Thursday, May 5, 2016

300

"Into the valley of death rode the six hundred ..." No, wait. Wrong battle. Wrong countries. Wrong millennium. But, you get the idea. Small band of Spartans makes a last stand at Thermopylae, a narrow passage which they had held against the massive invading Persian army. Spartans win glory for their heroic and patriotic actions. Trumpets blare! Poets sing! Movies featuring Gerard Butler and Michael Fassbender in very little clothing are made!*



The major issue I had with 300 was not so much the story, but the artwork. Yes, Miller got really dogmatic at the end, with the Spartans represented truth, justice, and the American Hellenistic Way, fighting for freedom, to end tyranny, wheeeee! But I liked the brusque dialogue, the Spartans' nationalism (which felt quite natural), and the insults traded back and forth. So the writing was pretty good, except for the rah-rah pep rally at the end, which felt forced.

But ... the art was just ... not what I expected. Okay, I expected blood and guts, as that's what happens in real life when people with pointy things throw and jab them at other people with more pointy things. People get punctured. It's not pretty. Yet here, the battles felt confusing. Chaos is an element in battle, yet for the reader's sake, it would be nice if the artist actually made it clear what the heck was going on. The Spartans, when not wearing their helmets, looked so much like the Persians that it was a bit of a head-scratcher.

If I had no text to accompany it, here is how I would tell the story by the artwork (possible spoilers ahead, but we all know the story anyway, so pfft):

The Spartans assemble for war, clad nobly in their minuscule jock-straps. They tell stories around the campfire, sing cheery songs, and end up sleeping sprawled all over the ground like a litter of puppies (with spears). Spartan King Leonidas, who has a pointy beard, rejects the Persian ambassador's offer of peace in exchange for Sparta's submission, and rids himself of the Persian and his swag. This means WAR! So, the Spartans go off to the Gates of Fire (Thermopylae), which is a narrow pass that they can defend using the tried and true Phalanx Technique (TM). What looks to be the offspring of Quasimodo and the Phantom of the Opera comes up to Leonidas, introduces himself as Ephialtes, and volunteers. Since he can't hold a shield high enough, Leonidas (rather politely, I thought) told him thanks, but no thanks. Ephialtes does the sensible thing and hurls himself off a cliff.

Meanwhile, Persian King Xerxes summons King Leonidas for a parley. Xerxes looks like Yul Brynner if Yul Brynner was seriously into body modification. He's also about 9 feet tall. It doesn't go very well.

As it turns out, resilient Hunchback of the Greek Opera Ephialtes isn't actually dead, and betrays Sparta to Xerxes. The wimpy Greeks who have been hanging out with the hardcore Spartans run away, and Leonidas sends the Spartan poet with them, to sing heroic songs of their victory. Leonidas and his men face Yul Xerxes, trick him, divest him of a few piercings, and die, generally of being stuck all over with spears and arrows. However, they serve as inspiration for the Greeks, and everybody goes yup, those dudes were Serious Fighters. Let's honor their memory by killing some more people! Fin

So, not completely awful enough for 1 star (like I said, I rather liked Miller's writing), but also pretty ridiculous, histrionic, and much too full of piercings for my taste.

*Note: I have not actually seen the movie, but I watched some scenes on YouTube. The whole "This is SPARTA" thing and all that.
 

2 comments:

  1. There was a film made in the 1960s, The 300 Spartans, with Richard Egan, who also played the Persian king in Esther And The King( with Joan Collins for once not playing a bitch). Both were pretty awful films. The 300 Spartans ended with the heroes marching off to what we know is their deaths, looking - well, heroic, and a voice over reciting the epitaph written for them afterwards. I admit I've never seen the later film either, but if it's better than the 1960s one, I haven't heard about it.

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    1. I had no idea such a film existed! Wow. And I think the newer film is one of those cultish so-bad-its-good-maybe type movies. ;)

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