken man is; they made them to dance low dances, and sing ridiculous songs..." during syssitia (obligatory banquets)[10]. Conversely, it was reported in the same source that the Thebans ordered a group of Helot prisoners to recite the verses of Alcman and Terpander (national poets of Thebes); the Helots refused, on the grounds that it would displease their masters.

What is more, when the Ephors took office, they routinely declared war on the Helots, (Aristotle cited by Plutarch, Life of Lycurgus 28, 7), thereby allowing Spartans to kill them without repercussion. Most of the time, this was done by kryptes, graduates of the difficult agoge who took part in the Crypteia. In 425 BCE, 2,000 Helots were also massacred in a carefully staged event. Thucydides (IV, 80, 4) states:
"The Helots were invited by a proclamation to pick out those of their number who claimed to have most distinguished themselves against the enemy, in order that they might receive their freedom; the object being to test them, as it was thought that the first to claim their freedom would be the most high spirited and the most apt to rebel. As many as two thousand were selected accordingly, who crowned themselves and went round the temples, rejoicing in their new freedom. The Spartans, however, soon afterwards did away with them, and no one ever knew how each of them perished." [9]
Myron of Priene also indicates that Helots who became too fat were put to death, with their masters fined for letting them get fat.
Sounds peachy to me! I'm sure you'll be volunteering for helotry any day now!
posted by languagehat at 6:27 AM on March 10, 2007 [4 favorites]


Saw the film last night. Visually amazing, predictable characters. We know who is good, who is bad, who is the traitor. NOW LET'S FIGHT! (slow motion style) Overall, a very enjoyable theater experience due to the visuals.

Any suggested parallel with Bush is way off the mark. Yes, the leader of the Spartans decides to fight despite the views of the senate, but HE is the one who leads them onto the battlefield. He doesn't send others off to die while he sits at home safe.

One disturbing aspect of the film: Spartans are the heroes of the story. Spartan culture is depicted as completely dedicated to training warriors. They show scenes in the film where they train and tell their youth that death for their people is the highest achievement they can ever earn. In the real world we vilify such behavior when practiced by fanatical Islamists or the Japanese during WWII. Yet we should view the Spartans as heroes for the same?

And if you really want some fun, view the U.S. presence in the Middle East as the Persian invasion, and the Islamic people of the Middle East as the hopelessly outmatched Spartans. It actually works on many levels.

We don't need voice over, EVER, to tell us what we're seeing. "The wolf circles..." No shit! Look, the wolf is circling. The narration started out hysterical and quickly became one of the most annoying things about a very annoying movie.

You completely missed it. If you noticed who's voice it was, you would realize that it was a soldier telling the tale of Leonidas and the 300 Spartans to his troops before battle. As he was commanded to do by Leonidas. That the story of the 300 was told, and survives to this day, is the entire point of the movie.
posted by jsonic at 6:28 AM on March 10, 2007


To the lefties to which you refer who are having this near-hysterical reaction, that idea is obscene.

Oh please. Most of the reactions are about the lameness of the filmmaking and the editing decisions. And for every dumb reaction on the left, there's going to be an equally dumb reaction on the right, like that ever-so-thoughtful one in the link you posted near the top. If "all the right people might wind up hating it" doesn't count as a "near-hysterical" reason to go see a movie, then nothing does.
posted by mediareport at 6:41 AM on March 10, 2007


The Slate review confirms my suspicions. I am full of dread now as I have no choice but to take a kid I work with to this movie next week, who of late has become obsessed with the storyline. Problem is, this kid feeds off racist and homophobic bullshit. Gak.
posted by moonbird at 6:46 AM on March 10, 2007


Can someone please, please explain to me the attraction of Miller?

... psychotic violence...

You answered your own question.
posted by synaesthetichaze at 6:48 AM on March 10, 2007


I'm sorry, but it really is a camp masterpiece.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:52 AM on March 10, 2007


There's a really odd quote from Frank Miller in this pre-film release look at the book by GayLeague.com's Joe Palmer and the Gay Comics List's François Peneaud:

During the original miniseries, a reader took Miller to task for [the "boy-lovers" remark], and the author gave a rather strange answer: "Being a warrior class, the Spartans almost certainly did practice homosexuality. There's also evidence they tended to lie about it. It's not a big leap to postulate that they ridiculed their hedonistic Athenian rivals for something they themselves did. 'Hypocrisy' is, after all, a word we got from the Greek."

Of course, we couldn't dare mention that in the book or movie. Palmer and Peneaud aren't stupid about why, nor are they particularly "hysterical" about it:

This is an action-adventure comic and movie aimed at young straight men, meant to pile up book sales and box-office cash by piling up dead bodies as graphically and artistically as possible. That is an audience not likely shell out $9 to see even a mere implication of same-sex love.

The real issue is that Miller (and apparently Hollywood, in adapting his work) did include homosexuality, but negatively. If neither the effeminacy of Xerxes nor the insult were included, or if by some miracle they were balanced out with the other half of the historical equation, gay viewers would have less reason to feel insulted by yet again more historical inaccuracies.


The key words there being "yet again."
posted by mediareport at 6:53 AM on March 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


You completely missed it.

No, I didn't miss it. It was unnecessary. Have you never seen a movie which properly uses narration before? The narrator sets up the story and then we see visuals which we interpret as the story he is telling. Though visuals are being supplied to us, the implication is that they are manifestations of the narration. Therefore, the audio narration becomes redundant.

You're implying that were the narration not used sparsely (introducing the story and closing it--bracketing the main visuals) instead of constantly telling us what we are watching, that the audience would somehow become lost--that we wouldn't understand the narration came from the very soldier we were watching tell the story at the end whose voice matches the monotonous one we'd be hearing for 2 hours. In which case, I'd suggest that it is you who missed it.

I have not read the comic book. Perhaps the narration comes right out of the comic. In which case, I'd argue that, perhaps, the wolf isn't circling in the comic book because it's made of stills not moving pictures, therefore the narration is providing context that Miller feels is necessary.

Snyder, like many filmmakers who adapt things, doesn't seem to understand that comic books and movies are different mediums and have different strengths and weaknesses.
posted by dobbs at 6:54 AM on March 10, 2007


it really is a camp masterpiece.

Yeah, that Voice review makes it sound like a hoot in the right frame of mind, which is why I'm gonna see it. But I'm not paying for it, that's for sure.
posted by mediareport at 6:57 AM on March 10, 2007


No, I didn't miss it. It was unnecessary.

You're still missing it, and it's really not that subtle. The story-telling, actual human voices telling a story, is the very thing that keeps the sacrifice of the 300 from being completely pointless. Without it, this is simply a movie about 300 idiots who were obliterated for no reason. The dialog between Leonidas and Xerxes explicitly says this.

The movie is therefore portrayed in the past tense, as a story being told to others. It's the only way Leonidas can be victorious over Xerxes.

You're incorrectly assuming that the only reason for narration in a movie is for explaining the plot to people who are too stupid to figure it out.
posted by jsonic at 7:22 AM on March 10, 2007


I really can't believe I paid to see that shit.
posted by odasaku at 7:25 AM on March 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


i'll save everyone the trouble or watching - the greeks turn all the persians into rugs and bluto vomits over everyone on pledge week

oh, no wait - that was "animal house 2 - trouble in terhan"
posted by pyramid termite at 7:38 AM on March 10, 2007


If anything, it's reasonable to characterize the relationship between the two classes as symbiotic.

Except for the part where Spartans would declare war on the helots and kill any ones that had been making trouble that year. The helots were obviously slaves. obviously.
posted by delmoi at 7:42 AM on March 10, 2007


Looking at the trailer and stuff, I think if you view the movie as a comic book, or as a legend or tall tail it seems like it might be good. It's obviously not meant to be realistic. All the political introspection seems ridiculous. And "we" are not at war with any Persians.
posted by delmoi at 7:49 AM on March 10, 2007


It doesn't matter what Miller or Snyder intended; 300 is about as beautiful and enlightened as Triumph of the Will. It's one thing to show us Spartans doing what Spartans did (more or less), tweak it, mythologize it, aestheticize it--but how come we're supposed to celebrate their two-thousand-year-old warrior mindset without any critical distance? This, and not any direct one-on-one topicality, is what Dana Stevens and other "lefty" commentators are responding too: the movie just brings the ancient lie about the glorious death for your country up to speed for the 21st century. We don't need it.

I happen to agree with Dobbs about the hamfisted narration--yeah, yeah, the story is the point, but it's still poor filmmaking to describe what we're seeing. They could have saved it for the end or something. Then again, everything about 300 is hamfisted.

