Monday, March 19, 2007

300: The Review

Y' know, unlike many of my peers I wasn't as pissed at the movie adaptation of 300 as I was genuinely amused by the slaughter of history, stretching the fantasy element, larding up the "Good versus Evil" visual aspect and dishonoring the unwritten Graphic-Novel code. (If there was anything annoying, it was the army of Pretty Young Things in the theater me going "Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" whenever a Calvin-Klein underwear model jumps nine feet into the air and chops up a stupid Sand N*gger. "So gripping and emotional!", I heard one choke. It's true that the Battle of Thermopylae is one of the most inspiring stories of human steadfastness..... but can't they see the oodles of psy-ops of the movie?! Even making allowances for the "entertaining" aspect that movies are supposed to deliver, the extra-spicy masala and the pompous psy-ops in it leaves such a bad taste in one's mouth. If the viewer knew World History 101 and can ID right-wing Hollywood propaganda, I feel nobody would cheer for these so-called "last hope of free men fighting the barbarian East".
Sighhhhh, that's the new Mall-Rat DCH generation for you. Anyway ................

I had read Frank Miller's original Graphic Novel about a year ago and was pretty impressed by the colors and the truly rousing dialogs. The artistic liberties Miller had taken, the subliminal messaging and the implicit (and sometimes in-your-face) racism did not deter me from enjoying the experience...... after all he was the one who changed the campy Adam West-esque Batman into the dark, brooding Knight so excellently portrayed by Michael Keaton and Christian Bale. And he did that even before the God of Pop-Art, Alan Moore, brought out the excellent "Killing Joke". He was the one that brought back the Film Noir genre with his Sin City nearly two decades after Roman Polanski's Chinatown ended that genre with a bang. He maybe excused for a bit of pride in his Anglo-Saxon heritage (which has effectively claimed Green and Roman culture as their own.... now that the real Greeks and Romans have fallen so low in the pecking order). Well, to be fair he himself had said that he was influenced by the Cold war propaganda film "The 300 Spartans".
Anyway, my beef with the movie is the jarring discordance whenever extraneous scenes and dialogs are woven into Miller's core work. Lemme try to explain the discordance...... it's something like remixing Rufus Wainwright's emotional "Hallelujah" to Baba Sehgal's inhuman, grotesque, fly-honey flashing "Tora Tora". On such a dark daaaark note, let me begin my rather haphazard rant-review of the movie (and the the graphic novel). Oh, and as usual..... SPOILERS FOLLOW!


Before the battle:


The militaristic, eugenics-high, macho spirit of Sparta is established right from the beginning itself...... Mommy dearest and an old Doc inspects a baby for any deformities. If the baby had any deformity, the voice over illuminates us viewers, he would be thrown down a cliff where the bleached skulls of the less-than-perfect infants grin in eternity. The coming of age scenes would have given Herr GeneralFeldsMarschall of the Nazi Youth an instant hard-on...... and it can't get any farther from the actual initiations of Spartans! As Nathan Lee noted in his hilarious, punishing review of 300, the rest of the movie has a Copper/Wheat Brown hue. Maybe Director Zack Snyder watched the "Elysium" scene from Gladiator one too many times.... there's even the cute kid running through the wheat fields at the end. The approaching danger is well conveyed and the on-screen adaptation of this 1st part of the five part novel is quite okay. Things go totally Kaput when Queen Gorgo (played by a Lena Headey who apparently has a three foot pole stuck up her a$$) and Theron, the stock traitor-politician (played by Dom West) is pounded into the original storyline with the finesse of a pile-driver. I understand Ms. Heady was trying to do the "noble, spirited queen" routine but she hams it to the high heavens...... with her head always tilted 23.5 degrees up! You want "I'll kick-your-Candy Ass" attitude, nobility and class oozing out of every pore, Ms. Heady? Try Angelina Jolie from Alexander, try Cate Blanchett from Elizabeth, try the great Irene Papas from The Message! Coupled with her tussles and "compromise" (for her husband onlee!) with the sleazy councilor Theron (who shall be here forth called Ummeron for he's the best on-screen weasel sleazebag since the legendary K.P. Ummer lustily drooled so; "Sharade, njaan oru Vikaara Jeeviyanu...."), the respectable Graphic Novel is turned into one of Kanti Shah's flicks. All that was missing was King Leonidas's sister (Meghna Naidu in a yellow churidar) raped and killed by Ummeron in the Bazaar in broad daylight.
Another gross misrepresentation is the institution of the Ephors..... a governing council that was more than chummy with the King (except this one time when the King himself apparently betrayed Sparta) The movie as well as the novel portray them to be inbred, corrupt and lecherous lepers who select the winner of the Annual Miami Beach Wet T-Shirt Contest as their "seer". So far it was Ladies Night with all those hunks in speedos and thongs and a nude shot of Gerard Mian himself, now the male audience is given their pound of flesh. Dudes can get an ishmaall show of a transparent negligee clad Miss. Dakini, probably Ms. Mandakini's (yeah, she of Ram Teri Ganga Maili fame) long lost daughter, going into a trance under the influence of some really potent Pakistani Opium.

