70 million Iranians have not seen 300, but they all know they hate it. Americans on the other hand loved the film $70M worth at the box office last weekend, and are pretty evenly divided about whether or not they like it.
The guy who sat a few seats away from me summed up the American pro-300 view on his cell phone during the credits: "The cinematography was great. The violence was awesome. It was way better than Gladiator." Deep thinking fella; glad you enjoyed it.
Most of the reviews I've seen just can't quite come to grips with the movie. All of them, without fail, try to equate this war film to our current war. But no one can seem to decide who is who in that metaphor. The Iranians, on the other hand, are convinced they are quite literally the evil Persians of the film and this is tantmount to a declaration of war on Iran by Hollywood. Judging from Mr. Cell Phone Abuse, I think the Iranians give the American public too much credit to think that we remember that Iran was once Perisa.
Does 300 have relevance to our current war effort? Sure, but not in strained one-to-one comparisons. When you see this movie, you should leave with this question in your mind: When the tally is counted in the distant future, will we be found as commited in our defense of Western Civilization as the Spartans, or will we be found lacking?
Around halfway through the story, the Persian King of Kings (insert your blasphemy here) parlays with the Spartan King. "Be reasonable, Leonidas. There is much our cultures can share," he says, after spending a morning watching wave after wave of his troops crash hopelessly against the solid Greek shield wall. "We've been sharing our culture with you all morning," responds the Spartan.
That line, conciously or not, cost 300 any chance among the Oscar voters who gave the gold statue to Al Gore. This is a film that almost absolutely rejects any notion of cultural equivalency. That's not a radical notion, that's a reactionary statement! It isn't necessarily a Neo-Con sentiment, but it is certainly a Conservative notion. There are a great number of platitudes thrown about in the movie, which features almost as many talking heads as rolling ones. But at the center of the film is the conviction that Western Civilization is, in fact, worth defending - flaws and all.
The inability to face this fact square in the eye and accept or reject it is why so many critics get caught up in the phony argument of whether or not the film is historically accurate. Reading these reviews has caused many a chuckle for me. It's bizarre to me that one reviewer seemed perplexed by what he considered homosexual subtext among so many manly men (frankly, I expected a more open rendering of this) while questioning why the costumes weren't more accurate to the period and the fighting styles so influenced by kung fu. That displays a warped sense of historic context. I've seen an amateur reviewer question whether or not any woman would really tell her lover, "Come back with your shield, or on it." Believe it, baby.
Frank Miller, the original author of the graphic novel on which this is based, did volumes of research about the real Battle of Thermopolae. And then he promptly threw it out. "As a cartoonist, I'm primarily a cariacaturist. I'm interested in what people look like. And then I'm interested in what people really look like."
Those who cry foul about historical revision to this chapter of Greek history need to consider the ultimate source: Herodotus. He considered himself a storyteller first and foremost. Fact checking was far down his list of priorities. His goal was not to give a fair and balanced account of how and why the Persians came to Greece, he wanted to record the great and noble struggle of his people against oppresive invaders! 300 follows more in that spirit than in a dry rendering of the actual tactics and strategy. This is history as inspirational legend.
Some may call that propaganda, but that is true only when it is used incorrectly. This film tells a stirring story of hard choices, and asks us that one essential question: Is Western Civilization worth fighting for? The trappings are for show, and remembrance of glorious deeds.
These were men, my friends.