And seriously: why is this piece of trash getting all the hype, when one of the best monster movies in years & years just opened? In case you missed it up there, here's more about Bong Joon-ho's The Host, the highest-grossing Korean movie of all time, which (unlike 300) is getting rave reviews everywhere: Dave Edelstein, J. Hoberman, Manohla Dargis, Andrew O'Hehir, Anthony Lane, and, uhm, me.
posted by muckster at 7:56 AM on March 10, 2007


While I have enjoyed this discourse on race, homosexuality, violence, class systems, and, perhaps most importantly, slow motion – I just want to add that I saw it last night and I thought it kicked ass.

I mean, c'mon, aren't you taking it just a little too seriously, maybe? Can't a bunch of Spartans just kick ass anymore?
posted by kbanas at 8:22 AM on March 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


I have to agree with mediareport that there must be something worth seeing in a movie that pisses both A.O. Scott and Joe Morgenstern (and about 500 other so-called Movie Reviewers).
posted by blucevalo at 8:41 AM on March 10, 2007


Juat as an aside, smedleyman, you do realise that Tolkien wrote Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in 1954, quite a few years before Peter Jackson's movie and September 11... I'm pretty sure he didn't realise at the time that either of those were coming.

Please recalibrate your sarcasm meter, kthxbye.
posted by Cyrano at 8:41 AM on March 10, 2007


It doesn't matter what Miller or Snyder intended; 300 is about as beautiful and enlightened as Triumph of the Will.
As you know, Triumph of the Will is widely considered, by critics and moviegoers alike, as a masterpiece, despite whatever one thinks of the narrative of the film. Want to talk critical distance? My grandparents and great grandparents escaped the Nazi's during WWII, namely because they feared for their lives as Jews. I've seen the film as part of a class on documentary film. Though the narrative turns my stomach in a very personal manner, I can still be entertained, entranced, and in awe of the film. Sometimes you bring critical distance to the art, sometimes the art brings it to you. 300 is not the New Yorker, but it's also not monster, Monster, MONSTER TRUCKS.
And seriously: why is this piece of trash getting all the hype, when one of the best monster movies in years & years just opened?
It's called advertising. For someone who is apparently a professional film critic, you seem completely unaware how the rest of the world finds out about movies.
posted by sequential at 8:58 AM on March 10, 2007


Can someone please, please explain to me the attraction of Miller?
Yeah, I get the whole "he revolutionized the genre" argument. But, really, when you step back from it all, all he seems to have brought to the table was psychotic violence wrapped in a thin, thin candy-coating of stilted, pop literary pretension.
I suppose it was interesting once.
All imho, of course
posted by Thorzdad at 2:06 PM GMT on March 10


Replace Miller with Tarantino if it helps. Or Warhol, I suppose. I love it all, superficial though it is.
posted by slimepuppy at 9:09 AM on March 10, 2007


It doesn't matter what Miller or Snyder intended; 300 is about as beautiful and enlightened as Triumph of the Will.

translation - "MY intent is the only thing that matters, so if i want to call it a quasi-nazi documentary with greeks as americans and persians as iranians, then i can, because interpretation is all that matters in the postmodern age, man"
posted by pyramid termite at 9:19 AM on March 10, 2007


sequential: it's called a rhetorical question.

pyramid termite: not all interpretation is postmodern. Movies have meanings. When I say that Miller/Snyder's intentions don't matter, it's because I want to talk about the movie, not their character. You want to discuss 300, or make up stuff I didn't say?
posted by muckster at 9:34 AM on March 10, 2007


Spartans always make me think of Ikea and birch veneer malm. I expect the movie to be visually impressive and mess with my furniture plans.
posted by srboisvert at 9:35 AM on March 10, 2007


When I say that Miller/Snyder's intentions don't matter

you can make up anything you want

You want to discuss 300, or make up stuff I didn't say?

your intentions don't matter

ps - did you read the review we're discussing?

pps - should i just invoke godwin?
posted by pyramid termite at 9:41 AM on March 10, 2007


I can't believe people (above the age of 14) are actually going to see this movie. The reviews have been devastating.

Actually, as of this morning the Tomatometer is 61% positive.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:06 AM on March 10, 2007


One of my favorite reviewer's take on 300:

The first person who uses any aspect of this flick to justify the American debacle in Iraq is getting a swat across the nose with a copy of My Pet Goat. Which King Leonides of Sparta does not sit reading while his country is threatened and attacked.

And if that’s not enough, I point to the villains here: politicians who are in it for the money, a tyrant who thinks he’s doing the work of a god (even if that god is himself), and priests whose advice and counsel can be bought. King Leonides of Sparta holds those priests (and their crazy-ass religion) in disdain, actually, and does not invite them to the White House-- er, palace.

Oh, and Sparta is the invadee, not the invader.

posted by quin at 10:13 AM on March 10, 2007 [3 favorites]


CHUD has an interesting take on the politics.

I haven't seen it yet, but I probably will today. However, I will say that the Slate review struck me as the kind of humorless liberal puritanism that would go over well at my mother's UU church. It reminds me of the initial critical reaction to Starship Troopers.

Also:
300 will instead be talked about as a technical achievement, the next blip on the increasingly blurry line between movies and video games.

Give me a fucking break. As near as I can tell, this statement is completely meaningless. Computer animation is a technique used in traditional narrative movies. Hell, 300's shot on celluloid for Christ's sake. Unless you can play a Leonidas/Xerxes death match in this flick, there are no lines being blurred.
posted by brundlefly at 12:29 PM on March 10, 2007


haven't read any of the thread, since I want to avoid spoilers and such...

Don't people know that it's, y'know, a movie? Not a propaganda piece, or a documentary?

Were the theological implications of Little Nicky picked at to this degree?
posted by CKmtl at 1:28 PM on March 10, 2007


Smedleyman's joke raises a good point, though. Despite some padding, the film seems (Detrimentally) faithful to the comic, which was released in 1998.
Somehow I doubt the film's political detractors would be willing to give Miller credit for such 'prescience'.

Me, I figger he meant it as an allegory for U.S. v. Microsoft:
"This is madness!"
"This... is... REDMOOOONNND!!!"
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 1:55 PM on March 10, 2007


We saw the movie last night. I came out of the theatre feeling as though I was positively soaked with testosterone, and feeling that the movie was about half an hour too long. I remember seeing yet another close up of the hero's helmet and thinking, okay, this particular view is getting a bit old.

That said, it was entertaining in a mind-candy, visual effects sort of way. It's a mile wide and an inch deep; a comic book on screen. If you can view it strictly as entertainment and not try to read anything deeper into it, it's worth the admission price to see it on the big screen. Would definitely be wasted on the small screen.

If we can ever combine those sorts of visuals and artistic sensibilities with a deeper plot though, you'd have an absolutely fantastic movie.
posted by Zinger at 1:58 PM on March 10, 2007


languagehat, you're quoting an A.O. Scott review at us? Are you joking?

As for the Helots, no one's arguing that being a second-class citizen in ancient Greece was a great life, but you're very selectively cutting that article:
...Helots could be artisans or tradesmen.

They were required to hand over a predetermined portion of their harvest (ἀποφορά / apophóra), with the helot keeping the surplus... Having paid their tribute, the Helots could often live quite well; the lands of Laconia and Messenia were very fertile, and often permitted two crops per year. A certain amount of wealth was achievable: in 223 BCE, 6000 Helots purchased their freedom for 500 Drachma each, a considerable sum at the time....

Helots lived in family units and could contract unions amongst themselves. This was a significant difference from chattel-slaves, amongst whom contracts, marriages, and family relationships were not legally recognized. Helots were thus much less susceptible to having the family unit dispersed....

According to Myron of Priene, cited by Athenaeus (The Deipnosophists, VI, 271F), the emancipation of Helots was "common"...
Perhaps more on-point, you conveniently omitted the section directly below the "Humiliation" portion you quoted, but I'm not really concerned about that. Probably the most telling point is that the Helots almost never revolted, despite the fact that they outnumbered the Spartans by about 7-1. Authorities seem agreed that the Helots in fact lived well, and moreover were assured of military protection by the best army in Greece. (No one's claiming that serfdom is wonderful, but it's better than slavery. More on that in a second.)

On the other hand, the sources quoted in that Wikipedia article about Helot "humilation" are hardly credible. Do you have any idea of the historical context there? If you do, you probably understand why Helots would refuse to recite Theban poetry. By that same token, Plutarch, as a Boeotian, isn't a credible source of information, either. Thucydides is an Athenian writer chronicling the Peleponnesian War. It's hard to find other Greek writers that don't have bones to pick with the Spartans, but looking to Thebans and Athenians would have to be the two worst you could possibly pick.