I feel the Queen's character was expanded to beef up the "fair, democratic, liberated West" image as against the chauvinistic Asian envoy who is angered when a woman speaks directly to him. Oh wait, the messenger is a big, bad, black Afro Bro' from the Krips Gang chapter of Babylon........ not a Semitic as shown in the novel. Oh don't worry.... Emperor Xerxes, nee Badshah Kshehyarshah (who in all probability was a typical Irani dude), is not an eight foot tall Black monster as portrayed in the book. Thank God for small favors. He's a very "confused" eight foot tall dandy Latino homeboy (who shivers in orgasmic ecstasy as he touches the Hero), who's got more gold on (and in) his body than seven Mallu brides. And check this out.... he meets the Greek's Spandex Speedo challenge with a ridiculous golden thong! Well here's a fr1ggin new tagline for you; "They were 300 black Speedos against one golden Thong".
And our new Ummeron character? It helps to add in an element that tips the odds against the doomed protagonist..... it kinda magnifies the sacrifice and hence increases the "Heroic Halo". Given the subliminal messaging against Iran (and Iraq) in the current contest, this may also be to flip the bird to the fringe Pacifists/Anti-War folks and win over the anglophone audiences. The traitor is conveniently dispatched off and the treachery is discovered..... the supposedly crafty councilor kept Persian gold coins hidden (where in his Speedo he kept them beats me) when he came to the council. But he didn't die in vain my viewers...... he died after porking the noble Queen the night before. Yes, the noble Yavania Nari sacrificed her honor in vain to save her husband the hero and make him look more tragic.....
{PS: In the original novel she says just a few lines, including one of the best lines ever (which have been preserved through history). Check it out....

Leonidas sets out to meet the enemy....

Gorgo: "SPARTAN!"
Leonidas: "Yes, my Lady?"
Gorgo: "Come back with your shield or on it."

In the movie, she gives him the "Heart of the Ocean"...... oh wait, that was in Titanic! She gives him something eerily like the "Nail of a Tiger" (Pulinakaham), prolly borrowed from Sathyan's Thacholi Otheynan costume and dramatically looks away as her hunk king swaggers into the sunset. :D }

In contrast to Ummeron and the "Fairy" Xerxes is the noble martyr, King Leonidas of Sparta, ably played by Gerard Butler, an undeniably talented actor. Usually known for his well etched roles in movies like the breathtaking "Beowulf and Grendel", Butler sheds all his cerebral image as well as most of his clothes, dons a crimson cape and becomes a powerful and imposing warrior. He delivers his lines pretty good, carries himself well and apparently has packed a few pounds of muscle for the role...... all's well except for the part where he shouts out "Spartans, tonight we dine in hell" at the climax. Nothing wrong as such, it's just that he sounded like a drunk Scottish fisherman then. Overall I must say he did much, much better than that pretender Colin Ferell's sounding like an Irish bartender in Stone's Alexander.
Some of the best lines in the graphic novel are the thoughts of Leonidas. The stoic and laconic nature of Sparta is fleshed out in the King's astute observations.... The grim realization of the impossible situation he is in, the fate he's leading his loyal men into, his self-composure and farsightedness even when the rest of his band lose their head and of course his final thoughts are presented as a voice-over. This takes a little shine off the Hero..... was avoidable IMO. They could have done it like Kevin Spacey's touching voice over in American Beauty.
Another place where Gerard Butler falls into "filminess" is when he meets Xerxes for the first time. The original novel conveyed a sense of chilling dread and razor-sharp wariness from both sides..... but here the delivery is mocking. The original had Leonidas mocking Xerxes as well, but there was an edge to it..... here it's like Rajnikant threatening one of his hapless undermenschen foes. I wish it was dealt better.... something like the "Sicilian Scene" from True Romance which I feel is THE benchmark for a confrontation.

