i'm an impressionable young man. i'm a complete sucker for anything that's unashamedly entertaining. comedy, action, whatever, i find it difficult not to fall in love with something that can make me grin and force me to the edge of my seat. it doesn't have to be clever, but it definitely has to be big and special in some kind of way. so you can appreciate how disappointing it is to walk out of 300 and feel underwhelmed in so many ways.
before i get into the problems with the film though there are some points that should be made in its defence. first off are those clearly intelligent and quick-witted folk who, for the sake of us simpletons, take the time out to criticise 300 for its historical inaccuracies. thank god that classical education wasn't wasted on you. this film is set in the cloudy land of the perpetual bronze sunset, with enough goblins, freaks and monsters to re-film the lord of the rings trilogy three times over again. there are elephants in this film so huge i expected legolas to come surfing down their tusks at any moment. for fuck's sake, there's even an actor from lord of the rings (david wenham who played faramir) fighting on the side of the spartans. of course it's not a fucking historical drama. the illiad was meant to be based on an actual battle but no one seems to care that gods got invovled in the story there. and why should they? 300 is not a historical film and people that throw hissy fits over its historical inaccuracies are just looking for an excuse to prove they know more about ancient history than anyone else, and anyone who doesn't realise this film isn't fact is a fucktard.
the second complaint i've heard about this film goes along the lines of, "oh it's just a piece of american pro-war propaganda." what? seriously, what? ok, so the spartans (heroes) are fighting against the persians (enemies) and as those wonderfully intelligent people are so keen to point out, what was persia is now modern day iran. again, thank fuck for those people well-educated people who are out there to let us common folk know this kind of stuff. they gloss over the fact that a small greek city isn't what's causing so many problems in the middle east these days. and the fact that it's the persians invading greece. and that, apart from there being a war, there are no similarities between this and america's aborted foetus attempts to spread their deranged message of peace and democracy throughout the world. if anything this film should be offering hope to insurgents in iraq that no matter what, you should have the testicles to stand up and fight back with all you've got against overwhelming odds to protect your country and way of life against an aggressive alien horde of invaders. but anyone who gets this message from the film is, you guessed it, a fucktard.
why can't we have entertaining films that don't necessarily have deep, relevant political messages? why is it as soon as anything in the media nowadays mentions the word 'war' we have to compare it to our modern day predicament? how fucking narrow-minded and amnesiac are we being? humans started fighting wars as soon as we came down from the trees and bickered over which part of the 10,000,000 square mile continent that is africa we were each going to inhabit. this isn't a film you can attach your tree-hugging hippie agenda to, get over it.
these aren't the problems i have with 300. the problem i have with it is that it was made into a film in the first place. the transition from graphic novel to film worked for sin city for one main reason. frank miller wrote and drew sin city in a way that was perfect for the film medium. nearly every frame and piece of dialogue was lifted directly from the original sin city comics, which themselves were reminiscent, in a kind of seedy/perverted way, to film noir. this technique doesn't work for 300. the original frank miller graphic novel is a work of art. honestly, it is. when reading it i'd get to the end of the page having read all the dialogue and then i'd have to stop and spend another five minutes just staring at the artwork on the page. by far the best parts of the films are the battle scenes where the director goes nuts for all kinds of slow-motion, high-flying, blood-splattering hijinx. frank miller can sum up all that action and intensity in one full-page drawing. and give it so much more, thanks to his wonderfully unique pen technique and lynn varley's beautiful watercolour work.
here's just one example (and not a very good one). another striking factor is how different dialogue can sound in another person's lips. when you read things such as,
"-a thousand nations descend upon you. our arrows shall block out the sun.
- then we shall fight in the shade."
they sound like the coolest, most fucking defiant things to say. in your head. coming out of someone else's lips the effect just turns into pure cheese through and through. which is a damn shame because it doesn't do miller's writing justice. a great strength of a novel over a film is that you can get away with sustained periods of time in a novel with no dialogue whatsoever. and also with a believeable and compelling narrator. these two techniques just don't transfer to film well. unsurprisingly the biggest weaknesses in the films are also the most forgettable parts of the novel. namely the political intrigue back in sparta involving queen gorgo. they're superflous to the overbearing emotion of the story and feel tacked on. speaking of tacked on, the film would've benefitted massively if it ended sharply as the hail of arrows descended upon king leonidas. a snap ending like this, instead of the uninspired soppy hollywood bullshit, would have summed up the heart and soul of 300's story much more effectively. namely to have the courage and bravery to stand up and defend your beliefs. to never back down, to be strong and prepared to die for your convictions. of such beliefs are war and conflict made but also, undeniably, the human spirit. where the graphic novel succeeds in conveying this snapshot story and message, the film, unfortunately, fails.