The fact that those sources quoted are all transparent propaganda notwithstanding (which is a common problem on the topic since the Spartans didn't exactly keep a lot of written records), it's plain fact that the serf status of the Helots was more than a few steps above the chattel-slavery present in the rest of Greece, which makes the original claim that Sparta "collapsed" because of its uniquely horrible treatment of the Helots is frankly laughable.
posted by spiderwire at 2:06 PM on March 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oh, sorry, according to Bradford's history (citing Grundy), the ration of 'Free' to 'Non-Free' in Sparta was more like 1:15. Which supports my point.

Bradford also points out that the Spartans were Dorian, not Ionian, and thus there's a certain element of racism in the passages quoted above. Additionally, "Very few Greeks from other states knew much about everyday life in Sparta, nor indeed much about Sparta at all. The little they heard seemed almost incomprehensible to them, and unattractive." So it's important to keep in mind that in addition to being biased, none of those sources are speaking from first-hand knowledge. Even amongst the other Greeks, there's consistent if grudging nods to Spartan honor and forthrightness.

Other things that aren't being mentioned here are that the Spartans had perhaps the most equitable gender-relations in all of Greece, and that the soldier's life (as mentioned before) wasn't exactly a bed of roses. The Spartans lived on black broth and bread (kings got double rations, but only if they showed up to their assigned messes), slept on reed beds, and weren't allowed personal possessions.

Again, not defending the institution of serfdom, but attributing the downfall of the Spartan state to the fact that they were "assholes" is just ignorant.
posted by spiderwire at 2:22 PM on March 10, 2007 [2 favorites]


but you're very selectively cutting that article

Huh? I quoted an entire section, without cuts. Yes, it's a section that supported my point. So? Are you really suggesting I should have pasted in the entire long Wikipedia article?

it's plain fact that the serf status of the Helots was more than a few steps above the chattel-slavery present in the rest of Greece


Excuse me, but that's your interpretation, not "plain fact." I realize that people taking their own interpretations as "plain fact" is as rampant a problem as propaganda masquerading as history, but do try and fight it. Nonetheless, I'm perfectly willing to postulate that the serf status of the helots was better than the chattel-slavery present in the rest of Greece if you're willing to agree that that didn't make it acceptable, and that a helot wouldn't have reacted any better to that information than a slave in the antebellum South would have reacted to being told he was better off than his relatives in Africa. And please,"the Helots almost never revolted"? Same goes for the masses trapped beneath the bootheel of the Kremlin; I guess they were happy too.

the original claim that Sparta "collapsed" because of its uniquely horrible treatment of the Helots is frankly laughable.

On that we agree.

languagehat, you're quoting an A.O. Scott review at us? Are you joking?


No, I like A.O. Scott. I gather you don't. That's fine, but it's pretty childish to act as if your opinion were "plain fact." Try to disagree in an adult fashion.
posted by languagehat at 2:41 PM on March 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


I saw it this afternoon. I think it's way too thin of a movie to support any sort of meaningful interpretation as a political or cultural allegory--it's like a Paul Verhoeven movie minus the satire. And yet, much like Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies, it borrows liberally from the language of propaganda films.

And, yeah, just the simple act of watching the movie will give you larger pectoral muscles and firmer abs.
posted by Prospero at 2:45 PM on March 10, 2007


It's hard to take Greek history lessons from someone who lionizes Sparta and misspelled Iliad.

That said, I do like the knee-jerk "It's just, like, a fuckin' movie, dude! There's no fuckin' subtext! Analysis is for lefties and queers!" bullshit that this thread has pulled out.
This film exists in a context and reflects what we as a people find entertaining and true. Otherwise, it wouldn't sell tickets. And what we find as entertaining and true is worth examining. If Miller and Zach whassisfuck never gave a thought to how the movie would be interpreted, it's their fault for being dumbasses. Intention isn't the end of meaning.
posted by klangklangston at 2:47 PM on March 10, 2007


Really? Where's the quote where I directly called you a sissy? Or even a nancy?
posted by srboisvert at 2:51 PM on March 10, 2007


Firefox button pressing error ...please delete...
posted by srboisvert at 2:52 PM on March 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's hard to take Greek history lessons from someone who lionizes Sparta and misspelled Iliad.

Likewise, it's hard to take prose lessons from someone who gets hung up on typos and switches tenses mid-sentence.

(Incidentally -- and take this for what you will -- I hail equally from the Laconian, Ionian, and Macedonian portions of Greece, so I take some umbrage at the notion that I'm "lionizing" any one at the expense of the others. The Athenians are just as much part of my cultural history as the Spartans -- I'm just trying to correct the mischaracterizations taking place here.)

Nonetheless, I'm perfectly willing to postulate that the serf status of the helots was better than the chattel-slavery present in the rest of Greece if you're willing to agree that that didn't make it acceptable, and that a helot wouldn't have reacted any better to that information than a slave in the antebellum South would have reacted to being told he was better off than his relatives in Africa.

Sorry, lh, but this just isn't a good analogy. The Helots simply weren't treated like slaves in America, nor citizens of Stalinist Russia.

Frankly, I'm not sure what the benchmark for "acceptable" is in this case. Look at it this way. If you have a choice of being a Helot or a Spartan, which do you choose?

If you choose 'Spartan,' you get to look forward to a life of military training beginning at age 7 until 20. Assuming you survive, you are active military until age 30, at which point you can live with your family, but remain in active reserve until age 60. You can vote in that time, but can't be part of government for more than a year until you reach 60. You subsist on black broth and bread, you can't own possessions, gold, or silver, and you sleep on a bed of reeds. Your main form of recreation is seeing who can take the most floggings.

If you choose 'Helot,' you are, certainly, a second-class citizen, and you can't go roaming around the countryside at night for fear of being attacked by a teenage Spartan on the rite of Crypteia (although, if he gets captured, he'll probably get beaten to death). On the other hand, you're protected by the best military in the world. You work a plot of fairly fertile land, from which you have to give a food tithe to the owner, but you're otherwise allowed to turn a profit, trade, contract, learn to be an artisan, marry whom you like, and perhaps buy your freedom.

Granted, neither of these options is wonderful, but I don't think it's a clear-cut choice -- certainly not to the extent that it would be if someone asked you to choose whether to be Kruschev or Solzhenitsyn, or plantation owner or slave. In other words, I think that analogizing here is inapt; the Spartans were, if nothing else, a really weird and unique culture, and it behooves us to be specific when discussing them rather than trying to apply 19th and 20th century platitudes to a culture that defied categorization even by contemporary standards.
posted by spiderwire at 3:21 PM on March 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


klangklangston: That said, I do like the knee-jerk "It's just, like, a fuckin' movie, dude! There's no fuckin' subtext! Analysis is for lefties and queers!" bullshit that this thread has pulled out.

I'm a lefty (a right-handed one, though) and a queer. And I still think over-analysis is silly. In this movie's case, as well as when people take Harry Potter's success (in both book and movie forms) as some indication of a surge in Satanism / Occultism. It's just a movie.

Sure, some people may be loving 300 because it "shows" that those dirty Iraqis (even though Iran is more Persian) have always been The Bad Guys.

As for why the movie was made now... I'd say it's more about the constant popularity of epic battles (even before movies and TV), the slew of historical-type movies that have also done well in the box-office, and Sin City's popularity.
posted by CKmtl at 3:32 PM on March 10, 2007


I am just shocked that this movie lacked plot or chracter development.... The louder and more eloquently you wax about its failings as elevated cinema, the more you reveal your naivety.

"i rented life of brian last night. I was disapointed that they didn't better explore the conflict between the jews and the romans providing a more comprehensive context for the life of jesus. They kept making crude jokes and I think I even saw a penis once. poo."
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 3:47 PM on March 10, 2007


I don't really get how the "boy lovers" insult is all that objectionable. If your biggest problem with this psychotic, pro-infanticide mass murderer with a deathwish is that he's not a big fan of man-boy love then I'd say your moral compass needs a big fucking readjustment. I'd liken it to someone finding the most morally questionable action of Matt Damon's character in The Departed to be calling the firefighter rugby team "homos".

Put me down as enjoying the film. I went to see Frank Miller's 300 on film and I got exactly that.
posted by ODiV at 3:54 PM on March 10, 2007


That said, I do like the knee-jerk "It's just, like, a fuckin' movie, dude! There's no fuckin' subtext! Analysis is for lefties and queers!" bullshit that this thread has pulled out.

a long time ago, you had to give someone 500 mikes of acid to duplicate the kind of "insights" some people have had about this movie ... and their insights were a lot more fun

This film exists in a context and reflects what we as a people find entertaining and true.

and the kind of analysis that's been committed here and other places says more about people's obsessions than it really says about the movie
posted by pyramid termite at 4:00 PM on March 10, 2007


Now that I think about it, "Iliad" is transliterated anyway, so who really gives a crap?
posted by spiderwire at 4:04 PM on March 10, 2007


I just got off the phone with one of the producers. I asked what they thought about the mixed reviews...the answer was "not surprised", they anticipated that there would be a number of groups that just didn't get it...the "historians" who would be upset about the lack of historical accuracy and the fantasy that Miller incorporated, those that would take issue with the sexuality (in all the ways that it presents itself), and the politicians who want to read something into it, and those that just wouldn't get what the intent of the film was.

