300 seems like a silly title for a film, but then I guess 2001 and Se7en were both pretty popular…

Acting on a suggestion from Chris, a band of like-minded intellectuals went to the BFI Imax to see the new historical comic-book action romp, 300. Based on subsequent discussion in the media and among the rabble I associate with, the following points I have to make:

1) It is a comic book adaptation of a legend, not a historical recounting of what happened at the actual battle of Thermopylae. Did it seem unrealistic that Xerxes was 8 feet tall, and commanded an entire legion (and selected harem components) of mutants, tethered giants, and wizards in addition to the endless numbers of soldiers? Think for a second how it would have looked to an individual on the periphery who then escaped the battle, told the story to someone with a few embellishments, and then had it passed down over the next couple of thousand years until it reached Frank Miller. I'm surprised the elephants weren't pink and wearing top hats.

2) Some reviews have pointed out the blatant fascism portrayed in the film, and even gone so far as to claim that Sparta was meant to be a metaphor for America and its war on terr'rism. Furthermore, I recall reading somewhere that some people were taking offence on behalf of the Iranian people due to the way that the Persians were depicted in this film (i.e. demonising them & their culture as violent conquering killers). The beauty of the Interweb is that everyone's entitled to their opinion, and my opinion of that whole line of discussion is: “WANK!”. The only similarity I could draw from this OBVIOUSLY FICTIONAL (see earlier point) STORY was that Leonidas' army went in with the same level of protective gear that Teflon Tony sends his troops in with, but even that shouldn't really register, because at no point were the Spartans ever under fire from their allied Greeks.

2a) As for demonising the Iranian people, if you were to look at the picture extremely literally and with a narrow mind, then sure. However you'd have to then stand up and defend the English for their unfair demonisation in Braveheart (although by and large the bad guy was Edward Longshanks, so as a Plantagenet you'd have to extend that to also claiming the French had been demonised), and while we're at it, after seeing Finding Nemo I'm thoroughly convinced that all sharks and seagulls are evil, and I won't rest until I've ripped a few dozen of each open with my bare hands. Back to reality, I don't personally believe that the story of 300 was about how cruel and inhuman the people of Persia are any more than I believe that the marking of ANZAC Day is about remembering how vicious and bloodthirsty the Turkish people are (and yet somehow this is now a real story, too). It's the telling of a legend, based on a historical event. A legend is a story which a person has passed on to others. When one person is telling a story, they're going to tell it from their point of view (i.e. demarcation between good guys and bad guys) – much the same way that normal people whinge about banks (except that I happen to think banks are evil, but that's another point – and that doesn't mean that the people who work for banks are evil, either).

3) They should have called it “300 blokes trying to outdo each other's Russell Crowe impersonations”. Although I'm not entirely sure Rusty could carry off the leather jockstrap thing these days. Unlike the bloke in this photo…

4) Whilst an audio/visual spectacle of epic proportion, it's a total no-brainer of a film which I don't really think will have any longevity, outside of the occasional revival at gay film festivals. Seeing it in IMAX gave it a real “wow factor”, but then most films in that format do. It's a pointless, fictional, hyped-up, monosyllabic vehicle for Frank Miller's work – with the best stuff already cherry-picked, but we're still going to be getting further adaptation because it's a Name now.

5) Theron really shouldn't have been carrying all those Persian gold coins in his sporran – he'd have been much better off burying them in a tin in his backyard.

6) For a country with a language like Greece does, I was quite surprised at how short the words used were in this film.

7) It does leave you with the inability to address your mates as anything other than “FELLOW SPARTANS!” for about 3 or 4 weeks to follow.

OK, that'll do. It's stopped being funny, hasn't it?

2007-04-03 : THIS IS SPARTA!
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