Sunday, March 18, 2007

hollywood's sparta (SPOILERS)

i went to see 300 yesterday. and here is what i have to say in one breath: with enough suspension of disbelief and ignoring the existence of an ancient war movie formula ala braveheart, the movie was hyped in my mind and i hated the audience but nonetheless was greatly entertained by it, yet did not want to brawl in the end.

so i will point out some of the more entertaining moments, not necessarily meaning entertaining parts of the movie but of the process of watching the movie and what went through my mind even though i should have just sat back and shut down my brain so i could truly enjoy "Z00". (it looked like a Z)

SPOILERS below, how come there's no excerpt option in blogger like there was in my old MT blog?


the first thing that comes to my mind after looking back on the movie is that it reminded me more of athenian society rather than what we think of sparta. not being an expert on the subtle differences between each city state, i read up on Spartan society and it seems to confirm that hollywood loves glitz and glamor, and would even go to adorn a society that gave the meaning to the word "spartan" with elaborate robes, gold coins, public grounds adorned with marble and fountains, and HOT HOT WOMEN with wonderfully revealing togas.

fast diversion: there was a small amount of gratuitous nudity including some very hard nipples, but there were definitely many 12 year old boys who were in the theatre unsupervised. not that i'm a prude but i wonder how come i never snuck into a theatre like that?

of course if you didn't see a hollywood's rendition of sparta but literally saw plain, practical earthy spartan homes with wooden furniture everywhere and strong but ugly women, would you pay to see 300?

so then, despite the common idea that sparta was about self denial rather than luxury and beauty, there were some beautiful people in the movie. also, there's definitely a pretty boy, the captain's son, who i swear is a model and not an actor and basically stands around with makeup around his eyes and cheeks having this pretty boyish smile, and you wonder, why didn't they toss his ass when he was born? you just know (SPOILER!) he's going to die a tragic death that will render the captain's heart apart.

now speaking of throwing babies off cliffs, which is how the spartans were seen practicing eugenics in the movie, there's the question of the councilmembers. i don't recall sparta being a democracy, so hollywood probably put in more familiar aspects of ancient greek history - ATHENIAN FORUMS - in as a ruling council of the free state of sparta. so many contradicting words is so hard to say in one breath. but the councilmembers are all lumpy old men, who look like what you'd think were plato and aristotle - and who look like they should have been tossed out at birth because they were physically too small. none of them look like they ever went through spartan training, except for the good old council member and the evil young councilmember theron. who looks like he was a soldier but pussied out, and now hangs out with the old flabby guys to feel better about himself while the other 8-packs go off to war.

another question i had, especially in the beginning of the movie, was why the hell was there a huge bottomless open pit in the middle of town where all the kids play? and why didn't they just throw babies into that instead of some remote cliff?

there was one moment in the theatre where everyone actually cheered. (except for the end of the movie which i think is stupid, there are no actors there you're cheering for.) if any scene it would have been where the queen stabs the traitor. that part was fucking awesome. then it was kind of funny how all the old men started chanting "traitor" like a bunch of monkeys, as if they were doing a victory chant in honor of the traitor. wtf

click for the full image...this one's cooler

this scene was awesome too. i think in all action movies the moment when the underdog first kicks butt and makes the big guy realize he's fucked are always my favorites.

can you believe who plays xerxes? rodrigo santoro. compare:

On the right is xerxes, at the moment when he says something like "here boyfriend let momma give you a backrub". i swear the whole time xerxes looks like he would snap his fingers and say "oh no you didnt". and leonidas looks exactly like zeus. he has like a 2 inch long goatee.

ok so all complaints and jokes looks aside the movie was very beautifully shot. the fight scenes were just as good as i thought they'd be, probably better because they were actually less violent and cheesy/dramatized than i thought. they did use a lot of cool special effects like you see the actor doing his charge and then you see him get impaled or have his limbs cut off (not to mention a few close up beheadings where you can see the spinal cord.) ok maybe it was violent but still very artistic. you almost feel like dying in that war felt good, the chops were all so clean.

now, there was a row of kids behind us who were like 12 and super annoying. that's the one moment i wanted to start a fight. but basically in the last scene, (SPOILER) where leonidas and his prickly 300 shield ball were surrounded by xerxes and he's got something up his sleeve because he kneels down and xerxes thinks he's won. and these kids are basically shouting "IS HE REALY GIVING UP?????11" yes kids, the movie's over. now leave. then some guy jumps out of the shield ball and kills the messenger and they do the last stand thing and these kids are like "OMG THAT WAS SERUSLY THE MOST COOL THING EVER!!!111!" and in my mind i was ramming the blunt end of my spear into his eye.

overall, the plot was straightforward, but there were too many formulas in it. first, the death wheat fields, which i guess are from the elysian fields of greek afterlife:

but we've seen this in gladiator. the imagery is too familiar.

and there's the final war chant, in which delios leads the full spartan army into battle, and he's giving the big speech of the survivor. that was just like in braveheart where robert the bruce, after surviving wallace's betrayal, led the rest of the troops. this secondary leader who leads the rest of the troops to eventual victory after the first leader's martyred death was too familiar of a theme with me.

but finally, my overall impression is that the movie was great fun. i would not purchase it. and despite all my griping, i loved the movie as a pure action flick, i love historical movies even though they're not even trying to be historically accurate, and i love movies with swords. and big fucking greek warriors spearing everything in sight. and a hot redhead oracle. and lots of slow mo of body parts being cut off. and the idea of spartan life is cool - no bullshit, especially when some traitor is playing politics - just stab his ass. and even though i didnt feel like brawling (i'm too disciplined about martial arts) i will be doing the workout that they did because the guys had a 2400-pack between the 300 of them.

thanks to ImDB and IGN for all the info.

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