Sunday, March 18, 2007

"300" Review: Jingoistic Goodness

Are you a fan of Japanese or Chinese martial arts films? Watch this movie.

Do you like the slow motion buttkicking in "Matrix"? Watch this movie.

Do you like your heroes to be straightforward and uncomplicated? Watch this movie.

Are you tired of the drugged out, down and out anti-hero who swims through all his own guilt trying to figure out the right thing to do, knowing all his choices are "bad", acting on his best instincts and walking away knowing that he did the "least bad thing" and still feeling like he slaughtered a church full of women and children? Watch this movie.

Do you like your "bad guys" to look like "bad guys", deformed and debouched by all their ugliness, greed and lechery? Watch this movie.

Do you like your issues, simplistic and defined in black and white? Watch this movie.

Are you tired of trying to delve through the morass of mystery on mystery on mystery wrapped up in the duality of man, his pradoxic yearning for peace while struggling with his inner beast? Watch this movie.

It may seem strange to say, but "Sands of Iwo Jima" was less "jingoistic" than this movie. But, for all its jingoism, I liked it. It got past all my "barriers". It was so over the top, straight in your face, "fight and die like men or hide in your hole and become a slave".

Now you know why all the reviewers hated it. It was not complicated. It was not artsy. It didn't make you "think" (or, maybe it did if you aren't used to that "straight in your face" idealism). It did state the position of the Spartans very clearly: we will not surrender; we will not become slaves; we will fight to the last man; you cannot buy me.

The dialogue said all the simplistic right phrases:

Freedom is not free (straight quote)
Come back with your shield or come back on it (Queen to Leonidas)

When the Persian emissary threatened them with arrows that would "blot out the sun", the reply?

Then we will fight in the shade.

But my favorite parts were probably the least mentioned among all the dialogue:

When Xerxes (overly stylized and appearing somewhat like an ancient version of RuPaul) talks to Leonidas about the huge army that he still has set to anhilate the Spartans and tells him that his parents, his wife and his sons will be his slaves, Leonidas laughs at the "best that you've got" as they had just slaughtered a large number of the "immortals" and says - "I might as well have marched our women up here."

Xerxes continues to elaborate on his status as a "god on earth", demanding that Leonidas kneel and have his life spared. Leonidas? "Sorry, I've been killing your men all day and have a severe cramp in my leg that prevents me from kneeling."

While Leonidas and his 300 fight, his queen is back at the "homefront" trying to get support to send more troops and support the fight against the Persians. She is trying to talk to the "senators" and get an audience so her "voice will be heard". She has to make some deals and talk behind closed doors because no one wants to hear. It's too uncomfortable. One senator tells her she must win the support of the senator leading the fight against sending Leonidas support (who actually wants to bring Leonidas down, is in cahoots with the enemy and is hoping to take his place once Xerxes has taken over). When she asks him what he wants, he tells her she "knows". She drops her dress. There is no complicating "almost" love scene. No tenderness of even a "love/hate" relationship. It is straight on rape as she endures in silence and he says, "This will not be over quickly. You will not enjoy this."

Afterwards, he intimates he will support her speaking in front of the council.

Of course, you know what happens. When she comes before the council, having just molested the queen, this cunning fellow (who is made up to look "cunning", no confusion as to his motives) denounces her as an adulteress who attempted to "bribe" him. He waves guards in ostensibly to arrest her for her "crime". She grabs one of the centurians swords, turns towards the traitorous senator and stabs him in the stomach, leaning in close, she whispers in his ear, "This will not be over quickly." Stabbing him again, "You will not enjoy this."

What can I say? I always like to see the bad guy get it in the end, particularly in the way they dished it out.

If you want this movie to represent your point of view on "freedom", "something worth dying for", "backstabbing, raping politicians", the "slackness" of an over-indulged populace and straight out "heroic", "duty", "honor", "integrity" (Leonidas would have made a good marine), you can find it here. Not necessarily because it was the intent of the producers, directors or actors, but because it was so straight forward and simplistic, it just speaks to the basic idealism of many. Those of us who were raised up on John Wayne movies recognize the tenor that had us watching them in the first place.

I could make all sorts of comparisons out of this movie. I'll try to refrain as much as possible. However, I think one of the comparisons that not even the critics who think its all a "bushie" movie in disguise did not hit on was the "media" as the "oracle".

The "oracle" is bought off to say what the cunning, anti-Leonidas senator and his Persian associate want them to say. It is blasphemy to go to war during the sacred festival and those that do will be breaking "Spartan law" since, when the oracle speaks, Spartans are to follow their directives.

The "oracle" is not worried about delivering the Spartans into the hands of the enemy because the oracle is wealthy from all the payments they have received in the past. Plus, the Persians guarantee that they will be richly rewarded for their assistance. They aren't worried because history and culture of Sparta have made them "indispensable", a part of the fabric of Spartan life. They do not imagine a time when Xerxes, god on earth, will not have need of them to keep the "masses" in line.

Oracles = Main Stream Media.

Cross referenced at the Castle

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