Friday, July 10, 2009


Here's something interesting, someone desperately wanted me to see this movie. It was well at the bottom of the queue, but somehow it got sent out before 19 other films which I had placed on higher priority. It was also placed on high priority before, in a hint that I should actually use the high priority list. So, person, I assume that you work at the movie place and have figured out my little project. I hope you're not disappointed!

As I watched this movie, I could think of but one thing. Specifically, this image. In this movie, we see CGI enhanced men running around in their underwear stabbing and kicking men who deign to wear clothes. A big group of totally heterosexual and not at all gay in any way men go out together to kill dudes and be violent in a fountain of repressed homosexuality. I mean, Leonidas has a wife, he can't be, right?

Oh, you say, that's not fair really. Just because they are all impossibly fit and handsome and sweaty, and wear less clothes than are seen in the average porno. That doesn't mean that it's a gay movie really, does it? No, perhaps not, but it's an easy joke to make, and an integral part of the sheer ridiculousness of this film.

The story is simple and a bit dumb. Gerard Butler is Leonidas who is a Spartan king, and impossibly awesome and manly and heterosexual. He is insulted by a Persian messenger and kicks him into a pit of eternal overplayed internet memes. This means he has to go to war with Persia, though he can only take 300 men for silly political reasons. Of course, since Spartans are the most heterosexual men around, that's all they need, and a bunch of killing and silly, comically simplistic characters show up and are easily dispatched.

Certainly, it's pretty, but it's a very artificial pretty, each shot overproduced and wading in the uncanny valley. There's so much slow motion here that one begins to think that time simply goes more slowly in Sparta. The movie is less a film than the cutscenes of a videogame.

See, a lot of critics look on games as something of a lesser art form. I'm looking at YOU, Roger Ebert! This is unfair, at the best of times they can have fantastic stories, good characters, and be art. But just as often, you get games about manly men killing obvious evil in a particularly manly way, and that has gotten the medium something of a poor reputation. This is a film with the weak, killing intensive story of something like God of War, something so violent it becomes comical.

If I want to play such a game, I'll play a freaking game. They can be fun. Sure, I didn't like God of War very much - in fact, I got quite bored of it, for similar reasons as why I got bored of this movie. It's just violence and testosterone, but for no purpose. There's no joy in killing, unless you're killing in a particularly inventive or interesting way. I was never intrigued, never fascinated, and never curious as to what happened next. But at least in GoW, I was an active participant in the action. Here, watching slow motion sweaty men in their underpants, I got bored. Without an investment in the one dimensional characters and their one dimensional nation, I had no real side to root for in the endless battles, and really couldn't care less what happened.

Action is good, but you have to care. The villains and heroes have to have motivations and a personality. While you should have a side to root for, the sides shouldn't be so exaggerated and silly that you can't take them remotely seriously. Turncoat characters should not be obvious from the FIRST FRAME THEY APPEAR IN, villains should have at least a modicum of motivation, rather than they kill because they're evil, heroes should at the very least be slightly identifiable. It'll work in a game because you're participating in the action. But in a movie? Simplistic and exaggerated characters just get dull after a while.


  1. Thank you, sir, for putting into words that which I could only think about while watching this brown and red disaster.

    My favorite part about telling people "this movie is so stupid but kind of funny but not enough" (my brief review of the thing)is that a lot of proponents of the film will explain away the movie's faults because it was all ON PURPOSE and thus ok again. The CG animators were too lazy to make buckets of blood splatter on the ground or on other characters, no no, the filmmakers WANTED there to not be any blood flying around except in the air. The over-the-top villains and heroes are too unbelievable to be at all sympathetic, no no, the story is told by one of the survivors who likes to exaggerate!

    I honestly would have loved to see a film about the Persian invasion, I wonder if the original film this one is based off of is any good? Either way, another thing I like to say about the film is that if they took out the slow motion, the film would be about 20 minutes long, so it's not that the director just loves slow motion, it's that he couldn't come up with enough film to pad out the 90 minutes so he just slowed it down to fit.

  2. After I wrote it, I looked online and some of the other detractors were saying it had a fairly queasy pro-war message, and I was going to toss something in there, but then I figured it just wasn't smart enough to have a message.

    And I think the original was a comic book, no idea if it was any good. Seems like it could be a potentially interesting story in the hands of someone who knows what he's doing though.

  3. Well I mean the original "The 300 Spartans" from 1962. They reissued that film on DVD when 300 came out, as well as a History Channel special, as if people who are going to watch 300 willingly are interested in actual History or films from 1962...

    Yeah I am not huge on comic books, but agree that it would be an interesting thing to see indeed.

    Also I was almost not going to remark on how ignorant it is to tag a "pro-war" message onto 300, but it's worth noting that the motivation for this "war" is the prevention of being invaded, captured, and enslaved by the comically evil Persians. There's nothing wrong with being "anti-invasion" or "anti-slavery".

  4. Hmm...didn't know about that one. It could make a fantastic subject for a film or documentary, I wonder if either of the things you mention was any good.

    I think you've summed up why I don't think the movie isn't smart enough to have a message, or at least an intentional one. I dare say in order to have a message, a movie probably needs a little bit of subtlety. I mean, even in outright the propaganda I've seen, the villain has the ability to not be comically evil for a few moments.