10 March 2007

Succinct Film Reviews: 300 Edition

300, a bloody mess, but a fun, entertaining, manly bloody mess.

300 is a film unlike most films today, that doesn't pussyfoot around when it comes to moral issues. It is painted in comic book colors, with comic book emotions, and states its comic book ethos with conviction and clarity.

This troubled many of the reviewers, leading to insinuations of homophobia, fascism, and racism from various folks (just follow the rotten reviews at Rotten Tomatoes, you can see for yourself).

That can be found if you want, yet the opposite was the intent. This film isn't a great film, yet it is memorable.

It is a shockingly moral film, despite the nudity, blood, and mayhem. At its core it is a call for free people to stand and fight against tyranny, regardless of the odds. It is also a recognition that when free people willingly die for freedom, that often, their example can serve to reverse any defeat in a single battle.

Many reviewers claim there is no bigger political message in this film, but they're wrong, what they mean to say is that they didn't get the political message they wanted from this film.

The concept of steadfastness in the face of human losses isn't popular in some corners of our culture. The concept that warriors who choose the warrior life, do so because they welcome the possibility of a meaningful death in hopes of sparing those at home hardship, is also anathema.

Victor David Hanson does a great job of putting this film in context, his words do so better than I can.

Frank Miller believes in freedom, believes in fighting, and believes that in certain cases, the world of comic books is indeed the world in which we live.

I'm surprised this film is doing as well as it is. It seems on track to do huge numbers this weekend for a non-sequel, non-big name actor picture. People aren't just responding to the visual style, as I'm sure will be claimed in the aftermath of the big grosses. Sin City did this better on a visual and storytelling basis, but that film didn't do huge business. Of the live action + blue screen movies, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow was the best looking, but it was a horrid mess of a script.

300 I suspect will be this generations Red Dawn. That film was dismissed as a terrible film (which it is), stupid beyond belief, yet for folks of a certain mindset, it fired the imagination and became an aspirational cultural touchstone.

300 will be consumed in a similar fashion I believe. The lack of ambiguities, the clear disdain it has for 'realist' who wish to capitulate to tyranny, and the good old fashion homosocial (and homoerotic) bonding depicted is enough to give most young men a bit of a chubby (thankfully they mix in enough nude and semi-nude women so the guys won't feel too sexually confused at their tumescence).

It will be interesting to see if the film continues to do big business, or was it just a big weekend followed by diminishing returns. I suspect that the film is far too pro-war and pro-military for 'coastal' types who would otherwise enjoy the spectacle, and it might be a bit too homoerotic and bizarre for 'fly-over country'.

This tension might help the film in the long run. There's something to please most audiences (at least violence and mayhem loving audiences), so if you are willing to engage the film as spectacle, you won't be disappointed no matter the perspective you bring with you to the theatre.

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