Was there any political intent? Nope. As I stated above, the project started way before the war in Iraq. Snyder has stated that , if it makes people think, so be it....

Bottom line.. looks like it is going to be the highest grossing movie released in March, and may come in the top 20 in terms of first weekend gross of all time...

The crew at Cruel and Unusual Films are very happy....

now... as for Watchmen....
posted by HuronBob at 4:30 PM on March 10, 2007


I just got off the phone with one of the producers.

Um.... your son? :) Has Hollywood really depersonalized him that much?

Not that I don't enjoy getting the word from the horse's mouth as it were... oh, and ask him if he needs a consultant for Watchmen
posted by spiderwire at 4:37 PM on March 10, 2007


"You just didnt get it" is too easy an excuse.

This thing could have been Reifenstahl-level right-wing crypto-miltaristic homo-propaganda and I still would have had a blast if they only would have had dudes beatin the shit out of each other in cool ways without all the goddamned slow motion.

Also, what the hell is the point of having giant rhinos and elepants attack if youre just going to have them easily killed (again in turgid slomo) inside of a minute or so?
posted by Senor Cardgage at 4:37 PM on March 10, 2007


"Has Hollywood really depersonalized him that much?"

I have to call him "Mr. Producer" now... :)

But at least he doesn't call home for money any more!
posted by HuronBob at 5:01 PM on March 10, 2007 [2 favorites]


those that just wouldn't get what the intent of the film was

What about those that got it and thought it was a failure. Or don't those people exist in Mr. Producer's world? :)

Also, what the hell is the point of having giant rhinos and elepants attack if youre just going to have them easily killed (again in turgid slomo) inside of a minute or so

Yeah, that was pretty funny. The clips of animals in the trailer pretty much constitute the entirety of their appearance.
posted by dobbs at 5:07 PM on March 10, 2007


Also, what the hell is the point of having giant rhinos and elepants attack if youre just going to have them easily killed (again in turgid slomo) inside of a minute or so?

Population control.
posted by pokermonk at 5:14 PM on March 10, 2007


Oh, shit, this is the thread where I wanted to point out how creepy it was that Richard Perle made the excuse that he wasn't able to predict the outcome of the Iraq war because he wasn't 'Delphic.' I still wonder if it was accidental.

It was hard to explain at the time, but now that people have at least a little bit of the background (The Ephors, Delphic Oracle bribed by Persian agents to interfere with the war -- hi, Chalabi!) maybe it'll make more sense.
posted by spiderwire at 5:14 PM on March 10, 2007


HuronBob : now... as for Watchmen....

Don't even joke about that. If ever there was a graphic novel that I wanted Hollywood to stay the hell away from, that's that one.

I can think of specific scenes that would translate really well to the big screen, but taken as a whole, I bet they would have to butcher it to make it even remotely 'work'.
posted by quin at 5:27 PM on March 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


"What about those that got it and thought it was a failure. Or don't those people exist in Mr. Producer's world? :)"

naw...they are cgi'ed out of it... :-)

Actually, it seems like the people that understood the intent of the film liked it... those that needed/wanted something different were disappointed...

quin... watchmen is a go, that's for certain... I haven't finished reading it yet, I don't have an opinion as to how it would translate to film...
posted by HuronBob at 5:32 PM on March 10, 2007


Don't even joke about that. If ever there was a graphic novel that I wanted Hollywood to stay the hell away from, that's that one.

quin, they've been working on it for a while now.

...Which is why we should be hired as consultants. For serious.
posted by spiderwire at 5:33 PM on March 10, 2007


Rick Groen at the Globe and Mail didn't like it either:
The juvenilia starts with a precredit montage that shows us a baby Spartan being put through the warrior mill, pretty much going straight from toilet to battle-training and then emerging, with a fanfare worthy of the Second Coming, as none other than ... King Leonidas, bravest of the brave, strongest of the strong, most washboard of the washboard tummies. Yet what's this we hear? As played by Gerard Butler, damned if the Spartan ruler, from way back in 480 BC, doesn't speak with a pronounced Scottish burr and, when in a quipping mood, seems to be channelling Sean Connery's Bond � oh, let's be generous and just lay it down to royal prerogative.

Anyway, with the barbarians at the gates � Xerxes and his Persian army of millions are knocking hard � Leonidas consults the Oracle for some strategic guidance. The good news: The Oracle is a fabulous babe semi-clad in see-through gossamer. The bad: She's a tad pessimistic about the future. This mixed result drives the King straight into the arms of his Queen (Lena Headey). More good news: The Queen is half-naked too. More bad: She urges hubby to suck it up and act like �a free man.�

So encouraged, he and a mere 300 of his most buffed soldiers, decked out in short battle trunks accessorized by a fetching red cape, march off to face the impossible odds. On this, as on so many other occasions, some windbag narrator keeps popping up in voice-over to tell us what we can plainly see. �Into hell's mouth we march,� intones the windbag. And later, when the going gets tough: �Spartans never retreat, Spartans never surrender.� Later still, when the tough get going: �We do what we were trained to do, born to do, bred to do.� Oh, there's a lot of to-doing, all right.

Soon enough, as the �Asian hordes� show their swarthy and often monstrous faces, the battle is engaged. A warm-up skirmish allows hack-Zack to establish the directorial style he rigidly adheres to throughout the subsequent mayhem: a succession of cramped close-ups featuring plenty of spear-bisected torsos, an ample supply of severed heads, and buckets-full of comic-book splatter, all shot with a striking absence of kinetic rhythm fortified by a superabundance of cheesy slow-mo.

On it goes, then, as the ferocious band of Spartan brothers, with their unflagging camaraderie and their Marine Corps bellowing, hack through vast chunks of the Persian millions. This prompts an annoyed appearance from Xerxes himself (Rodrigo Santoro), looking rather charismatic in his multiple body-piercings and acres of bling (think of a cross between Mr. T and a back-alley fetishist). In a one-on-one powwow with his opposite number, Xerxes offers our beleaguered hero a final chance to cut-and-run, which gives Leonidas a golden chance to steal a line from the Little Bush book of inflated rhetoric: �The world will know that free men stood against a tyrant.�

Of course, thanks to Herodotus, the world also knows that these particular free men were eventually done in by the traitor Ephialtes, personified here as a wickedly deformed hunchback � his breach of national security rendered literally ugly. Happily, back on the home front, the Queen has successfully lobbied for a troop surge, and the rest, more or less, is history. Athenian democracy gets preserved, safe to give birth to its many worthy successors � you know, those shining examples in Rome, in France, in Britain, in America; all with their same warrior codes and their shared trail of blood; all fighting heroically to keep themselves free, even when it meant keeping others enslaved.

Yes, as visual extravaganza go, 300 is woefully stingy, but there's no denying the timeliness of its pro patria mori sermonette. I'm half expecting a still shot of Leonidas to show up on Coach's Corner, with the pugnacious Don fighting a quiver in his voice to extol �such a fine broth of a lad.� A second of hushed silence, then cut to a commercial � preferably that slick recruitment ad for our very own Spartans.
posted by jokeefe at 5:34 PM on March 10, 2007


Ugh. It looked okay in preview.
posted by jokeefe at 5:35 PM on March 10, 2007


HuronBob: if they pull it off, I'll be thrilled and amazed. (The fact that they're trying speaks well of them, I suppose.) But I'm not sure it's possible to pull it off. I would have advised them against starting the project in the first place. But since they're already moving ahead on it, all I can really do is wish them good luck. Hopefully my intuition on this one is wrong.
posted by spiderwire at 5:36 PM on March 10, 2007


Watchmen nitpicking is sooo two weeks ago.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 5:44 PM on March 10, 2007


"Watchmen nitpicking is sooo two weeks ago."

Yeah, I know...but being comfortable in my old age means I have to keep bringing this stuff up!
posted by HuronBob at 5:50 PM on March 10, 2007


i'm a visual person. i like interesting visuals. this movie had a lot of them. it's the only reason i went to see it. i enjoyed it. :) fuck all this other shit everyone's railing it about.
posted by dopamine at 5:53 PM on March 10, 2007


Well, on reflection, I suppose that V for Vendetta and Sin City were both pretty good, and this thread seems to indicate that at least visually, 300 worked. So I guess I'll withhold judgment till I see who they attach the Watchmen project (that Snyder is directing could be a good thing).

