Saturday, March 17, 2007

300

A few short notes on 300 (2007, Zack Snyder) [40]:

1.
Fascistic, misogynistic, racist, homophobic... but ridiculously so, so that what should be offensive loops back around into the hilarious. Don't know about you, but I find it hard to take conservative political positions seriously from guys in leather speedos and capes.

2. Unfortunately, while the excesses of Frank Miller's Sin City are redeemed by the (accidental) leap into camp, nothing so alchemical happens here -- 300 remains earthbound. Despite that 90% (or whatever) of the film is CGI, there's never any sense that anything could happen. While Sin City convincingly created a noirish world, this looks like half-naked people wandering in front of matte paintings, proclaiming sub-Shakespearean dialogue. There's no feeling that these shots conspire to create a world; instead, it's like each scene exists in a bubble. You could argue that it accurately replicates reading a comic, each page and frame in isolation from the other, but then I'd ask, why would you want to replicate such a static medium?

3.
Haven't read the comic, so I don't know how much can be placed at Miller's doorstep; nevertheless, I've said it before and I'll say it again: he's a terrible, terrible writer. He's the Ulitmate Fanboy in a way -- for him, the Manichean worldview can always be blacker and whiter, and the heroes can never be badass enough. Will the scrappy army of potters and blacksmiths be allowed a bit of dignity as they fight side-by-side with the Warrior Born? Jesus, of course not. What about the hunchback guy, whom we'll call Rudy? He'll pop up again when everyone leasts expects it and help save the day, right? Nope, outcasts need not apply. And this is what makes Miller such a hack: as cliché as it might be for the little guys to beat all odds, there's a reason why it's rock-solid storytelling. Impossible obstacles stacked against a barely-capable protagonist creates audience empathy. If you don't have that -- if all you have are Spartan badasses who can kill any foe, until, for the sake of an ending, they can't anymore -- you're left with arrogant, boring characters.

4. So what does this mean for Snyder's upcoming Watchmen adaptation? I have no fucking idea. It's still difficult to get a reading on Snyder as a director. This is being generous, but he's almost like a throwback to the studio days of the 40s, a journeyman director who gets out of the way of the story he's telling. Which is good news: if he's willing to let all the godawfulness of the 300 source material stand on its own, then presumably he'll let the virtues and pleasures of Watchmen do the same. Except: the journeymen directors of the 40s that we remember and admire, like Ford and Hawks, still managed to leave a personal stamp on the material. I'm not seeing that from Snyder, but maybe we just need some time and distance to gain some perspective.

5. I liked how Xerxes uses armies from all around the world to take out the Spartans, and when that fails, he's not above reaching into the Lord of the Rings and Hellraiser franchises to shore up the numbers. That's a leader who thinks outside the box.

Bonus!
I'm going to go out on a limb and say that if, as reported, Gerard Butler is cast in the Watchmen movie, he'll be playing Jon Osterman, a.k.a. Dr. Manhattan. They'll do some funky body-scan type-thing on him and make Dr. M a CGI creation, of course, but everything else will be him. Reasoning? Well, he kind of looks like Osterman, and I don't think he has the force of presence required to portray the Comedian. You really need to feel the weight of history on the Comedian, and I can't see Butler getting that across. Now, Doc Manhattan, the guy who starts human, then starts to lose those qualities (along with his clothes) until he's kind of a blue blank slate? That I can see.

(Now watch, they'll make him Nite Owl or something.)

4 comments:

Scott W. Black said...

Agree with all your points, especially number five. Without the more fantastical elements, I would have checked out (mentally) even earlier than I did. That said, I think Matt went overboard [as usual ;-)] with his "F" grade. Fs should be reserved for utter garbage, which this is not.

Steve said...

Blank slate. Yeah, that describes Gerard Butler pretty well.

I am now at the point where I am seriously questioning whether or not anyone who likes this film needs to be taken seriously. I suppose a credible, impressive defense could be mounted for it; unfortunately, most of what I've heard so far is along the lines of, "DUDE! THAT WAS TEH R0X0R!" I don't hate the film because it's fascist; I hate it because it's moronic.

Kza said...

Did anyone TiVo (we don't say "tape" anymore in teh 21st century) "The 300 Spartans"? I got it but haven't watched it yet. Curious to see if they made an actualy, y'know, story out of it.

Isaiah said...

this was 2 years in the making right here... you need to read the comic(if you haven't) because the film very true it's comic roots in 85% of it's entirety. alot their culture in the movie and book this is based off the real shit Spartans use to do they didn't accept deformed childern or weak babies. Sparta was a fascist nation. The sexual content was highly cut down(except for the addition of the slow motion sex scene where alot of the females in Sparta were topless(which is historically accurate that women went topless). the only thing that really weren't true was Xer's piercings because it was forbidden to wear gold in Persian culture at the time even for the god king and his stature presented his ego and presents in the world.

the fact the "beast" looked the way they did and the spartans were dressed the way they were is simple. it's all a story told through the eyes of the captain Frank Miller and in turn Zack Synder both use that view point of it being a Hero's story. Most of the old stories are like that very simple 2D characters but it works in context.

The action was over the top 95% of the time but it worked