Tuesday, 27 March 2007

300 – Review by Robert Duffin

Director: Zack Snyder
Screenwriter: Zack Snyder and Kurt Johnstad
Runtime: 117 minutes
Certificate: 15
Release date: 23rd March

“I just made a movie that I wanted to see, I want to see a movie with a big fight, girls kissing, monsters…but I also want it to be historically accurate. Miller takes history and rips the shit out of it and makes it awesome…that’s what I wanna do!”

That quote comes from director, Zack Snyder, who oversees the translation from page to screen of Frank Miller’s graphic novel 300. Seeing the trailers on television, the artwork splashed on the side of buses, and the airhead sound bites of filmmaker and stars should be enough preparation for the first big dumb blockbuster out of the gates this summer. Yet nothing in the marketing prepared me for this.

300 follows the mythic tale of Spartan King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) who led a mere 300 men in the battle of Thermopylae against the Persian horde of 200,000 in 480 B.C. And if you’re interested in the history of the battle, they fit little more into 116 minutes than I did in that last sentence. Instead Snyder and Miller, unwittingly or not, create a vicious call to arms that demands a violent eradication of Eastern “mysticism.” To promote 300 as nothing more than apolitical action romp, a testosterone fuelled by-product of an amorous night between Gladiator’s Maximus and an X-Box 360, is either disingenuous or Snyder really is as idiotic as he sounds.

Despite the troubling situation that currently exists in the Middle East, the rabble rousing Miller represents the “baddie” Persians in a variety of highly dubious ways. The villains are black people, disabled people, effeminate homosexuals, lesbians, disfigured lesbians, foam mouthed giants, and fat men with lobster claws for arms. The leader of this merry band of ‘others’, Xerxes, is an eight-foot drag queen who arrives at the battle on a Gay Pride march float and has a disturbing desire to rub the pulsating muscles of the Spartan King. When he demands that Leonidas kneels before him it’s with a wink and the knowing that he wants more than his chain mail tickled.

The Spartans meanwhile run around in Y-Fronts and capes but there’s nothing gay about them, no sir! They want glory, honour and freedom from the tyranny of the East and aim to get it with as much chest puffing and six pack rippling as you’ll get outside the Men’s Health magazine Christmas party. Gerard Butler, think Brian Blessed on steroids, is pretty convincing as King of the Meatheads but has no script to work with. The film is book ended by scenes of Dilios (David Wenham) narrating the story to a fresh bunch of Spartan soldiers and fails in a miserable attempt to capture the power of the mythic narrative. Just like the new army of Sparta, Snyder and Miller want us to be so inspired by the achievements of the 300 that we too will pick up sword and shield in the fight for freedom. Yet the narrative just lies flailing on the screen as flat as the CGI visuals, which downsize this would be epic.

Despite Snyder’s publicity savvy interviews that are successfully hooking in the teenage male demographic, 300 verges on extreme right wing propaganda. It is a salute to total war to preserve freedom, recycles the Bush Administration discourse into rousing speeches and that fact that it may be the product of cultural ignorance makes it even more despicable. Of course though it’s just a blockbuster made by a surfer dude and a crabby old bastard right? Yes, and Leni Riefenstahl said she was just a German documentarian.

In the midst of this mess however, we can find one historical truth. In perhaps the most vicious, yet blasé rape scene in mainstream cinema, the perpetrator of the deed comments “This will not be over quickly. You will not enjoy this.” A more suitable summation of this mess I cannot conjure.

Follow this link if you would like to see the full interview with surfer dude, Zack Snyder, and why wouldn't you? http://www.ifilm.com/video/2758431

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