But like Snow Crash, Good Omens, and Neuromancer, there are just some things that everybody talks about bringing to the big screen that just don't seem to belong there.
posted by quin at 6:03 PM on March 10, 2007


I'm glad that he's writing again, but I don't think that review is Neill Cumpston's best work.
posted by concrete at 6:24 PM on March 10, 2007


First off, thank you HuronBob for the behind-the-scenes dialogue. It always amazes me how varied MeFi's userbase is.

Second, I don't get how the Spartans are portrayed as the torch bearers of Democracy. I mean, yes, they were Greek, insomuch that they're local to the region, but even a cursory reading of history should clear up any confusion. That they were so decidedly not democratic is evident in the subsequent demise of everything "awesome" that we associate with Greek culture after the Peloponnesian War. If memory serves, Sparta actually teamed up with Persia to defeat Athens. Guess they didn't hold much of a grudge.

Finally, the line I keep seeing in the previews (the retort to the Persian envoy... THIS IS SPAAARRTAAAA) is just so fucking meek compared to the original, more snide, more clever (potentially apocryphal) remark. From wikipedia:
Xerxes sent messengers to all Greek cities offering blandishments if they would submit, and asking for "earth and water" from their soil as a token of their submission. Many smaller states submitted. However, the Athenians threw their envoys into a pit and the Spartans threw theirs into a well, taunting them with the retort, "Dig it out for yourselves"
See? Isn't that more badass?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:19 PM on March 10, 2007


"Dig it out for yourselves"

yep, it's a great line, but, the line from Miller's 300 is "this is Sparta".

Zack never intended to be historically accurate... That line was pivotal in the graphic novel, it had to be in the movie...
posted by HuronBob at 7:36 PM on March 10, 2007


In the graphic novel, Leonidas does tell the Persian envoy that he'll find plenty of earth and water at the bottom of the well, I believe.

This is a good time to point to the Wikipedia entry on Laconic wit, which features a lot of good Spartan quotes. My favorite:
One famous example comes from the time of the invasion of Phillip II. With key Greek city-states in submission, he turned his attention to Sparta and sent a message: "If I win this war, you will be slaves forever". The Spartans sent back a one word reply: "If".
posted by spiderwire at 8:04 PM on March 10, 2007


Second, I don't get how the Spartans are portrayed as the torch bearers of Democracy. I mean, yes, they were Greek, insomuch that they're local to the region, but even a cursory reading of history should clear up any confusion.

I don't think that's really correct. The Spartans were democratic, but limited the franchise to Spartans. Helots and others didn't get to vote. If between 30 and 60, you could only serve for one year as an Ephor. The Ephors ran the country; the kings acted as generals.

At any rate, Athenian democracy also had a limited franchise, and it's at least arguable that the Spartan model worked better. I think that the broader point is that the Greek city-states had at least some semblance of democracy, which you couldn't say about the Persian Empire.

If memory serves, Sparta actually teamed up with Persia to defeat Athens. Guess they didn't hold much of a grudge.

It's more accurate to say that Athens conquered a bunch of Persian vassal states while attempting to established the Athenian Empire, so during the Peleponnesian War the Persians predictably threw their support behind the Spartan/Corinthian side. However, they were notably lax about it.
posted by spiderwire at 8:17 PM on March 10, 2007


'In the graphic novel, Leonidas does tell the Persian envoy that he'll find plenty of earth and water at the bottom of the well, I believe."

Yes, it's in the film too, shortly before the "This is SPARTA" bit.

I saw it, thought it was better than expected (I thought the trailer was awful), though it was a little weak in story development, but that wasn't what it was about anyway. It was fine for what it was, and visually amazing, and sent me straight online to look up the Battle of Thermopylae. So hey, it was educational, too!
posted by litlnemo at 9:24 PM on March 10, 2007


those that needed/wanted something different were disappointed...

What did people need from this film?
posted by homunculus at 11:03 PM on March 10, 2007


Actually homunculus, that's a bigger question than you may think. On the surface we have a big and loud pre-summer exploit. An action film based on a comic book. And in a perfect world, that is all this film would ever be.

But by virtue of what is about, many will treat it as a call to arms. A rallying cry to fight. Though a fight as defenders of a unjustly taken land, or as conquers is debatable. It is loud and pretty, so we will pay attention. We may miss the small details about who is the bad guy and all, but we will see a great spectacle, and we will be entertained.

The thing is, this isn't a film about anything other than a 2500 year old fight. So anything we might read into it is on us.
posted by quin at 11:34 PM on March 10, 2007


HB:

hey, take a look at recent flicks that generated not one but two knock-down-drag-out threads hereabouts. Not that MeFi is representative, but I think it does a decent job tracking a certain subset of the culture's interest, and pro or con, the movie has that interest. A big part of that reason is current events involving cultures close to Persia, sure, but the interest is real. Invite us over for toothpick weenies some day. You'll get a nice place.
posted by mwhybark at 11:41 PM on March 10, 2007


Just got back from seeing it. I thought it was a really fun genre flick and very unique. The Spartans definitely are not held up as positive examples, which is obvious from the very first shot: a pile of the skulls of "weak" Spartan babies. Later, Leonidas can't tell his wife he loves her because that wouldn't be very Spartan. That "good v. bad" ambiguity made the film that much more interesting to me. This particular Bush-hating, anti-war cut-n-runner thinks that there are some people who need to chill the fuck out.

Beautifully crafted. Great FX work. I generally don't like that speed ramping technique in action scenes, but I think it works here. My only major complaint is the lack of war rhinos. There's one goddamned war rhino, and it doesn't last. More war rhinos. Damn it.

Also:

The thing is, this isn't a film about anything other than a 2500 year old fight. So anything we might read into it is on us.

Yes. The answer to the title of this post will vary from person to person... or be ignored entirely.

Take what I say with a grain of salt, though. I am a homophobic imperialist, after all.
posted by brundlefly at 12:54 AM on March 11, 2007


spiderwire, I'm starting to get the feeling you're a... Spartan sympathizer.

*calls up Boule Anti-Athenian Activities Committee*
posted by languagehat at 6:41 AM on March 11, 2007


Leonidas does tell the Persian envoy that he'll find plenty of earth and water at the bottom of the well, I believe

Ah, OK. That was really bothering me. Maybe now I'll download it. :)
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:03 AM on March 11, 2007


Theoretically, if you were planning to attempt to make a movie in which you rendered the awesome incredibleness of Herodotus into something boring, bland, and totally meaningless, you'd have a heck of a task on your hands.

If I were charged with such a difficult duty, I'd probably hire Frank Miller to write the dialogue. That would make turning it into shit a hell of a lot easier, I imagine.

I haven't read the "graphic novel," and I won't see the movie. I think I'll go read Herodotus instead.
posted by koeselitz at 2:19 PM on March 11, 2007


Looks like it took in over $70 million this weekend.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:01 PM on March 11, 2007


Saw it this afternoon. Great movie. Sure the dialogue was a bit clumsy, and using natural lighting would have been better, but really, it's simple tale, told well. The stylish look and legendary feel fits the idea that's it being told as a story to inspire others.

But mainly it's great it knows what it is and isn't and doesn't pretend otherwise. Good stuff.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:35 PM on March 11, 2007


Caught it earlier today. Very exciting. Gorgeous sexy people dying horrible deaths beautifully.
Will buy the DVD.
posted by hojoki at 3:48 PM on March 11, 2007


I too felt uncomfortable with the vilification of blacks in the movie.

Oh please. God forbid a black person plays the villain.

The movie was pretty damn simple: you stay true to your word, you love and watch out for family and friend and anyone who tries to make you submit to them should be beheaded. or stabbed. Any law or tradition or slimey, mealy mouthed politician that attempts to make you submit to another person should be ignored if you can't kill them.

The Sparta's weren't angels. They were hard people, whose culture designed them to do hard things, unflinchingly.

The movie and comic book COULD have been subtle, more grey, exploring all sorts things about what it means to be a citizen with a king, or slaves etc, etc. But all Frank really wanted to say was "Don't fuck with me and mine. If you do, we'll mess you up, no question." Nice message.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:06 PM on March 11, 2007


spiderwire, I'm starting to get the feeling you're a... Spartan sympathizer.

*calls up Boule Anti-Athenian Activities Committee*


:)

Actually -- joking aside -- my great-grandfather had to leave the country under somewhat-murky double-agent circumstances, around 1921, I believe. So I think that actually makes me a Macedonian sympathizer by heritage -- I doubt the Spartans would have approved. I think he was from Florina, so my educated guess places him supplying Greek resistance against the Bulgarians.