Rodrigo Santoro plays the cartoon character Znyder and Co turned Xerxes into. The novel (though mis-representing Xerxes) shows him as a dangerous opponent...... out here he's shown as a strutting peacock who whines like a 17 year old drama queen. He does not arouse fear, respect or awe...... first time I saw him on-screen I almost went "Hey, thats Big Gay Al"! Now Miller's Xerxes had a voice that is "As smooth as warm oil on well-worn leather --and as deep as rolling thunder". I must say they got THAT right in the movie..... I wonder if they had James Earl Jones do the dubbing for Xerxes. (Well, it's almost Darth Vader minus the heavy breathing!) . The deformity of Evil vis-a-vis the beauty of Good is a commonly used visual art M.O.... but normally graphic novels do not adopt this method. It's more grey rather than black and white, but then Miller as well as other writers like Garth Ennis are known for heroes high on absolutism. Still, they took it too far. Way too far.... AFAIK Iranis are mighty p1ssed. There was a Persian couple ( prolly students from People's Republic of JNU ) a few seats away who went through 2 hours of incessant abuse heaped on Persia with stoicism that would make Leonidas proud. I wish I knew what they were thinking.....

Other notables include David Wenham (Faramir from LOTR) who plays the stock "bard". He doesn't have the look of other psychopathic Spartans out to kill and die in a blaze.... it's a bit like Faramir who fights just because he has to. If Sanjay Gupta ever decides to be "inspired" by this movie, he would prolly cast the Bollywood icon of the honest young Indian, Madhavan in the role. He does the entire voice over..... and not a quite good one at that. There's the voice modulation and emoting through the voice aspect that Wenham doesn't quite get right. Pity.
Then there is Vince Regan who dons the sword and sandal to play yet another trusty 2nd in Command..... yeah, he played Achilles's Secong in Troy too. He can act, no doubt.... and he's given ample screen time too. The novel portrayed him as a grim drill sergeant who gets passing mention..... here he and his son are given more screen time.
The character Stelios is changed too..... in the novel he was a stumbling greenhorn who's potential is recognized by Leonidas himself. Here he's a more psycho version of Achilles seeking everlasting glory of a warrior's death. I wonder what Yossarian or Doc Daneeka would have to say to that.
(PS: The grim reality of death as against all that stock yarn of Valhalla, Veeraswarga, Jannat and whatever is best shown in the witch-burning scene in Bergman's "The Seventh Seal" and Gerard Butler's own "Beowulf and Grendel". In the latter, King Hrothgar (played by the great Stellan Skaarsgard) remarks "He is feasting with the Gods in Valhalla now" when he finds the body of a soldier killed by Grendel. Beowulf looks closely at the dead man's face, warped by horror and agony and asks "Does he look like a man who's going to a banquet"?)

The traitor Ephialtes can't be more demonised..... in antiquity he was not a disfigured Spartan, just another Mir Jaffar or Shah Waliullah. Even Miller who committed the original sin cast him as a character we could sympathize with. However, Snyder and Co. would have none of that! Just a miff from the King is enough to set the monster against his own people. Unlike the novel where Leonidas deliberately tries to talk this sad Spartan to death (which Ephiatles tries but unsuccessfully), the goody goody film King offers a menial job to the cripple but the oh-so-evil traitor immediately sets off to the enemy camp. Get a load of this..... he warns the King of severe repercussions too but the noble king decides to guard the secret path with amateur Greeks instead. Oh, I forgot to mention..... there were 27000 Greeks from other city states in the battle.Only 300 Spartans and 7000 Thespians made the last stand at Thermopylae.

