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From The Big Lebowski:

LEBOWSKI: What, what makes a man, Mr. Lebowski? […] Is it, is it, being prepared to do the right thing, whatever the price?  Isn’t that what makes a man?

DUDE: Mm, sure, that and a pair of testicles.

The Dude’s pot-induced retort seems to completely sum-up the philosophy of the film 300, one of the newest in a slew of movies to not only further abuse the use of special effects technology introduced to audiences by the likes of The Matrix and Sin City but also attempt to adapt the comic book “look and feel.” Some may argue that since I am not a fan of comic books and not familiar with the comic book-style graphic novel the movie is based on, I cannot fathom how similar to the source material the celluloid images actually are. However, a movie should be great on its own merits, and an outside influence (say, that of a graphic novel) should not heavily weigh-in on the greatness of a movie. There’s a couple of issues with 300, a few things keeping from achieving greatness or, for that matter, succeeding.

I don’t think Zack Snyder, the film’s director, understands what the movie is really about. While the movie shares the Dude’s philosophy of what a man is (the kind of red-meat-eating patriotic American portrayed in so many action films), 300 acts as if it’s trying to achieve the former definition of a man. On the surface, the story seems to be about underdogs who fight to keep their dignity, but the focus is really on how cool the fighting looks. The violence is over-glorified, which I found in no way entertaining. The movie definitely tried to come off as an inspirational piece with the low-angle shots of our heroes, the black-and-white definitions of “good” and “evil,” and the speech at the end. So the movie was “inspiring” to the audience not because of its underdog story, but because of the massive amount of bloodshed (an idea I, frankly, find a little disturbing). If that’s how the movie was pitched and structured, as a rock-’em-sock-’em kind of action movie, I may have enjoyed it more. I love a really good action movie, but it has to either a) be all-out action and know it’s just an action movie or b) have some depth (e.g., the Die Hard trilogy or The Man Who Would Be King, respectively). Because there’s so much extraneous material aside from the fighting, the plot itself seems superfluous. In effect, when the dramatic storyline actually surfaces, it slows the movie down. Because the plot seems only decorated in the margins of the film, 300 ends up feeling preachy: when there is no violence, there are soppy speeches, or the odds are being stacked against the Spartans.

I’ve heard a lot of good things from friends about 300, but they mostly praise the violence in the movie, which reminds of the zeal surrounding the violent scenes during Gladiator. I remember people standing up and cheering during the fight scenes, and they seemed to be part of the Coliseum, part of those cheering death in the film. (Maybe Ridley Scott intended it, but I doubt it based on his emphatic use of constant graphic violence.) All of this makes me feel kind of worried about the direction movies are, well, moving. Violence is glorified, sex is something dirty, and God forbid a studio puts out a challenging movie once in a while! Movies really aren’t how they used to be…

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  1. […] 300 – Brutal? Manly? You’re joking, right? No: Takashi Miike is brutal, and the guy who played the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera is not my idea of manly. If Gerard Butler would have stuck needles in his eyes and still do […]

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