Anyway, I say that by way of explanation -- this thread refers to topics that are important to me, even though I don't condone the Spartans on every count.
posted by spiderwire at 4:23 PM on March 11, 2007


The movie did $70 million this weekend. Ed Driscoll rounds up some commentary about it.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 5:59 PM on March 11, 2007


70 mil puts it at the highest grossing March released film ever! And behind only Matrix Reloaded and Passion of the Christ for R rated movies.

I just talked to "the producer", they are loving it!

Me...I'm just trying to decide where to retire to! :)
posted by HuronBob at 6:16 PM on March 11, 2007


Congrats to you and your producer, HB! Many happy days fishing in your future, I expect. I hope some of that return goes to Watchmen. :)
posted by spiderwire at 6:57 PM on March 11, 2007


No, I like A.O. Scott. I gather you don't. That's fine, but it's pretty childish to act as if your opinion were "plain fact."

childish? THIS... IS... METAAAAFILTAAAAA
posted by marlowe at 7:16 PM on March 11, 2007 [6 favorites]


300 will instead be talked about as a technical achievement, the next blip on the increasingly blurry line between movies and video games.

I just saw it, and I was far more impressed by it's race-baiting, homophobia, and laughable ethics than I was by it's technical achievements. Even more impressive was all the sweaty men. Ouch, indeed.
posted by owhydididoit at 7:44 PM on March 11, 2007


300’s director admits using homosexuality to scare 20 year old men:
I don’t know about you folks, but I have had it up to here with Hollywood using homosexuality as shorthand for evil. (...) In an interview running in this week’s edition of Entertainment Weekly, 300 director Zack Snyder admits to doing exactly that. According to the article:

The director says that the film’s (homo)sexual undertones were intended to make young straight males in the audience uncomfortable, because “What’s more scary to a 20-year-old boy than a giant god-king who wants to have his way with you?”

Gee, where on earth do you think 20 year old straight guys get the notion that homosexuality is something to be afraid of? It didn’t hurt the box office any, however, as 300 hauled in $70 million which makes it the highest grossing March opening ever.

Oh, joy.

No doubt, Snyder’s homophobic comment will pass largely unnoticed by the mainstream press, but imagine if he had made his villain a hulking black man and said he’d done so because nothing scares white women like a giant black god-king who wants to have his way with you.

I suspect he’d get trashed for a bigot trading in ugly stereotypes which is exactly what he’s doing.

And this is from an earlier interview Snyder did with EW:

"The movie, true to Miller’s vision, is also loaded with sweaty hunks running around in those tight leather Speedos and capes. None of this is played for gay appeal, but could induce snickering among some teens. Snyder shrugs it off. ‘’Some people have said to me, ‘Your movie is homoerotic,’ and some have said, ‘Your movie’s homophobic.’ In my mind, the movie is neither. But I don’t have a problem with people interpreting it the way they’d like to.'’ As long as they buy tickets first.

Why worry about people interpreting your movie as homophobic as long as you get $9 out of the audience, right Zack?

None of this comes as a surprise to us here at AfterElton. Last Monday we ran our article Frank Miller and 300’s Assault on the Gay Past which documented how Miller, upon whose graphic novel the film version of 300 was based, had previously used coded in homophobia in his work, and done so again in 300 while at the same time erasing gays from the historical record. Then we followed that up with our review of the movie by Brian Juergens which confirmed Hollywood was giving us yet another villain whose creepiness was amped up by making him seem gay. Now we’ve got Snyder confirming it was done to really freak out the 20 year old male demographic.

What an ass.

Just how egregious is 300’s offense? Well, given that graphic novel and movie are supposed to be “historical”, you wouldn’t think either would stray all that far from the historical record. You’d be wrong of course. Not only does the film do away with the Spartan’s known homosexual practices, but check out the difference between the actual King Xerxes (300’s villain) and the way he is portrayed in the movie.

Add just in case the creepy, homoerotic subtext isn’t clear enough, how about this.

Yep, nothing says predatory, sinister, and creepy like an effeminate, hairless man dripping in jewlry. I’ll say this for Snyder: at least he admits to what he’s doing.

As for the gay men who can’t wait to see the movie for the eye candy, do yourself a favor and get your candy somewhere else. These people don’t deserve a cent for flinging more homophobic garbage like this at us.
posted by kolophon at 5:08 AM on March 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wow.

Is it impossible for some people to enjoy a dumbed down adventure for what it is? 300 depicted a cartoon war between 2 differnt kinds of jerks. I don't think anyone left the theater with a newfound hatred for Gays or Persians.

I am most confused by people who were angered by what they saw as race messages in the movie. The Persian empire was in North Aftica. While the protrayal of Xerxes army was comic-book-tastic, it put Black and Brown faces in a place of power and wealth. Perisa is shown as a millitary super-power, An Empire spanning the north of Affrica and parts of Asia. The cartoon 300 faced in Xerxes an enemy greater then themselves, against wish there was no hope of victory.

I was actually impressed by the movies willingness to show Black faces as the rich and powerful. In comparison, the disabled are apparently the root of all evil. In the moive the disabled are traitors, peverted / corrupt priests, fetish objects, and grotesque weapons.
posted by BeerGrin at 6:41 AM on March 12, 2007


Just how egregious is 300’s offense? Well, given that graphic novel and movie are supposed to be “historical”, you wouldn’t think either would stray all that far from the historical record. You’d be wrong of course. Not only does the film do away with the Spartan’s known homosexual practices, but check out the difference between the actual King Xerxes (300’s villain) and the way he is portrayed in the movie.
For the record, 300 makes no attempt to be historical. It does not draw from the historical events directly. Instead, it is unabashedly based on Frank Miller's graphic novel. So, let me help you and AfterElton make a direct comparison of King Xerxes in Frank Miller's work (on the left) and Zack Snyder's work (on the right).
posted by sequential at 8:35 AM on March 12, 2007


“smedleyman, you do realise that Tolkien wrote Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in 1954, quite a few years before Peter Jackson's movie and September 11”

(google: “The blatant pandering to...etc” - other folks got it.)


“...it behooves us to be specific when discussing them rather than trying to apply 19th and 20th century platitudes to a culture that defied categorization even by contemporary standards.” - posted by spiderwire

Well said.
In historical terms, that’s the best point one can make. I’d argue the Spartans had one of the most egalitarian societies in history - particularly economically (oh, but we in the U.S./U.K et.al are SO much more enlightened especially in our defense industries). And nearly everone else had slaves at the time even “Democracies” like Athens.
And we forget the interim - just on (minimal) highlights - the Romans (enlightened, but slave owning, violent and conquest driven), the barbarians - a plethora of them, all very violent, the English empire, the Russ & later Russians, the Portuguese empire (and the Austro-Hungarian Empire - concession to the Habsburgs , you’ve got crusades in and out of every place, little local empires like Trebizond and the Nicaea, the Abyssinian cmpire, the Mali empire (lotta slaves), indeed the Persian empire themselves had slaves.

The only real cultural conflict here is between a society of laws and a society that rests upon the will of a man.
Of course, that question was not settled for all time, indeed the Romans had ‘little boots’ go nuts on them and subsequent emperors burned the place to the ground (metaphorically or literally). And that was a case of senators investing loads of power in one guy.
You’d think they’d have learned from the Spartans - laws not men. But not so much. Indeed, seems we have a bit of a problem with that question ourselves these days.
I thought the jewlery, comfort, obvious amassed wealth etc. of Xerxes being carried in a litter by men on bended knee contrasted the spare, walking on his own two legs, penniless Leonidas dressed in the same outfit as his people, in those terms - whim and self-serving power vs. law and egalitarianism. And further that those who are deformed are only so because they seek personal power and glory rather than equality in the law. (Ephialtes...huh..where have I heard that name referenced before? Nah, Miller couldn’t have read any of that, never could have heard of the Divne Comedy or gleaned the idea of a traitorous giant as a trope for misanthropic will to power...he must just be a close minded fuck)
But perhaps I’m too juvenile to see beyond that to the questions surrounding OMG! Teh Gayz and Cripplz!

I haven’t seen the movie (yet) but I’ve read the graphic novel. All the critics hurling “Juvenile” around makes me question their...well, hell, what is it that makes someone qualified to be a critic anyway?
In any case, I wonder what their review of certain Shakespeare plays would be? Fairies? Witches? Clearly Will hates the left and is trying to say that...yadda yadda yadda.
Or Kenneth Branagh doing Henry the V - “the Battle of Agincourt was in 1415, but the speech wasn’t written until 1599 - such a facile mistake, as bad as misspelling “Crispinian” as “Crispin” or “Crispian” - I mean, just look how fucking smart I am dammit! And there was too much scenery - this play instead be talked about as a technical achievement, the next blip on the increasingly blurry line between true Elizabethan performance and a cluttering of the downstage with unneccessary junk. Not to mention the homoeroticism in such lines as ‘We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile...’ etc. etc.”

