So, about a week ago I and Sarah found ourselves in the new Apollo cinema on Regent Street, about to see one of the first showings of 300 in the country. I don’t usually recommend films. My taste is not the same as everyone else’s, but DAMN! Go and see this film. Its one of the most rock hard movies that I have watched in a long time and best of all, for its type, it’s not a film full of testosterone. What it has, in vast amounts, is the epitome of the heroic ideal. Stand up for what is right and be prepared to fight to the death for it. Even better, it’s one of the most faithful adaptations of a graphic novel I will probably ever see on the big screen.
You all know the story of the 300 (shame upon you if you don’t) and director Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead) brings it to life in all its bloody glory. The Greeks quite rightly regard it as their Alamo and Snyder has done them proud. The tale may seem slight, but that’s because in reality it was. The Persians invade Greece, Greeks gather armies to repel. What’s so hard to understand about that? Some reviewers have called it one-note, but so what? It’s the simplicity of the film that I like. Make a stand or our way of life is over. I don’t need something full of bleeding hearts or faux-liberalism in a film like this; the politicians get the short shrift they deserve. I want the heroic ideal, and please, don’t give anyone who tries to equate to what’s happening in Iraq today any credence. Christianity and Islam were not even abstract concepts when the Battle of Thermopylae occurred.
Everybody in the film acquits themselves fully, even if Gerard Butlers’ Scottish accent can be something to behold at times (I can just imagine him in Taggart, in full Spartan getup shouting “There’s beena murderrrr in Spartaaa”). Perhaps the only false note is Andrew Tiernan’s Ephialtes. The would-be Spartan hunchback feels a little underdeveloped, at odds with the graphic novel version, wherein he is given more motives for his betrayal of the Spartans. Mentioning which, having not read the graphic novel for a while I reread it and was amazed to find that it’s even harder than the movie. The splash page style, at the time I first read it, I felt was Miller being simply lazy after the tight panels of Ronin and Bat-Man: DKR. But now, with hindsight, I can see the epic portrayal he was trying to put across, especially in the pages where Leonidas tells the Persians to come and get their spears, and the last battle. I also feel it’s a shame that Snyder didn’t include the scene where the Spartans are playfully diving off the wall of enemy bodies into the sea whilst ignoring the Persian messenger. That’s hardcore.
At the Q&A afterwards Snyder was given a rapturous applause and not in a fanboy worshipping way. It is a good movie and we all knew that. Snyder was a little excitable (“awesome” and “cool” were the catch-phrases of the night), but his answers were funny and to the point. He gave little hints about Watchmen (“Taxi Driver style”) that the movie is the finished version and will not have had extended cut, and about the inclusion of the subplot featuring Lena Headey’s Queen Gorgo which is not in the novel (“you have to remind the audience about what the Spartans are fighting for”).
The texture, music and (considering it was all done in a studio) CGI are perfect for the film. Whereas Sin City was mostly flat and came across dull, 300 is an amazing tour-de-force. But I must say that if I ever see another golden cornfield in an epic film then, aarrrgghhh, it will be time to go 300 on some art director’s arse.
No doubt, some historians will huff and tut about some of the historical veracity of the movie. But you know what? I DON’T CARE! I don’t care that the Spartans practised infanticide, or that for all their protestations of freedom, they were a slave-owning society. I’m not the least bit bothered that hundreds of other soldiers from other Greek armies stuck with the Spartans to the very end and don’t even get a mention in the film. I don’t care that the Spartan society could be described as fascist (and this concept also did not exist then) or that the Spartans did not go into war with just their loincloths. What I care about is the heroic ideal that the movie conveys fully and something that people should be more aware of today.
300 is the Zulu for this generation, and that’s a good thing.