Now........ someone please tell me WHO THE BLAZING F**K wrote in all that extra stuff? I sincerely hope he/she/they get trampled to death by fat Soccer Moms at a Walmart Shopping Stampede! It's like the ghost of Ed Wood teamed up with Bashir Babbar and Brad Armstrong to deliver some of the most corny scenes of film history. Alan Moore publicly distanced himself from the film adaptations of his "From Hell" and "LXG" when he saw how much these lesser souls mutilated his babies..... what the hell was Frank Miller thinking when he read the final script?


The Battle:


An awesome (honest!) CGI heavy battle follows....... grillions of Persians, human/semi human and beast, fall to the Greek spears. Copious amounts of blood and guts splatter in all directions.... Spears are shaken, shields are splintered, it is a red day and heads fly like Frisbees as the Persians get a PWNED seven ways to Severnaya. There is enough blood to send Dungeon Master Mel 'Mad Max' Gibson into instant rapture..... apparently even the war elephants brought from Africa slip off the precipice 'coz "The Persian dead are slippery". Miller and Snyder push the envelope with uvaachas like "... and even the birds were complaining though they feasted on thousands of rotting human corpses". Howzzat?
While Stone's Alexander had battle scenes sticking close to what really happened back then, 300 is a Sword-Kata/bullet time/Spear-Fu extravaganza that makes Ultraviolet look like As you Like It. Even here you can see the dudes doing the "flying spear-stab" that Achilles did in Troy..... talk about "inspiration"! The swords look like Scimitars pinched from the Rudolf Valentino Memorial Museum..... nothing like the Greek short-sword they used those days. The Greek Hoplite was an armored infantry man who fought with a 9m long spear called Doru and a thick shield. He had a helmet that covered most of his face and a breastplate that can take a lot of punishment. Our heroes however believe in traveling light..... all they have is a black Speedo (armored too by the looks of it), Superman's cape and the helmet ( 'coz it's kinda killer cool). Perhaps the oiled, rippling abs on lavish display can tiltilate or scare away the mighty Achaemenid empire.
I must say the battle scenes began by closely following the Phalanx M.O. The men close ranks, lock their shields and rest their spears through the gaps of the shield wall.... each man protecting the man to his left with his shield and using the spear (held in his right hand) to do the killing. The Persian shock troops ram against the steel wall, they apparently were trained at this by the DYFI (who has considerable experience in rushing at barricades and asking for a beating). The Greeks hold firm and push them back and when the enemy's formation is broken, the Greek front lines break ranks, envelop the enemy and start scything into the enemy. Well and good from military history's POV so far..... they keep the faith even when the Persian cavalry charges into them. Cavalry as well as War Elephants of those days had no chance against long spears UNLESS led by a very able General like Subotai, Khalid ibn Walid or Alp Arslan. The Spartan shields protect them from the showers of arrows released by whole battalions of Persian Archers. Now this was during the era preceding the Composite Bow/Double Recurved Bow which was used to deadly effect by the Parthian Archer Cavalry against Rome. Due to a multitude of reasons, the archers and artillery were not of any use in that bottleneck and Xerxes had to do it the long, hard way. Anyway, there's a cool scene where the Persian arrows blot out the sun. This treatment was promised by a Persian general well before the war to which Stelios cooly replied, "Then we shall fight in the shade."

{PS: Here's a bit of Gyaan about the Phalanx aided by Peltasts (skirmishers)...... this strategy had worked so well for 500 years and like the Trench Deadlock of WW1, the one with best armor, hordes of troops, ample maneuver room and coolest head won. Quite a problem it was in those times. Then a Roman General named Gaius Marius, uncle (by marriage into the family) of a boy named Gaius Julius Caesar, revolutionized the Roman Army. He invented the Pilum, a one-shot javelin that is constructed so that it's shaped head would pierce the shield if thrown at a certain range AND the 5 foot shaft of the spear would bend due to it's heavy weight. The effect on the Phalanx was horrendous..... the Roman Pilum would slice into locked shields and bend making them useless in combat. The Phalanx desperately try to pry the spears off their shields while the Roman legionaries charge with the feared Gladius (short sword) and rout the Phalanx. It must be noted that the flexibility of the Roman legion against the ponderous Greek Phalanx led to Roman annexation of fair ol' Greece after the Battle of Pydna in 168 BC..... Still the Phalanx continued to be in vogue for another 100 years (in Barbarian, Egyptian, Semitic and Numidian nations) till Gaius Marius and later Gaius Julius Caesar put an end to it.

