300: Hace apenas seis años…

March 12th, 2007 by | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Too long, didn’t read version: 300 was a pretty rocking movie, but I still like the book better.

Short story long version:
I think that I may have mentioned this here before, but Frank Miller got me back into comics five or so years back. I usually attribute it to the Daredevil Visionaries and Dark Knight Strikes Again, but I’d totally forgotten that I’d read a different Frank Miller book a year or two before I’d read those.

This would’ve been back when I was in Madrid. Me, my mom, and little brother were at Hipercor, Supercor, or whatever the crap our local grocer was called. I was in the arts & crafts/books section (it was kind of jumbled) and I saw a book there. It looked familiar, and I realized it was by the Sin City guy! I probably begged Mom to buy it for me so I could read it.

It was the Norma Editorial edition of 300 and it was completely in Spanish.

That book is probably why I still remember so much Spanish nowadays. I’ve easily read that book a dozen, maybe a couple dozen, times. More than any other comic I own. I now own it in English and Spanish, but I remember all the good lines in Spanish. “Stumblios” is “Storpios,” “Barely a year ago” is “Hace apenas un año,” that sort of thing.

I’m just trying to set the stage here. I’m a big fan of the book, and though I haven’t read it in a while, I’ve read it enough that I basically have a lot of it memorized, which probably colored my opinion of this movie.

I’ll sling this behind a cut, since there’ll probably be some (fairly light) spoilers.

300, the movie, was a great, great ride. It was pretty awesome seeing one of my favorite books in motion, and Snyder is a skilled enough director that it turned out great. The fight scenes were excellent, the movie was expertly cast, it was just a good deal all around.


The almost comes because, since the original book was basically wall-to-wall action with very brief respites, which I guess wouldn’t make for a very good movie, a few things were added. One was a bit added during Leonidas’s exit from Sparta. The other was a subplot featuring his queen. I am about to completely ruin the only things new to the movie for you, so skip the next few paragraphs if you want to be surprised. This subplot, featuring the queen trying to curry favor with the Spartan council to get Leonidas some backup, was both a waste of time and, story-wise, useless.

The queen convinces Senator Grampa (no relation, he’s just old and I missed his name) to allow her access to the council so she can plead her case. He’s loyal to Leonidas, and she is too, so they’re in it together. However, he says that Senator Theron, a conniving, weaselly scumbag of a senator who is somehow not old and yet not in the army, either, needs to be on her side or else her motion will fail. She takes his advice and goes to Theron, who points out that “this is not war, it is politics” and gives her the old quid pro quo/eye waggle thing. She reluctantly consents, he mentions that she’s about to have the worst sex of her life, and then we thankfully cut away. Later on, during the council meet, the queen gives her speech, and quite an interesting one. Theron cuts her down, saying that she offered herself to him and that her words are worthless. Senator McRapesalot is quite an actor, and he sold the role perfectly. He gets a big ol’ knife to the gut for his trouble, with the queen repeating his line about it “not being quick, nor enjoyable,” and as he falls, his coin purse falls out, revealing quite a lot of Persian gold. Then some old guys yell out “Traitor!” and we cut away again.

Yeah, that’s pretty much it. It’s spread over about four or five scenes, all of which follow intense battle scenes, but that’s the summary. I suppose it ends with the senators voting in her favor, but man did that stuff feel tacked on and unnecessary. They were well-acted, and honestly the whole theater (including myself) kind of cheered when the queen put the knife to that dude, but I was just left feeling “What was the point?” It felt a little unfocused in the larger scope of the movie, even while it was good and satisfying in and of itself.

Cripes, this doesn’t sound half as positive as I want it to. I’m getting there, though.

lovedovey.jpg The other thing that felt blah to me was during the big goodbye. The sequence in the book is to the left of this paragraph. It is a little harsh in the book, but it fits with the theme of sacrifice and nobility in the face of adversity. The king and the queen do not need to state their love. It is there, they know it, and what is important is keeping up a strong facade for the sake of the kingdom.

spoken.jpg In the movie, though, there’s something added. The queen removes a pendant from around her neck, which was kind of implied to be a fang from the giant freaking wolf the king killed as a kid. She gives it to Leonidas as he rides off. Later in the movie, Dilios is ordered to ride back to Sparta and tell their story. That page is also to the left. Before he leaves, he asks if there is a message for the queen. Leonidas replies, “None that need be spoken,” and that’s the end of it. In the flick, he hands back the pendant.

And so, just like in Batman Begins, we’ve got callback scenes. Heaven save us from callback scenes.

Honestly though, these things probably only matter to me, and even then not really, because I still loved the movie.

