Sunday, March 18, 2007

In the Minority of Popular Culture

We went to see "300" today. It was a very accurate depiction of the Frank Miller graphic novel (which is sitting on my coffee table). It was stylish and beautifully filmed. There were many a lovely male body to ogle, and a few females as well (what was the story with the eraser head nipples everywhere? Implants?)

It's possible I might let a spoiler go in here, but if you really are in ignorance about the Battle of Thermopylae and you can't guess how this movie ends, skip the rest of the post or kwitcherbitchin'.

I left the movie after about an hour. I already knew the story very well, so I wasn't really getting attached or interested in the characters (since the majority were going to die) anyway. After about an hour of stylized blood and slow motion gore, I was bored. Rampant displays of testosterone don't usually hold my attention for long, and that's mostly what this was. I got twitchy, I got bored, I went to the lobby and read my book. I checked back in a few times to see if anything interesting was going on. Nope.

Now, there's nothing wrong with this movie. In some ways its quite stunning. But there's nearly two hours of it, and, frankly, stunning wears off when there are no surprises. There are no twists, no turns, no "I never thought of that", no "I didn't see that coming." And, I should point out, I have not read the book. I've only glanced at a few pages. The story has been covered on The History Channel more than once and has been made into a movie at least once before, in the 1960s.

The characters are fairly flat, without much being shown of them as people. They are simple and scripted. Spartans are the big badass warriors, products of a ruthless social system that prizes a "good death" over everything else. The 300 Spartans who sacrificed themselves were heroes. OK, that's the story. That's ALL the story. There's not much else to grab onto or to pull you forward. The flat images of the characters combined with knowing their fate ahead of time to really disconnect me from what was going on. The bad guys were bad, the good guys were good, most everyone dies and Greece wins in the end. Can't we get this over with a little faster?

That's just not enough for me. Once I've seen the slow mo, almost 3-D blood spatter and the pencil-and-water-color reduction of the film, once I've seen the cleverly constructed CG scenes of torture and carnage, I need a little something to make me want to keep watching.

In some ways, the adherence to the book may have worked against the movie. There were tons of full face closeups (giant teeth and huge pores are overrated). Many scenes looked very much like comic book frames. Despite the action, the movie was visually claustrophobic and even static at times. It certainly did not hold my interest, and generally I get into movies like that.

I won't say it's bad. There are a lot of people who will think this is the greatest movie they see this year. I'm just not going to be among them.

No comments: