Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Whom Gods Destroy, They First Make Mad

Leonidas at Thermopylae, 1814 by Jacques-Louis David

The last time I tackled critiquing a movie review was for Chronicles of Narnia. So lets do it again for Snyder's version of Frank Miller's graphic novel 300, which in turn is an updated telling of the 480 BC Battle of Termopylae that save the Greek city-states from Persian domination. Well this review I stumbled across is a real jaw-dropper in its vileness and vulgarity. The Greeks had a one word description of such people, bárbaros or barbarian.

Shall we start on a tour of this review then? Rights, lets do. And don't forget the haz-mat suit.

... King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), who fancies himself a man-god with divine right to world dominion. Xerxes has amassed the hugest army ever known, but, when it comes to war, Sparta is the Tiffany of Greek city-states, with all else secondary to the training of young men for battle.

Well the Persians did beleive their rulers were divine. And hugest army? Junior the proper word is largest army. If I was a Spartan I would be insulted if I was compared to over-priced trinkets. Spartans were so hard core militarists there is no modern entity to compare them to, even Gurhkas are soft compared to Spartans.

Leonidas, in what is apparently an egregious breach of protocol, throws the emissaries down a well. (This well, by the way, appears to be an unguarded bottomless pit about 100 feet in diameter, right in the middle of town, where the Spartan kiddies play. Go figure.)

Why is it egregious for the Spartans to do such? As the writer mentions in the preceding paragraph the Athenians had beat Xerxes's father Darius at Marathon. There is a bloody history of the Persians wanting to conquer the Greeks by fair means or foul. Cyrus and Xenophon in 430BC suffered similar treachery at the hands of Persians. It took Alexander the Great to finally settle things with the Persians. On second thought the Greeks and modern Turks still carry this chip on their shoulder, they do not like each other. Considering how the whole Spartan state was geared to produce warriors such a well would be viewed as early winnowing of the unfit. And lets remember Spartan women would tell their Spartan husbands when they marched off to battle, "Take care that you return with your shield or upon it."

Leonidas is married to Gorgo (Lena Headey), presumably the hottest babe in Sparta’s greater metropolitan area, if not the entire Hellenic region

Here the reviewer is projecting his own mores upon the Spartans. Again Spartans were warriors first. If you gave a Spartan warrior only three options: Go battle some other Greeks, pick a fight with Persians, or marry and reproduce; marry and reproduce would still sneak in at number 5. Leonidas probably saw in Gorgo how she would bear fine warriors for him, not how hot she is.

Which brings up another subject: Film doesn’t exist in a political vacuum. I’m sure there are people – in the White House, for a start – who think this is a really ripe moment for a big-budget film extolling the virtues of slaughtering Persians in order to “rescue the world from mysticism and tyranny,” as Leonidas puts it. I’m not suggesting that the filmmakers had any agenda, nor that they could even have known that their release would come at a time when a craven, desperate administration would be trying to launch an attack on Persians, nor that, in general, artists should have to worry about that stuff.

Only someone who drinks deeply at the fountain of the belief 'all is politics' would trot this entire paragraph out. 2001: A Space Odyssey is very much sans politics and still stands as a classic while its sequel 2010 is so steeped in the politics of the US vs the USSR that within a decade of its release the film was severely dated. Snyder himself has said there are no deliberate parallels between 300 and current events, that the West is not represented by the Spartans. The reviewer is blatanly projecting his own ideas onto a cinematic canvas where they ill-fit, like Michael Moore wearing a speedo.

The really reprehensible thing here is not the coincidence of timing, but rather that the film is a paean – with only a few token moments of ironic doubt or criticism – to the warrior ethic in general, while making some even less savory subliminal connections. Good Spartans = handsome white guys, manly sweat glistening on their bulging muscles. The few Evil Spartans = deformed white guys (like the hunchback who betrays Leonidas). Evil Persians = mostly deformed and, on average, noticeably swarthier, except for the very pale Xerxes, who gives the impression of a slightly effeminate punk with way too much money to spend on piercings. Good Persians = you’re kidding, right?

Not content with what he has already spewed this is the next paragraph. The warrior ethos is bad. Nevermind the Spartans are defending their way of life from Persian invaders, it is still bad. Where have we heard that before? Then he starts leveling charges of racisim against Snyder and I guess Miller also. Well the Miller/Snyder version of Xerxes takes a while to get used to, Persian emperors even on campaign traveled on a gold carpet. The 1962 movie The 300 Spartans that inspired Miller to make his 300 even shows how opulent a Persian emperor lived in the field.

There are even paragraphs and sentences in this review where he does try to list the faults of the film. But it is interspersed with such vitriol or evil bile as shown above; one's eyes glaze over before it can even sink in. I won't even quote his last sentence since he ends his review with a profanity.

To the scribbler of this heated mess, I have one thing to say: "Molon Labe!"

Victor Davis Hanson writes on the movie 300 as compared to the actual Battle of Thermopylae.

Sidenote for Najia, while looking up barbarian stumbled across where Berber probably came from. The Arabic barbar which was derived from the Greek word. (:


The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Thanks for the review.

I read a couple of blogposts by Dean Barnett this past week, and from someone else at Townhall. And they were all abuzz about how liberals were hating on this movie. And for that alone, they were wanting to see it.

Michael Medved even gave it a decent review, which shocked me, since I don't see him as the type approving of any graphic violence/sex in movies.

Maybe I'll catch a matinee or something. I don't really like that greenscreen special effects thing they use, for the look. It just looks too "fake", to me. I suppose it fits, since Sin City and this movie are based on graphic novels.

Anna said...

Well I guess I should bestir myself to post review since I did go see the movie. :)