Source: Caesar's Legion by Stephen Dando-Collins. Highly Recommended!}

After this the movie enters the Twilight Zone. It was bad enough that the Persian elite force, The Immortals (a.k.a "Apple Bearers") was shown as Ninjas with grimacing silver masks in the original novel...... here you have a LOTRish Cave Troll of a human chained by immortals, a bunch of unbelievable fly-honeys straight out off a Timbaland and Magoo video, a mean war Rhino, a troop of fr1ggin dumb Grenadiers (yes, in 480 BC!) dressed in Burkhas with silver veils, barbarians who look suspiciously like Zulu Impis and a humanoid executioner with axeblades for his arms. Pshawwwww........ I almost expected to see an Imperial AT-AT blast the fair Greeks with it's Laser Cannons! The ordered Hoplite S.O.P (Standard Operating Procedures) changes into mano-a-mano Matrix ishtyle Kung-Fu. I have read that even gutted soldiers would gather their intestines in their hands and push it into the wound and get back into formation..... for if the weak flank is breached, the entire Phalanx falls. Heck, Leonidas shooed away the crippled Ephiatles 'coz his weak left arm cannot lift his shield to neck level and hence protect the exposed Hoplite to his left..... and now they all break formation and perform Tai Chi?
Well, I guess it's okay if all this is just meant to depict a fantasy element. {After all, Hartigan and Marv of Sin City were shot multiple times and they didn't even feel it! Dwight jumps down a skyscraper and sprints off without as much as an "Ouch!"! Kevin, who looks like an evil Harry Potter, moves like a cobra and devours his victims! List goes on..... but get my point on Frank Miller? Probably he himself wrote in these stuff into the movie to sex it up.}

Now the battle comes to a climax with the traitor leading the Persians down the secret path and surrounding the Spartans. The movie doesn't show the 7000 strong Thespian citizen militia who died defending that path. There's no mention of the traitor pleading (in vain) for mercy for the amateur Thespians... and certainly doesn't show the intense pain and suffering of the wretched traitor at that point. The part where Leonidas lets loose his own "Parthian Shaft" is handled pretty well...... but still not half as good as that rousing scene in Braveheart where Hamish Campbell throws Wallace's sword at the British Army. Even here the added masala element almost chokes you..... Miller's original version of final thoughts of Leonidas is poignant, short, clear and wholly at peace. It is made implicitly clear (in the novel) that Leonidas was sacrificing himself and his men so that rest of Greece would get over their bickering, unite and drive out the invader. In the movie it sadly turns into something like the Black Knight challenging King Arthur in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail". Here you have Stelios holding the King's hand and cooing sweet nothings before dying (Sean Bean's Boromir did MUCH better in LOTR), the Captain drawing the Persian who speared him closer (by thrusting the spear deeper into his own body) so that he could kill his killer...... and meanwhile the Persian army apparently sits by twiddling their thumbs. I must say the Persian arrows violate all laws of common sense and aerodynamics.... you got arrowheads shaped like scorpions, swastikas, pentagrams and what not! I would trust those fancy "scary" arrows to kill a pig at 30 feet. The final volley which 'blots out the sun' (again) and kills the last standing man (Leonidas of course) is a direct lift-off from the climax of Jet Li's memorable Wu-Xia classic, Hero. Of course, the master craftsman Zhang Zimou doesn't show the gory arrow-riddled corpse of the Hero in a very 'heroic death pose'..... please watch the movie to see how Zimou conveys a more powerful image (through an image that is an 'inversion' of that last shot of Toshiro Mifune's (Macbeth equivalent) Washizu in Throne of Blood).

