Friday, March 30, 2007


"This won't be quick. You won't enjoy it."

The Spartans, according to the film 300, were a bunch of Manly Men. Really Manly. And their women are really Womanly, which doesn't mean much except that when they aren't standing by their own Manly Men they are giving birth to more of them, who can be trained to be WARRIORS. Unworthy babies (evidently those who are not perfect physical specimens or who seem to demonstrate any interest in interior decoration) are exposed to the elements, meaning that these brave Manly Spartans don't have the decency or the nerve to kill off their own inadequate offspring.

And these are the people we're supposed to be rooting for: a race of people who pride themselves on being ruthless in battle but who leave their own unmilitary-worthy babies to the tender mercies of wild animals. Am I alone in thinking the Spartans were a bunch of scumbags that the world is better off without?

300, based apparently on a well-known "graphic novel," tells the story of the Battle of Thermopylae, during which a small band of 300 Spartans held off a whole bunch of invaders. King Leonidas, the leader of the Spartans, learns of the impending invasion of his lands by the dread Xerxes and his Persian hordes. Leonidas decides to take 300 of his Manliest Men to stop the invasion, knowing that he and his 300 are wildly outnumbered.

The rest of the movie is just one long battle scene with the occasional interruption for largely unnecessary plot complications, including a really gratuitous one involving Leonidas' wife who is holding down the fort at home while Leonidas is off hacking limbs. There's not a lot of surprise to be had in this story, but there is a lot to be offended at.

Make no mistake: 300 worships the White Male Military Man in a way that makes BIRTH OF A NATION look like an episode of DIFF'RENT STROKES. The Pure White Manly Bulging Spartans (always ensuring their abs are shown to best advantage) do battle against an invading horde that is:

1. Racially mixed. They're identified as Persians even though a certain sub-horde incorrectly known as the Immortals are dressed like ninjas carrying what look like samurai swords.

2. Largely anonymous. Faces are very seldom visible, as the enemy is usually shown wearing concealing costumes and masks, unlike the nearly nude and exceedingly toned Spartans.

3. Sexually Ambiguous. The God-king of the Persians, Xerxes, is like a gay-panicked director's feverdream. Covered from head to toe in jewelry and piercings, he's a RuPaul of the Ancient World. He actually flounces and wears eye makeup (think late '60s Barbra).

4. Physically Repulsive. The Persians seem to have a cottage industry in surgical experimentation. There's what looks like a mutated giant turned loose on the Spartans, and a horrifying sequence showing what seems to be a man whose arms have been replaced with axe blades to speed up the execution process. Further, the Spartans' ultimate defeat hinges upon their betrayal by a hideously deformed Greek character who had the bad luck to survive the Spartans' infant screening process, and who holds something of a grudge when Leonidas spurns his offer of service. Ultimately, physical perfection is the barometer to character for this film: virtue = tight abs and big pecs.

As far as the acting goes, more time seems to have been spent at the gym or in the makeup chair touching up abs than in rehearsal. Gerard Butler fulfills the promise he displayed in THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. He sounds like he learned his lines phonetically, or is trying to overcome a very thick Scots accent or a serious speech impediment, or maybe even all three. The script doesn't help much, but altogether too many of his lines are simply shouted out word by word, as in "THIS! IS! SPARTA!!" And the time at the gym has paid off. No non-pornographic film in my experience pays so much attention to the male torso: big pecs, abs that do nothing but ripple. The cast is expected to do a lot of physical action, the battle scenes are really very choreographed, you can see the actors counting off in their heads "turn and flex and hack and flex and sever and flex and slash and pose and walk walk walk and pose."

All in all, an unbelievable movie. Scary and dangerous on so many levels. Unworthy of your time, except to scare the living daylights out of you at the state of a country populated with people who don't see this garbage for what it is.

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