There’s a lot of nudity and a lot of blood in this film. It isn’t so much tasteful as tasteless, to be honest about it, but that doesn’t dent the movie any. The scene with the partially-nude oracle at the ephors was both gratuitous and amazingly directed. A brief scene in the comics featuring a girl writhing in one way or another was turned into something impressive. The oracle’s white clothes merged and flowed with the smoke she was bathed in to the point where the two blended together. It looked awesome and was an amazing visual effect.

And honestly, this movie is all about the visual effects. It’s a showcase flick, one made to show off awesome scenes and just look cool. A spartan takes down a rhino with one deftly thrown spear. We see the rhino charging as we look at the spartan’s back. We pan down behind the spartan, obscuring our vision of the rhino. By the time we get to the ground and under the spartan’s cape, the rhino has collapsed and slid to a halt right in front of him. The spartan? He doesn’t even flinch.

There’s more. The spartans take down a few elephants. They fight Abobo from Double Dragon during the scene with the Immortals, Xerxes’s ninja hordes. The battle scenes were impressive, each and every one. They’ve got more slow motion than a Baywatch episode, but it turns out to be the polar opposite of the fight scenes in a movie like Batman Begins. We can see every single blow, and the slo-mo/fast forward effect they use on certain things makes those blows hurt! A couple people get clotheslined hardcore, which is a personal favorite of mine, and there’s a bunch of decapitations to be had, too. You could probably get away with calling this movie violence porn, in the sense that it glorifies and shows off violence as something completely awesome. The spartans’ capes give them the aspect of ancient Greek superheroes, and the shenanigans they get down to pretty much nails the comparison home. You believe that these guys are the greatest warriors of the day; as agile as Spider-Man (Stelios’s jump in the scene with the whip was pitch-perfect) and as strong as Superman. These guys live for the fight, and their fights are awesome.

Mom always said that violent comics and games would desensitize me. I don’t believe that that’s true :colbert:

But yeah, back to the nudity– there’s kind of a lot of it. You don’t get to see any underbits, but there’s bare bottoms and bosoms coming from both genders. Er, I guess just butts for dudes, but you know what I mean. 300 also delights in completely flustering your libido in one hilarious/horrific scene. Ephialtes, hunchbacked traitor to the spartans, defects to Xerxes in a scene that I may never forget. We’re being shown the pleasures of the flesh that Xerxes has offered him, but the camera keeps cutting back to his horribly ugly face. We see a black woman with a blown out afro (anachronism!) writhing and grinding, and then immediately cut to Ephialtes going O_o. We see a topless woman sitting in a chair, and then we realize that she’s got no arms. We cut back to Ephialtes. We see fake lesbian make-outs, more writhing, and not a lot of clothes and the camera always cuts right back to Ephialties and his O_o.

It’s like Snyder said, “Man, I don’t want to add all this nudity to this movie. I don’t want to make a cheesecake picture… so I will do my absolute best to confuse and befuddle the audience with this scene. I want them to go ‘Wow, that sure is a pretty wo-AUGH! :gonk:'”

Yeah, well, it worked buddy. It worked. :smith:

Also, the ancient greeks were apparently unable to count. They showed a shot of “30,000 greeks” at the end of the movie. It looked more like 30 million greeks. Still, it looked great, and that’s what matters. Suspension of disbelief, baby.

This is an action movie, through and through. The plot is interesting, but exists to show off these dudes fighting off the Persian hordes and occasionally a bunch of naked people. I had a lot of fun watching it, and I can’t wait for the DVD release. I’m hoping it’s got a ton of extra features. I may have to go see the flick again later this week, too. Maybe next week. It was that good, despite my nitpicky complaints. Easily a four out of five, maybe a four and a half. It wasn’t a masterpiece, but I came out of it feeling like I got my money’s worth. There were so many awesome shots and effects in this movie.

Go see it. Buy the book, too, it’s something of a different experience than the movie. The book is much more subtle and subdued, while the movie is very in your face. “THIS. IS. SPARTAAAAAA!” vs “This is Sparta.”

I can’t wait for 301.

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2 comments to “300: Hace apenas seis años…”

  1. Gonna do my best not to play hipster, and hopefully convey this well… I actually want to read the comic first, now. I’m more drawn toward that subdued dialog. It just feels right. Being in the military, I’ve known that type of attitude to embody what we define as “professionalism.” Control inspires soldiers.

    It’s funny when Brian Bendis had Iron Man state that his speech didn’t reach the soldiers in “The Confession”, because I’d actually disagree with him in reality. But that’s another book…

    I realize that “action movie” is what I’ll be getting when I see the book, but I appreciate you elaborating on the book itself rather than just automatically running with “Book is better than movie.”

  2. And, I obviously had meant “When I see the movie.”

    Apologies, Iraq has me running on little sleep these days.