Thursday, March 15, 2007

Why Critics Don't Understand 300

Backlash against 300 has been brewing for quite sometime now, and this guy is sick and tired of it:

Let's get this out of the way once and for all.

300 has no politics.

At least, none worth yapping about - critics looking for allegory should look elsewhere (like, hmm, Harry Potter? Go mad, you crazy kids! Lot's of politics there...) In 300 there is no commentary on the Spartan attitude toward Athenian democracy, no soliloquys on totalitarianism. The Spartans only care about fighting well - politics and politicians are clearly the domain of old men, diseased inbreds, or the despicably corrupt.

...And it is because 300 is so unfamiliar that makes it harder to explain: this is an expensive art-house project, not your usual genre piece starring Gwyneth or Brad. Critics have tried to twist the story into some kind of contemporary allegory and failed.

...There is no backdrop of an American flag to sanitize the fighting, which is what is so unsettling about the nature of the violence in the film.


Woah! Sounds like someone has some critical beef!

Personally, I always thought 300 looked like a second-rate action movie that should probably only be seen on IMAX. Something tremendously cheesey riddled with historical inaccuracies and unrealistic violence; like a super-amped Gladiator for high school kids. I mean, check out this clip:

So much slow motion! The pacing here is really hectic; the stop-go-stop-go speed makes it really uneven and pretty silly. I just can't buy into that containing any real allegorical message.

At the same time, I don't think I would unabashedly praise the film as the writer of that brainsnap article has. I haven't seen it yet, but I highly doubt 300 is an "art house picture" or even "unfamiliar". Looks like any old comic book movie to me, only this time there are Spartans instead of superheroes.

Speaking of which, pretty much everyone has ignored the fact that 300 is another comic book movie that derives its aesthetic almost entirely from its source, right down to the framing. Critics seem to be happier comparing it to a video game, and while that comparison is nice, I'm interested to see how this film may devalue Sin City. Whereas Sin City drew a lot of praise for its precise aesthetic, 300 seems to be getting an opposite response.

"The stylized action, set to crunching guitar riffs, feels suffocating in its artificiality," said Glenn Whipp of the Los Angeles Daily News.

Is making your film look exactly like its graphic novelization really that special? When you get down to it, that's really all Sin City had going for it. But if that's such an easy trick that the guy responsible for the Dawn of the Dead remake can do it, how big of a deal can it be? Frankly, I wish they'd just stop making these comic book movies all together.

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