June 18, 2007

My reaction to 300

As shamsir once said on Addafication , "Blame the lack of posts on the good weather". So this is where I recycle some old stuff I wrote before reviving this blog. Enjoy, and expect more stuff on the "Middle East" because I'm going through that phase again!


It’s the year 480 B.C. and King Leonidas of Sparta has sent one of his hyper-masculine soldiers back from the battlefield of Thermopylae to tell others of the events that had transpired there. I believe this is highly accurate. As anyone who has spent time around old war veterans can attest, this is a highly accurate celluloid version of one of those “during the war” stories.

The soldier dutifully tells the Senators (and us) of how one day a Persian ambassador appears at the gates of Sparta, although the Senators must have known this as well as him, but it’s just more masculine that way you see! The ambassador appears brandishing the heads of fallen kings (what Robert Art defines as “swagger”) and warning the Spartan King that a coalition of the willing "the thousand nations of the Persian Empire” are gathering. All the God-King (a clever way of addressing the problem of Church and State thoroughly overlooked by Jefferson!) wants in return is a tribute of “earth and water”.

Now this is really a harmless symbol indicating that “you’re with us” and not, say… I dunno, “against us” for lack of better words! Harmless really. But Leonidas is no poet to be analysing symbols. He is a manly man, and like all manly men he has inherited the kingship from his father, so he has to push this ambassador down what is surely the dumbest city-centre ever built. Moral of the story: don’t go downtown after dark in Sparta or you might fall into the crater left behind by the meteorite that killed off the dinosaurs. Yes that very same one.

But our good king cannot wage war before consulting the priests of the ancient order who have been active since “tthimes immohtal” as the priest reminds us doing his best Peter O’Toole. Yes, these poor people still have not figured out how to separate Church and State. But don’t worry, the film-makers will distract the mainly North American audience from that flaw in their social structure by showing us how lecherous, leprous (give them a break, this is bC! There are no miraculous cures for leprosy at this point!) and corruptible these priests really are. Wait a minute: a war sanctioned by priests who aren’t in touch with the people? There's a word for that, but I can't for the life of me (insert finger snaps) remember it. Oh well, it probably would have sounded dirty to the audience anyway! Oh no wait, it's called a Crusade. Whew, dodged a bullet.

Our manly king takes 300 manly men to fight with him at this place called Thermopylae. Although most of the ships drown, as we know Asia has never lacked people. So those immigating invading hordes from Asia just keep coming. This is easily the best part of the movie. The action is superb. The special effects are seamless. The colour scheme is suitably grim (more on that later).

What distracted me from all this (and by extension my friend beside me, who was coincidentally of Greek descent) was the unintentional homosexual subtext I’d been warned about in the reviews . Nope, not Xerxes’s shoulder rub (now what other prominent politician do we know who likes to give unsoliticted shoulder rubs?). Although that moment was sort of funny, the Xerxes depiction smacked of homophobia. What was really funny was the dialogue between the Spartans themselves. “Nice thrust”? “Who’ll watch your back”? All this after referring to Athenians disparagingly as “philosophers and ummm… boy lovers” (direct quote)? At one point, the tension between these two Spartan soldiers becomes so acutely embarrassing that you feel like screaming “get a room, you two”. But of course they can’t. Not only because they don’t have rooms (I also didn’t see a single tent. Like Chuck Norris, Spartan men don’t sleep, they wait.), leaving you to laugh as the rest of the audience starts giggling.

A lot has been and will be said about this movie’s cinematography, art direction and video-game look, which are either the best or worse things to happen to movies yet depending on whom you’re talking to. But if you ask me, critics would have gone crazy over this one if it was shot in Sin City-style silhouettes only to heighten the moral contrast between the Spartans and the Persians. Even B/W is way too many shades of grey for this movie.

Apologies are due to everyone who liked this movie. I did too in a sense. Honest. I like a shot of cinematic testosterone as much as the next person, but I like it more when it’s a la Tarantino or Scorsese, preferrably the latter. And I tried not to read any geo-political significance into all this. That wasn’t too hard given I was laughing at the cheesy dialogue half the time. I’m all for art being just art (and I hope the people who agree with me on this give V for Vendetta the same treatment!)But I suppose it’s the times we live in and the reviews we read. The reviewer for variety says in an intended understatement that this movie “might be greeted with muted enthusiasm in the Middle East”. Maybe. If Middle-Easterners see only skin colour and no allegory. (I think it’s pertinent to mention here that while the Spartan army are monochromatically drawn from one race, the Persians are multi-racial and if their elephants and rhinos are anything to go by, slightly multi-cultural too.) My guess however is that this movie might just rock the casbah and our old friend Shareef will like it but have doubts about owning it on DVD given the corny factor.


Anonymous said...

Good lord! this is the funniest review i've ever read! :D i started choking when i read "as anyone who has spent time around old war veterans..." and kept gasping for air till the end! and Xerxes was totally dolled up like a drag queen.

a said...


Glad the review made you laugh like that! I love funny reviews myself, and am glad I was able to write one. If you like funny reviews you should check out www.moviejuice.com . The guy Mark Ramsey is simply hilarious.

I put this up on this blog only because it had some important points to highlight about our current global mindset. As you may have heard, Iranians found the depiction particularly offensive. Yet, if you were to look at it coolly from the same perspective as me, the "Persians" in the movie don't come off all that badly when compared with today's modern nations, do they?

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