Short Review of "300"

Catholicgauze, gnxp, The Metropolis Times, and ZenPundit have offered their views.

I could argue that it’s a near-perfect example of the Romantic genre, and that the screen play appears to have been written by Ayn Rand.

I could say that it’s brilliant embarrasses the emptiness of Hollywood, and it’s empty translations of Alexander and Troy.

I could say that the very best review I’ve read comes from, and that this film comes from the world of comics, says a lot about the greatness of a medium I have rarely directly enjoyed.

But instead, I will say this: If before the battle the Spartans had seen this movie, had known how their tale would be sung, they would be delighted.

26 thoughts on “Short Review of "300"”

  1. “I could argue that it's a near-perfect example of the Romantic genre, and that the screen play appears to have been written by Ayn Rand.”

    How's so? I remember you saying the same thing about 2046.

  2. I think I agree, especially with how much better it is than any recent sword n' sandal movie. I evaluated it as a Romantic piece, which is why I found the infanticide and child abuse out of place with the pro-freedom dialogue; sort of a Dominique rape scene that never really gets taken care of in text.

    I see Rand in it because of the Romanticism, the intense duality, characterization of meddling government interfering with the real men and the random breaks in action for monologues explaining how everything is done for freedom. I've still got 2046 in one of my Netflix queues… it keeps getting pushed back to make room for my obsessive quest to see every movie on every AFI list.

    I had it pointed out to me that the Spartans could also represent terrorists. The end certainly seems like the 'propaganda of the deed' homicide bombers go for.

  3. The Sparta of “300 is best understood as a storybook version of Galt's Gulch — the opposite of the City in “Anthem.” 300's Sparta is a free association of free men — from which one may leave if they wish (as did Ephialtes and his parents) and which is run according to an agreed upon Constitution. The film's infanticide is functionally equivalent to abortion on late-term abortion, a practice I don't believe Rand had a problem with.

    Rand's favorite genre of film — Romantic Realism — places men as they should be in a world as it is. In Atlas Shrugged and the Fountainhead, the world looked similar to ours — in Anthem (and 300) the world has fairy-tail qualities to better exploit symbolism.

    A note on 2046: that film's actually the third in a trilogy, of which 2000's “In the Mood for Love” and 1991's “Days of Being Wild” are fellow members. I watched them in reverse order and enjoyed the experience. The ending of In the Mood for Love, in particular, is best enjoyed as the last scene of the trilogy, rather than something in between.

    PS: “God is a Beer Drinker” has a pair of posts on the movie.


  4. I'm just curious, because I'm a comics guy above all things, but what have you read or looked into exactly that has detracted you from the comics world?

    Weighing in on what was said though, I think the movie is more popcorn than anything else. The ridiculous butt rock grinding away in the background, the 1-D characters and straightforward story. Sure, it's a visual feast, and one that I enjoyed watching… but only as an exercise in upping my admittedly subpar testosterone level. I'm actually kind of surprised that you enjoyed it as something more than just a good time at the movies.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm glad you got something out of it, but I'm more pleased that it might give you a reason to dive more into the comics universe.

    Just in case you were interested, it appears Snyder will be directing Watchmen as well, which is typically treated as the pinnacle point of evolution in superhero comics.

  5. I'm going to have to agree with Brandon on this one. The movie was gloriously pretty. I think that it is going to set a standard in the look of film making, especially in the comic book movie genre. But the story was an excuse to have the action sequences.
    300 looked like a comic book, so much so that individual character shots appear closer in angle and framing to comic book panels then in traditional movies. As a comic book fan I loved that.
    The story is good, as is the dialog, but to me it seemed like a greek Braveheart, but only the parts where he was crazy.

    However, I'll admit that I read your review before seeing the movie. Walking out from the theater I thought that your closing statement,
    “But instead, I will say this: If before the battle the Spartans had seen this movie, had known how their tale would be sung, they would be delighted.”

    was very apt and eloquently stated.

  6. In a word: patience.

    For example, take the Spartans' treatment of the Persian state-department flunkies [1] My eye reads the comic in much less than a second, and wants to see what happens next. However, the director is in control of the time I spend on the scene in the theater. Not only does the action take much more than a second, the camera lingers on the seemingly endless descent into the well.

    If the movie is well made, that extra time is spent pondering the action. But in a comic, by the time the film scene ends I'm already on the next page.

    I prefer unabridged audiobooks to physical books for the same reason. The time expansion can make the mediocre into the memorable (as in Bad Twin [2]), the good into the heartrending (A Painted House), and the great into the lifechanging (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance).

    I think I've had one chance to compare all three media: Battle Royale. I can still feel reading the book in my chest and arms, and remember how excited and concerned I was during the film's intermission. But the comics cannot move me.


  7. That's because you're reading them wrong 😛

    Seriously, the patience behind comic books lies not in the reading of an entire story at once, but in the format that the traditional comic is published in.
    Comics are generally published once a month, and I'd place a bet that I'm not the only one that's re-read all of the old issues in a story arc every time he got a new issue.
    Not that I disagree with you. I'd take a movie version that well done over the comic version any day.

