Monday, April 09, 2007

Start the week @ RD/KA! : Marks out of 300?

So I finally went to see this latest Hollywood cause celebre last Thursday. It had been a near thing, getting my bum on the seat in front of the big screen for this one. The advertising campaign having left me cold, 300 eventually came to my notice nearly 4 weeks ago, during a regular trawl of the left-wing web for my mandatory alternative take on world events. Reading 'Gorgeous slaughter' I was first surprised to discover that both a Frank Miller graphic novel and its movie adaption had passed me by so completely- I'm a bit of a Frank Miller fan after all.

Reading the post comments my surprise soon turned into ire. Delivering a thematic critique of the movie's ideological subtext was one thing, but prejudicial plain dumb ignorance was another. One remark in particular left me seething:
This sort of Der Stürmer crap has always been an element in Frank Miller's work, though, if not the major element - look at the number of gay villains in "The Dark Knight Returns", f'rexample. He's basically the house pornographer of the American far right; his approach is to manipulate the reader with steamhammer subtlety into cheering for the guy dangling the 'baddie' over the edge of a building...
The Dark Knight Returns, a fascist parable? Has this guy actually read the damn comic, I was asking? I mean to say: this is the comic in which the Batman (the justice-obsessed loner who refused to knuckle under when the US government decided to clamp down on superheroes) taught an important lesson in the meaning of humanity to the 'demigod' Superman (the all-too-willing servant of that same US government); and then went underground to start a movement dedicated to... to, well what, exactly? Blind subservience to higher powers, p'raps?

But I digress. The ironical upshot of my own irate response to this outburst of left-liberal ire was that I decided to make an effort to see a movie which otherwise might've completely passed me by.

Those 2 lost hours in the cinema under my belt, I can now sum up my opinion quite succintly: YAWN.

I'll set the ideological issues aside immediately.

Yes, this film is indeed laced with a subtext all too easily co-opted in favour of Anglo-American warmongering in the Middle East. And sometimes this is right in-your-face in a way that I found quite repulsive. It matters not a whit whether this was intended, or merely a by-product of the film-makers' native outlooks: the real world provides the context in which this film will be viewed, and so people will interpret this film with that real context- and their own biases- in mind.

And no, I don't think that this film is some kind of crypto-fascistic parable. The charge that art might celebrate fascistic impulses is both very serious, and beyond the scope of this article. So all I can do here is repeat my conviction that this film did not do that.

If the artless historical revisionism and oh-so-timely reactionary themes of 300 were staple Hollywood fare, the cinematic experience was similarly uninspiring. What you see in 300 has all been done before, and often better.

Well OK, except for one sequence- right at the start of the battle- when the shield walls clash for the first time. This really gave a taste of what the poor bastards on both sides might actually have endured in that primitive clash of arms. That moment of genuine tension was unfortunately not repeated, as the rest of the action scenes were witless gorefests whose essential stupidity is neatly skewered here.

In sum?-: 300 is a film too derivative to be interesting, and too obvious to be offensive. Wait for the TV release?- well, a bit late now given the film's box-office performance; but it is only really worth the effort if you particuarly like Hollywood blockbusters' take on the triumph of style over substance. ;)

PS. I have to note that, politically tendentious inanities notwithstanding, there are many very informative comments appended to the 'Gorgeous slaughter' post noted above.


gnome said...

Excellent post! Now, let me add that:

a)Were it not shot in slo-mo 300 would have barely lasted an hour.

b)The average Spartan's occuation (Uh! Ah!) is most interesting.

c)You must absolutely watch the latest South Park episode.

"A bit political on yer ass!" said...

Yes, it was paper-thin tosh, wasn't it?

"Occuation"? I don't get that gnome.

I'm a fan of South Park. Are you talking about a 300 spoof perhaps? ;)

gnome said...

Of course it was... Still, it was ridiculous enough to entertain us quite a bit.

Oh, and uhm... make that occupation... Sorry.

Yep, a spoof it is... Can't say more... Watch it...