Like Henry the V, the story can be seen in more than one way.
As there is “Once more unto the breach, dear friends..”
so too there is “band of brothers.” - As there is the glory of war in 300, so too there is a man leaving his wife to die. And there is a double edge to the gore as well.

Yes, the Spartans were assholes. And so are we 3,000 years from now.
300 of them had one brief shining moment to impart the lesson of their finest virtue - law over whim.
What’s our lesson?
McDonalds?
posted by Smedleyman at 8:45 AM on March 12, 2007 [5 favorites]


The director says that the film’s (homo)sexual undertones were intended to make young straight males in the audience uncomfortable, because “What’s more scary to a 20-year-old boy than a giant god-king who wants to have his way with you?”

Hey, it's even scary to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
posted by homunculus at 5:22 PM on March 12, 2007


That's unsurprising, homunculus. But it certainly is amusing to see a higher up in a death-dealing organization get his panties in a bunch about gay sex. Or adultery, for that matter. I for one feel safer knowing he's given this some thought.
posted by brundlefly at 2:16 AM on March 13, 2007


“I for one feel safer knowing he's given this some thought.”

Yeah man: “He said his views were based on his personal "upbringing," in which he was taught that certain types of conduct are immoral.”

And that’s how he’s ‘thought’ about it. How is that - based on his upbringing - justification of anything? (I recognize the sarcasm, I’m just adding this to it - because there is indeed the insinuation that his basis for judging this as immoral is valid). The only moral in combat is whatever keeps you and your unit alive. ‘Hey, Bill over there is a homosexual. I don’t want him laying down cover fire for me so the enemy can’t draw a bead on me. He might look at my ass and get turned on.’ What crap. I’m so close to some of the guys I’ve served with that fucking them or getting fucked by them would be trite.
Some relationships are far beyond sex. And should be, and are. I’m sure there are some gay folks who love their brothers or fathers, the fact that they’re men doesn’t mean they’re turned on by them.
And if some guy wants to have a sexual relationship with another guy - wheres the harm? It’s only a problem because it’s made a problem - perpetuated as a problem. I’m with the general on adultery. That’s always going to get someone hurt and fuck up a unit’s effectiveness. But men having consensual sex? No more a practical problem than a black guy having sex with a white woman.
Used to be immoral (illegal too) from what I understand.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:58 AM on March 13, 2007 [2 favorites]


I recognize the sarcasm, I’m just adding this to it - because there is indeed the insinuation that his basis for judging this as immoral is valid

Just to be clear, any such insinuation was unintentional on my part.
posted by brundlefly at 2:59 PM on March 13, 2007


I meant insinuation by the news story and his own POV. As separate from your sarcasm.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:58 PM on March 13, 2007


I figured. Just wanted to be sure.
posted by brundlefly at 6:21 PM on March 13, 2007


About those Spartans ...
posted by moonbiter at 10:45 PM on March 13, 2007


About those Spartans ...

Maybe you should RTFthread before blindly crossposting the snarky articles from reddit. The discussion in here was much better than that tripe.
posted by spiderwire at 5:09 PM on March 14, 2007


Iranians are enraged by U.S. film '300'
posted by homunculus at 12:17 AM on March 15, 2007


spiderwire, you really admire the Spartans, don't you?

Two things: posted by moonbiter at 12:42 AM on March 15, 2007


spiderwire, you really admire the Spartans, don't you?

Not exactly. (See above.) But who cares?

I read the thread.

Then perhaps you'd care to point out something in the article you posted that wasn't already covered in the thread?
posted by spiderwire at 12:32 PM on March 15, 2007


Fuck you and die, 300, thanks for making this world a worse place.
posted by muckster at 3:14 PM on March 15, 2007


Not exactly. (See above.) But who cares?

Your less than 100% admiration of the Spartans is noted. Perhaps I should have said "you really have strongly held beliefs about the Spartans." I only note it because it seems to have affected your argumentation strategy. Dismissing things out of hand as "tripe" is hardly convincing, nor is making bland assertions about how and why someone posted link a in a thread.

Then perhaps you'd care to point out something in the article you posted that wasn't already covered in the thread?

Okay, here's one right off the bat:
We know little of King Leonidas, so creating a fictitious backstory for him is understandable. Spartan children were, indeed, taken from their mothers and given a martial education called the agoge. They were indeed toughened by beatings and dispatched into the countryside, forced to walk shoeless in winter and sleep uncovered on the ground. But future kings were exempt.

And had Leonidas undergone the agoge, he would have come of age not by slaying a wolf, but by murdering unarmed helots in a rite known as the Crypteia. These helots were the Greeks indigenous to Lakonia and Messenia, reduced to slavery by the tiny fraction of the population enjoying Spartan "freedom." By living off estates worked by helots, the Spartans could afford to be professional soldiers, although really they had no choice: securing a brutal apartheid state is a full-time job, to which end the Ephors were required to ritually declare war on the helots.
Now, aside from a couple of toss-off references to "Cryptiea," I don't remember reading about this in the thread. Of course, we might quibble about whether or not the helots were oppressed "slaves" held down by their cruel masters, or merely goodly "serfs" who benefited from the stability of being lorded over by an armed ruling caste. We might also quibble about whether or not it is appropriate to call ancient Sparta a "brutal apartheid state" from the comfort of our modern perspective -- hell, the much praised Pax Romana was built on a foundation of slaves and boneyards. However, this little factoid does give us some small insight into the nature of the freedoms in the society in question, the freedoms that Leonidas and his fellow hoplites were fighting for.

Thus it seems to me that it was an interesting read, additional information thrown into the frey, and not quite "tripe" "blindly crossposted" by someone who hasn't "RTFthread".

But then again, my great-great-grandfather hails from the lands north of Raetia. Perhaps my barbarian mind is not up to the task of understanding the subtleties of what is and isn't a good link to your thread.
posted by moonbiter at 3:51 AM on March 16, 2007


frey == fray. Damn you, Norse gods, for infecting my spell-checker!
posted by moonbiter at 3:56 AM on March 16, 2007


Man, I can't wait until Ephraim Lytle writes his best selling fiction work which is perfectly historically accurate and uses no visual metaphor or creative license whatsoever. (His Narratological Argument for the Apuleian Authorship of the Spurcum Additamentum is just riveting reading)

I bet he's a big fan of the Xena and Hercules t.v. shows.

Yes, because we've all read The Histories by Herodotos and Delphi by Poulsen and Greek Fictile Revetments in the Archaic Period by Van Buren and Polychomy by Solon and Plutarch's The Lives of Noble Greeks and Romans and Aeschylus' The Persians, and Flaciere's Daily Life in Ancient Greece and on and on so we should simply shun this movie because it would ruin all that for us.

But why does Themistocles' story (interesting as it is) need to be told here?

Maybe we should get into Solon's laws and Athens and how some of Megacles' relatives bribed the oracle at Delphi to get the Spartans to liberate Athens which gave rise to an attempt at a coup by the aristocratic Athenians to take on the regular folks who had been eating well under Psistratos and digging democracy?
And we could go into how thanks to Solon's laws the Athenians had a beefed up Hoplite army - well fed, well blooded and well provisioned - and went off to settle the hash of pretty much everyone who had dicked with Athens like the Aeginetans, the Euboians, the Thebians and the Corinthians and went off to kick ass for the Ionians against Persia and that's what started Xerxes in the invade Greece business to begin with.

And indeed, had the Athenians not busted the heads of everyone else between them and Persia, the Spartans wouldn't have had to go off and fight in the first fucking place.

And oooh, let's talk about the battle of Marathon too where the Athenians were outnumbered 3 to 1 yet inflicted massive casualties (about 33 to 1) against the Persians.

And should we show the long march to the hot gates and the excesses of the Persians like Xerxes whipping the waters and beheading his engineers when a massive storm sunk his boat bridge and the army drinking rivers dry and destroying fields and all of the old guard like Artabanus arguing that the revenge trip was bullshit - or maybe we just skip all that and show Xerxes as eight feet tall as a metaphor for all that power and excess and focus on just the Spartan bit of this as advertised so we don't wind up having a 37 hour long movie? Which, y'know, is what it is.

And yet, still - no one mentions the hairdressers (the Spartans used to have their hair done - some say packed to make a hard helmet like shell - but in any case - dressed).

