Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Things I learned from 300

Coming late to this party, but I finally watched Zack Snyder's/Frank Miller's 300 on the weekend, and boy, did it stink.

Not to rain on the parade of thousands of fanboys who claim to enjoy it ironically, but that was one of the worst movies I've seen in years. And I watched The Rocker the same weekend. It also makes the achievement of Watchmen even more amazing; Watchmen isn't great but it's far from bad, and where it modifies the original story it usually does so carefully and in a not-moronic way.

Not 300. I felt like every addition to the Frank Miller comic went in the wrong direction. You have a comic that's already ludicrously stylized? Let's make the film adaptation even more stylized! There's basically no female roles in the comic? We'll put one in the move, so she can be raped! Some of the dialogue sounded cheesy and lame the first time around? A big spoonful of that please!

Seriously, 300 is one of those milestones in Frank Miller's career, the kind labeled "25 miles to Suckville." The guy's been going slowly insane for decades, and 300 was written at the point where he was just starting to move away from his Daredevil and Dark Knight Returns projects and beginning to walk the road that would take him to "I'm the goddamn Batman!" So it sort of works, but it's also loaded with the kind of stuff that would mark Miller for the rest of his career: enough testosterone to make a rhino explode, a style that is so extreme it constantly calls attention to itself, loads of blood, the valorization of violence, a lack of good characterization, and a big ol' Girls Not Allowed sign on the front door.

Politically, the movie was painful. I think calling it fascist is a little unfair. Even fascism, as a political philosophy, is more nuanced than 300. The movie was more a blend of unthinking nationalism wrapped up in some default American values. (Freedom be good!) Of course, those values are left undefined and unexamined, so we never question why the people fighting for freedom have a king, for example. Who orders them to cheerfully murder wounded soldiers while he eats an apple. Ha ha! It's funny because in any other movie that's how you'd be able to tell who the bad guy was!

Now, things I learned from watching 300:

• The ancient Persians were mostly African-American or east Asian in origin.

• "Phalanx" means everybody runs around slicing up people in slow-mo.

• Athenians were gay. Not the Spartans.

• The Persian army included the Uruk Hai and Sloth from The Goonies.

• In a related note, you can put ninjas in anything!

• Ancient Greek oracles were really just nude interpretative dancers.

• When going on a long mission, all you need to carry as a Spartan warrior are you weapons, shield, and red cloak. Food is not necessary, probably because you'll just murder and eat anyone you run across.

• Physically disabled people are inherently evil.

• Breastplates are for sissies.

• But not shaving your chest. A smooth, hairless torso, much like a Ken doll's, is super-manly.

• Gerard Butler has huge fucking teeth!

• Peasants don't really exist. Probably because if they ever showed up, the movie might have had to talk about how the Spartans ritually declared war on their peasants yearly, and murdered the troublesome ones as an initiation ritual for young men.


Mighty Fast Pig said...

I know I'm risking a Godwin's law violation, but is it okay to use the F-word when discussing this movie? I.e. "fascism"?

-near-deification of a visionary military leader

-mapping of "good" onto physical perfection and homogeneity, combined with horror and contempt for physical heterogeneity representing "evil"

-homoerotic male bonding

-fear of a vast, external, heterogenous threat, associated with contamination and deviant sexuality

-women as either mothers or temptresses

-erasure of non-military sectors of society

-etc, etc, etc....

Ouranosaurus said...

No, fascism is a perfectly fair word to use. I just don't think the movie is actually sophisticated enough to have an ideology, or actually aims at promoting fascism. It's the kind of movie a fascist Jerry Bruckheimer would make if he was trying to recruit young male proles to the movement.

Racist is also a fair word to use.

New 300 fact: If you say something isn't racist, that makes it not racist. Even if on the surface, the film appears to be staggeringly racist! Wow!