    I think that a classic example of the emotion of a story coming out better in a movie than in literature is The Lord Of The Rings trilogy. Tolkien can spin a great story, but he can't keep me entertained past The Two Towers.

  8. I agree completely, Biz.

    Another good example of the format mattering is Beowulf. The greatest version of the story available today is Seamus Heaney's spoken word version [1]. The story was not designed to be read and was not intended to be hard to understand.

    Ditto your thoughts on Lord of the Rings. I enjoyed the Hobbit, but could not get through even Fellowship of the Ring. But the movies were fantastic, and that's because of Peter Jackson's translation of Tolkein's source material into something very beautiful.


  9. I have to agree with the comments about Lord of the Rings. I enjoyed the movies, but an attempt to listen to an audiobook version fizzled at the middle of Two Towers; never-ending descriptions of the hills Frodo and Samwise were walking through weren't too interesting.

    As long as movies and Beowulf have both come up, has anyone seen BEOWULF AND GRENDEL?

  10. Perhaps this is a little late, but I'm not even more curious if you have the same problem viewing art in a themed gallery or in a collected works volume. Do you just look at the piece and move on to the next one? Or do you spend time studying the piece and try to pull something out of it other than just what a cursory glance offers you? If you do the latter, then I guess I don't quite follow the problem you have in viewing comics, as each panel is similar to a framed piece of art in a themed gallery.

    The story may be pulling you forward, but any good artist will do the same with their works that follow a common thread.

    Does patience affect your ability to appreciate artwork in general, is really the question I'm getting at.

    To hit at Biz a bit though, comics are moving very rapidly away from the traditional format and heading towards volumes of work, novel, and manga style formats. What you see on the shelf of many bookstores are the collected works, which are more accessible and what people are becoming more familiar with. Fewer and fewer readers are following the traditional comic format and so you have to take that into account.

    My guess is that Dan doesn't follow/read comics so much as he follows volumes and collections (which is what 300 is really more related to).

  11. Sorry about the typo. That first sentence should read “now” in place of “not”. I'm -now- curious if you have the issue.

    Can't believe I missed that. 😛

  12. Michael,

    No, is that movie any good?


    “if you have the same problem viewing art in a themed gallery or in a collected works volume”

    Yes, absolutely. A gallery frustrates me. I would rather spend an hour examining one painting in depth than look at 20 different ones for 5 minutes each.

    “Does patience affect your ability to appreciate artwork in general, is really the question I'm getting at.”

    I think /interest/ impacts my ability to appreciate art in general. In comic books, for example, I am too interested in the plot and characters to fully enjoy the format. Likewise, in a gallery I become frustrated by being unable to really focus on interesting photos.

  13. This movie was a 2 hour Capital One Visa commercial. “What's in YOUR wallet?!!” It was so bad that I wanted a refund on the two hours of life that I had wasted.

  14. This movie is for guys with no life, that have imaginary girlfriends, and that masterbate over the Tomb Raider video game. This movie could have been so much better. As a history buff, I didn't need to see a movie about Spartans that has a heavy metal soundtrack. Come on, that's just pathetic. This was 2 hours of complete silliness. When I watched it, I was by no means the only person that couldn't hold back the laughter.

  15. I liked the movie, I have a life. Despite claims to the contrary my girlfriend is not imaginary and I never liked Tomb Raider. If your assertion about their target audience is correct, Wade, than there certainly was a lot of crossover appeal to the general public.
    Out of curiosity, how would you have made it better?

  16. Come now, Wade, I've never played Tomb Raider!*grin*

    Seriously, though, I didn't think the heavy metal parts were any less appropriate than the freak show Persians or the suspiciously tame rhino. If you want to get across the reality that the main characters are REALLY agressive, and you're already throwing historical accuracy to the wind, playing that music when they're getting into their work is a good way to do it.

    As for the refund, shouldn't the fact that 300 was based on a comic book been a cue to look at the comic before watching?

    Dan: BEOWULF AND GRENDEL is very good. Oddly enough, it's also a good analogy for Iraq (or any civil war) that DOESN'T hit you over the head with that fact.

  17. In response to a post over at gnxp [1], an interesting question [2]:

    “I wonder if ever a decent movie were made about Muhammads extravagant conquerings, would western males flock to see it? ie. is it the west vs the rest material they are most attracted to, or the exotic violence? From the sarcastic reactions I heard to the freedom speeches, I think it was mostly the violent grandeur of it all.”


  18. I would see a movie about Muhammad. That guy would make a great action star. At least from what I've read. For me the draw was the vision and violence (I'm a more of a swords guy than a guns guy, so this was right up my alley.)

    Dan, I have to say that I'm with you on the art appreciation comments. I appreciate either an immediate and outstanding impact or depth that appreciates over a long period of time. I'll look at a gallery and remember one or two pieces for the ride home.

  19. “I would see a movie about Muhammad. “

    I've long thought that an amazing film would be “After the Prophet,” chronicling the succession crises of Islam (the murder of his daughter, his youngest wife's conniving, the murder of the Caliph by a slave, etc etc). Lots of great treachery and battle scenes. (For some reason I always imagine it with a Superchick soundtrack…)

    “Idols? This is MECCA!”

    You're always good for de-escalating a situation, Mohammed ibn Abd-al-Wahhab!

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