Themes and Psy-Ops:

In many cultures there used to be a quasi-religious rite where the faith of 'faithfuls' is cemented by encouraging hate against another community. In Kerala of late 19th cent-1921 there were the fiery Friday noon sermons which sent the (so far) peaceful Moplah community into frenzied communal hate and a few dozen would go out and kill a Hindu Janmi (Zamindar) or a British Collector till the army is called in. Apparently this was a spillover of Ahmed Barelvi's call for Jihad (in 1831) and the embers lay there till the British put it out for good in the 1921 Moplah Rebellion. Mallus perhaps have heard of the term "Haalilakkam" which is today used to describe frenzy. Well, this is the etymology of that word. Similar to this is the old Norse "Berserkergang" and the Self-Flagellates and Passion Plays of the Medieval Church. This sort of this crops up whenever a war is to be waged in the near future or if the community is under some sort of pressure. The 1962 movie "The 300 Spartans" had obvious Cold War undertones and oodles of smug over-confidence.... the chauvinist movies of the GI and Baby Boomer generations, ably matched by the umpteen Osterns and Red Westerns churned out by the Soviets.
300 comes at a time when the "inheritors" of Greek Culture are poised against Iran, a continuation of Eternal Persia. Right now Persia might be under the heel of the clerics, but it has tremendous civilizational power of six millennia. There is of course and underlying "war cry" element in the movie..... one can make out subliminal messages like "The Army NEEDS you!", "Chickening out will destroy our nation!" and "Support our forces serving in the East!". Zack Snyder & Co. do their bit and blasts the audience with their own grating and in-your-face Propaganda via Ms. Lena 'I need a Laxative now' Heady and other characters. Here's somethign else...... the war-cry of the Spartans "Aaaah Hooo Aaah Hoooo" is the US Rangers war cry "Hooo Aahhhh Hooo Aahhh" in reverse. Coincidence?
But then, I look at it this way...... it's a Hollywood Movie and by God they OUGHT to play for their home team. Nothing p1sses me off more than our own deracinated leftist pseudo-secular Mehras and Dholakias and 'Pornographers of the Poor' like Deepa Mehta. (Of course I ain't the "My Country! Right or Wrong!" type..... but you got to be objective! Not a self-loathing Macaulay's Child with pretensions of "internationalism") . So, it would be quite improper if someone like me whine too much and spit curses on some American's chauvinism, right? Andaaz Apna Apna, no? Again, what rubs me the wrong way is Snyder & Co video-game they turned the original slick flick into.

Valerio Manfredi, author of Aish's much awaited "The Last Legion" and the Alexander Trilogy (on which Oliver Stone's movie is partly based) had written this novel called "The Spartan" long before Miller penned 300. This book, though fictionalized gives an apparently honest account of the lopsided Spartan society, the false pretenses of "democracy" and "free will" of the Greek City States and the complex relations between Persia and the Greek States ..... and it's set in the period of Xerxes's invasion too! The real Sparta was a bunch of militaristic roughnecks who were despised by the more cultured states like Athens and Ionia. Though once in a while they showed flashes of Laconic brilliance, they were quite wanting when it boiled down to brains. The lorded over a community of slaves called Helots, descendants of cultures Sparta conquered long time back. Strict order was kept by the use of a secret police who kept the Helots on a tight leash. Finally, with the rise of Rome and explosion of Helot population, Sparta declined and met an ignoble end at that hands of the Roman. One need not even go into the encouraged homosexuality and misogyny of Sparta...... that is a well known fact and it does nothing but divert attention away from the more relevant topics. {PS: In my opinion, personal preferences or norms of an ancient society cannot be judged by a rank outsider who enjoys the benefit of hindsight an 2500 years of progress from that point..... }
Given all this, the depiction of Sparta as a fr1ggin' beacon of FREEEEEDOMMMMMMMM is simply plain old snake-oil. Any attempt at drawing a smug parallel with the present day self-appointed 'World Polic'e fighting soul-less coons in the desert should be met with the disdain it deserves. Any argument touting "fair West" standing up against the lecherous, inhuman tyrant of Asia must be fought..... with history as our ally. Any attempt at Historical Revisionism ("White Man's Burden" type) must be discredited at every opportunity. Oliver Stone tried to do the same Fetid stuff with his "Alexander"..... but since it was more cerebral than this video game-movie, even the shallow ones pry their minds off the "action" and see through the "Propagandu" (as a pal calls this sort of psy-ops). Snyder is smarter than that..... he cashes on Miller's Sin City laurels and touches up the comic book gore-fest, adds a lot of gratuitous violence and other masala ingredients. The result is a slick hi-octane war movie which makes the lay viewer dangerously oblivious to the base "message" of the movie.

