Originally posted on 02.02.12
I apologise to you all (apparently a larger number than I first thought) for my not having posted anything of value for an insultingly long time. I don’t even have a viable excuse any more, I finished my exams and revision weeks ago. Looking back at the dates on my last few posts I think I know why there have been so few recently and why many of that tiny number were originally homework. I produced a plethora of words up to the beginning of September, at which point I got a computer that could actually run slightly demanding games from four years ago at speeds exceeding that of a sparrow in treacle. That was my Yoko I suppose, it dragged me away from passing the time through writing with its Siren’s Call of Mass Effect, Just Cause 2 and the like. The guilt I feel for neglecting this gnaws at me constantly so in order to somewhat rectify that I have decided to cheat. Once again I am posting something I first wrote for English Language homework. Aren’t I a terrible person? Let’s hope I get off my behind soon and provide you with some exclusive writings.
It just occurred to me that I have indeed written a few other things in the past few months, albeit for the Strode Newspaper. I’d post them on here were it not LiveJournal’s hatred of nicely placed pictures and formats resembling anything other than this. Perhaps I could post them as PDFs. We shall see.
This is Sparta, and it’s ridiculous
After watching 300 I came to the inescapable conclusion that I can’t possibly be male. I must fall into some obscure, third gender. Were I a male man I would surely have left the film roaring, jeering and ready to kill (and quite possibly fornicate with) whatever living thing next crossed my path as this is clearly what the film wants me to do. Needless to say this was not my attitude on exit. Director Zack Snyder (of Sin City fame) gives us a veritable assortment of blood, breasts, Persians, penises, muscles, rape, gore, homoeroticism and historical inaccuracy. Unlike many films that fall into the limb-severing, man-roaring category (Spartacus: Blood and Sand), 300 seems to want its plot to be taken seriously, it was based on a comic book after all. Alas, like a rude man with a beer belly who thinks he could give the whole England football team a run for their money, the scriptwriters fail to create something enthralling, but it does seem like they tried, which counts for something I suppose. Surprisingly the film has none of the rude anachronisms so many other shows (and even books) fall into (I’m looking at you Game of Thrones! Bah! ‘Fell on his butt’, indeed.).
Gerard Butler stars as Leonidas, King of Sparta. A messenger arrives, warning him that King Xerxes of Persia (played with an appropriate degree of evil, campy aplomb by Rodrigo Santoro) demands their submission. What follows has gone down in time as one of those great movie moments. The Deerhunter’s Russian roulette scene and Dirty Harry’s famous question pale in comparison to Leonidas’s “This is Sparta” bark, followed by the impromptu kick of the messenger into a ditch. Whatever you think of it this line’s popularity online is phenomenal, easily being in the top ten most popular internet memes of all time.
Unsurprisingly Persia declares war, Leonidas must take just two hundred and ninety-nine of his friends on a suicide mission to Thermopylae. Along the way he meets all sorts of colourful characters. There’s Daxos (Andrew Pleavin), leader of the Arcadians and wearer of redundant leather straps, shamelessly added to the film presumably to make the film also cater to the gay community. Because, as we all know, leather is every homosexual’s catnip, right? Unfortunately for the Arcadians they are frightened rabbits compared to the fighting force that is 300 well-oiled, angry men. We also meet Ephialtes (a real person apparently), an exiled, deformed Spartan so ugly that even a gay Quasimodo would run for the hills at the sight of him. Don’t worry though, the film isn’t all about men, there’re also women in the film. Admittedly most of them are naked prostitutes we see dancing and engaging in casual lesbianism but there is Queen Gorgo (Lena Headly), the film’s leading lady. She too is also infrequently nude. In the film’s defence they do try to cancel out their sexism and demeaning of women by showing the occasional completely naked man. Presumably they were thinking that upon seeing the sight of Butler’s little spear the audience would declare ‘I was going to say that this film was a disgrace to feminists everywhere but then I saw a penis so now I’m fine’.
Ok, so the film’s plot, characters and morals clearly aren’t Oscar winning material but what of the other parts? The film is very dark, in more ways than one. The time is always either at night or dusk, meaning that the sky is perpetually brown and muddy. It’s not something you’d ever see in real life and it certainly shows the polish applied to the weapons, shields and CGI muscles but it is undeniably cool, casting a light that looks like it was shone through a glass of beer. The fights are very well done as well, if similarly ridiculous. Leonidas and his chums fight off an array of enemies as Xerxes sends everything in his arsenal at them. Elephants, horsemen, gunpowder bombs, an executioner whose arms have been replaced with ugly blades and some kind of mutated rhino creature all fail to stop the Spartans. The infamous Immortals (not to be confused with the stars of the producers’ latest gore-fest by the same name) even make an appearance (here’s a spoiler, they’re not). All the fights are impressive and fun to watch unless you’re squeamish. One can’t help but wonder if the film would have been better if all talking scenes had been removed bar the ‘Sparta’ line. The acting is not poor but without an acceptable script it’s impossible to judge fairly. The music is nothing special but the sound effects are satisfying enough. The CGI is nothing to complain about though the settings are often quite dull. All in all 300 is an overly manly, slightly offensive, stupid, stylised piece of cinema that surprisingly is worth watching even if just to understand its cultural significance. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go and press flowers because I’m clearly not man enough for this film.