Eh, it's a movie. No one is putting a gun to anyone's head to see it. Don't think you'll like it? Don't see it. I'm a fascist because I like a little escapist fantasy blood and gore and violence? Fuck you and tell me that to my face.
(which, y'know, someone wouldn't 'cos...y'know, the irony)
posted by Smedleyman at 5:04 PM on March 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


Ok, saw it. Not that great a movie. I get the mythic approach to the storytelling. Liked that. Enjoyed the acting by the principals. I enjoyed the action - the slow/fast/etc. - because of the rhythm (my wife didn't - she's never played rugby). Parts were brilliant - mostly Miller's dialog and action. Lots of it wasn't. The entire subplot with the queen I could have done without. A lot of it was not Laconic. Meh, I ate popcorn and had a fair time.
Y'know though, a lot of Miller's work doesn't translate that well to film. I dunno what it is, but they keep wanting to tell, not show for some reason.
It's like they don't trust the story to carry itself.
Too wordy. And some of the pacing outside of the action didn't go well. Lots of missed chances. I dig changing things in terms of format - but if something works in pace, humor, etc. in the original work, why not use it?

But I blame Hollywood for that.

Suity Dufus: "Aw C'mon Frankie! Ya Gotta have a rape scene- am I rite?"
FM: "Uh...I dunno, that's not what I wro..."
Suity Dufus: "Naw, naw, nothing to piss off the babes - see? She kills him later - and get this, sezs the same thing he sez to her, see? And! And! He's a traitor! The worst kinda bad guy!"
FM: "Am I in charge of this project or no..."
Suity Dufus: "Yeah, yeah, but you got another traitor in there, am I rite? This'd be a juxapo...a recurr...a whatchacalit?"
FM: "A motif"
Suity Dufus: "Ok, he's goin' for it - let's roll!"

Bits of a damn good movie in there trying to get out. Struggling to explain relevancy or poignancy in the midst of storytelling.

I suppose that's why Coppola is Coppola - et. al. Hell, I saw Aviator and hated that movie except the direction was so damn good and smooth (and yeah, some of the acting is good) I wound up enjoying it. Storytelling - it's either the bottom line or it isn't. But hell, not every film can be The Godfather.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:42 PM on March 16, 2007


Thermopylae is a wedge issue!

as long as you're just randomly shitting on the thread with one-line links -- good job finding one meaningless point we hadn't discussed, btw. and it's spelled "Crypteia," although i don't really care.
posted by spiderwire at 6:24 PM on March 18, 2007


spiderwire doesn't really care, but somebody else might: here are more roundups of the continuing 300 debate at IFC Blog and GreenCine Daily. I particularly like this quote, from Carina Chocano:
Someday, maybe, the "entertainment defense" will no longer hold water. But for now, we're slogging through the era of the completely implausible denial. Like many films that seem to riff on everything without stooping to make a point (which would be just so hopelessly earnest and dorky), "300" proudly claims to be about nothing. Or rather, like another type of purchased pleasure, it claims to be about anything you want it to be. As long as a movie is dumb and violent enough, it can quote whatever cultural allusion is handy, then deny that it did with impunity.
posted by muckster at 8:49 PM on March 20, 2007


On the strength of James Berardinelli's review, I saw the movie yesterday. I liked it: it offers the same kind of spectacle as the battle scenes in the Lord of the Rings movies, with the Spartans battling an endless array of visually striking enemies.

That said, I can understand why a lot of people didn't like this movie. In contrast with Athens, Sparta was an extremely militaristic and conservative society; in the English-speaking world, we're accustomed to identifying with Athens rather than Sparta. (During the Cold War, for example, the US was identified with Athens, the Soviet Union with Sparta.) So it's a bit jarring to see a movie with the Spartans as the protagonists.

Herodotus provides a much more sympathetic view of the Persians than Frank Miller does: "Among all this multitude of men there was not one who, for stature and nobility of bearing, deserved more than Xerxes himself to wield so vast a power." Indeed, a great deal of his Histories is told from the Persian point of view. He recounts this story: after the Spartans killed the Persian heralds by throwing them into a well, they came to believe that they had incurred the displeasure of the gods. They asked two volunteers to go to Susa, the Persian capital, to atone for their killing the Persian heralds.
[7.136] And afterwards, when they were come to Susa into the king's presence, and the guards ordered them to fall down and do obeisance, and went so far as to use force to compel them, they refused, and said they would never do any such thing, even were their heads thrust down to the ground; for it was not their custom to worship men, and they had not come to Persia for that purpose. So they fought off the ceremony; and having done so, addressed the king in words much like the following:-

"O king of the Medes! the Lacedaemonians have sent us hither, in the place of those heralds of thine who were slain in Sparta, to make atonement to thee on their account."

Then Xerxes answered with true greatness of soul "that he would not act like the Lacedaemonians, who, by killing the heralds, had broken the laws which all men hold in common. As he had blamed such conduct in them, he would never be guilty of it himself. And besides, he did not wish, by putting the two men to death, to free the Lacedaemonians from the stain of their former outrage."
Relating this to current events (although of course this wasn't the intention of the filmmakers), I'd suggest that the position of the US is much more analogous to that of Persia than that of Sparta. Persia was the dominant Great Power of its day, commanding enormous wealth and power, attempting to conquer a peripheral, relatively poor region. Another story from Herodotus, following the Persian defeat at Platea:
[9.82] It is said that the following circumstance happened likewise at this time. Xerxes, when he fled away out of Greece, left his war-tent with Mardonius: when Pausanias, therefore, saw the tent with its adornments of gold and silver, and its hangings of divers colours, he gave commandment to the bakers and the cooks to make him ready a banquet in such fashion as was their wont for Mardonius. Then they made ready as they were bidden; and Pausanius, beholding the couches of gold and silver daintily decked out with their rich covertures, and the tables of gold and silver laid, and the feast itself prepared with all magnificence, was astonished at the good things which were set before him, and, being in a pleasant mood, gave commandment to his own followers to make ready a Spartan supper. When the suppers were both served, and it was apparent how vast a difference lay between the two, Pausanias laughed, and sent his servants to call to him the Greek generals. On their coming, he pointed to the two boards, and said:-

"I sent for you, O Greeks, to show you the folly of this Median captain, who, when he enjoyed such fare as this, must needs come here to rob us of our penury."
I'm curious whether the New York Review of Books will publish a review. Daniel Mendelsohn (who reviewed Troy and Alexander) has already drawn the parallel between George W. Bush and Xerxes, in this review of United 93 and World Trade Center. He describes Aeschylus' Persians:
Set in the imperial capital of Susa, the drama focuses on the grief of the Persian court as it awaits the return of its defeated emperor, Xerxes, following the Greek victory at Salamis. It must be said that to the eyes of anyone who didn't have the personal pleasure of defeating Xerxes' overweening invasion, the pageant of humiliation often feels rather too much like a pageant to be what we think of as great drama. The play consists of a series of fairly static tableaux in which, one after another, anxious courtiers and royals—among them, Xerxes' mother and the ghost of his father, Darius (who, we are meant to understand, was a less foolhardy, sager autocrat)—express their fears about the fate of the Persian army. These tableaux culminate in the appearance of the ill-starred emperor himself, dust-covered, despairing, defeated. ...

You could write a real tragedy, a Greek tragedy, about September 11 and what it has led to—a story with a true Aristotelian arc, a drama with a beginning that leads organically to a middle that leads organically, reasonably, to its inexorable end. This tragedy could, for instance, be about the seemingly inevitable way in which even the greatest empires can be thrown into confusion by a small number of enemies whose ideological fervor makes them unafraid of death. Or it could be about a specific empire, one whose contemptuous refusal to take its enemies seriously has made it deeply vulnerable. Or it could say something about a foolish and unseasoned autocrat whose desire to outshine his more accomplished father has an unfortunate effect on his policymaking, with the result that he ends up seeming even more foolish and unseasoned in comparison to his father. Or it could be about the seemingly irreducible strangeness of the West to the East, and vice versa. Or it could even be a kind of black farce (a genre not strange to Greek tragedy) about the injustices of autocracy—about a ruler so inept that he brings his country to ruin and yet never suffers, personally, for his errors. You could write such a tragedy today and to some people, at least, it might have a larger meaning. But then, someone has already written such a play; it's called Persians.
posted by russilwvong at 2:43 PM on March 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


This just in:

The 300, a movie based on a Frank Miller comic book, has been unseated from its box office throne by TMNT (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), a movie based on parody of a Frank Miller comic book.
posted by Clay201 at 3:39 AM on March 26, 2007


Great visuals? If you like sound stages. Never once did I believe they were even outdoors.

And I had no idea it was a Frank Miller creation when I started it. Yet ten minutes in I was thinking "this is the worst thing I've seen since Sin City." Heh.

Well, the silver lining was that I got to read this thread through the boring parts of the movie. Which as many have commented here, is most of it.
posted by dreamsign at 7:30 AM on April 6, 2007


It reminds me of the initial critical reaction to Starship Troopers.

Now that was a fun action movie, with good lines, smart plotting, good acting, and Doogie Howser in a Nazi uniform.

Please, more of that, less of this.
posted by dreamsign at 8:18 AM on April 6, 2007


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