The depiction of Xerxes court as as a 'den of vice' harks back to Medieval views of Ottoman Turkey, Safavid Persia and Sultanate/Mughal India. The Orientals were thought to be a libidinous, godless people engaging in vile acts that excited as well as repelled Puritan Europe. The art galleries are chock full of their impressions of the Oriental Courts, i.e Emperor conducting his business with his pet Leopard on one thigh and a fiercer Mistress on his other, Sultan's harems looking like the Playboy Mansion, a vile Arab inspecting a female slave's teeth as if she were a beast of burden. A lot of it was true, I must say..... but definitely not in the degree imagined by the Medieval West. Behind all this "disdain" was perhaps the realisation that there's a good chance the West would be overwhelmed by the numerically superior and quite older Orientals. Numerous times have this sort of fearful backlash adversely affect Global Geopolitics.
It's sad to see Khshyarshah's (Xerxes) military camp made out to be a bubblegum-pimp bordello with disfigured Lesbians, transsexuals and assorted pornstars and playmates. This was a man who made an able woman named Artemisia the Admiral of the Persian Fleet in the Battle of Salamis, an Emperor who married Esther the Jewess, a King was praised in the Old Testament for his wisdom and tolerance and a king who followed his forefathers dictum of respecting all religions. He might have had notions of invincibility and had an arrogant streak (hey, he was the absolute ruler of the greatest empire of his time!), but surely he doesn't deserve all this abuse heaped on him.
{PS: Talk about Judaism..... isn't Yahweh called "The Lord of Hosts" by Jews? In the movie you have a Persian general address Senor Golden Thong by this title! Anybody got a theory? I wish to think this was simply unintentional and not in any way an anti-Semitic expression.}

Finally,
One thing we Indians have to keep in mind is that the movers and shakers of America have a powerful force-multiplier in the form of the Anglophone Media. One adverse effect of Liberalisation is the deluge of this sort of KulturKampf into the Indian's mind. For example, programs showcasing military prowess of the US makes one feel the Americans are simply indomitable and they possess 23rd century technology. BBC South Asia desk spins the Kashmir Story into a spineless cheerleading for Pakistani interests..... a certain Indian news channel is trying to sabotage indigenous research and development of defense systems by whipping out "instant success stories" of the west. The convergence of POVs of the Indian public (especially the upper middle-class and up) and the Anglophones creeps into the red zone. Our trade and commerce show some signs of being too controlled by the American leverage over Energy and Technology transfer. Nope, I ain't one of those Bajrangis/Knickerwaalahs 'outraged' at Bharatiya Naris wearing jeans and skirts and preferring basketball to a wholly 'Desi' Gili-Danda. Attire and personal life/choices are private matters which, in my opinion, can be chosen even from alien cultures...... but it's when you ideologically 'submit' (maybe even unintentionally) to an alien culture/POV that the country faces grave danger.
Movies like 300 do their bit in nudging the average Indian towards accepting a wholly Western viewpoint and abandoning our immediate neighbors and business partners (Maybe the makers of the book/movie have no such explicit aim.... still, the damage would be done). All this just because Hollywood production values are quite impressive! The change would not come overnight...... but I cringe when I hear the "Khoobsurat Log" fr1ggin' parotting American views on the World Order in "We the People" ( leave alone teen aged PYTs cheering the Spartan 300). Whatever happened to an INDIAN world view and INDIAN interests? It's either the extremely pro-west 'Main Bhi Madonnas' or their compatriots from the other end of the spectrum, viz. Commies (again a transplanted ideology now worn on the sleeve by a psychotic enemy state) who take up all the sound bytes.


Conclusion:

The movie earns a six in a scale of ten...... that's like three stars.
Points are earned for impressive CGI, conforming to the original to a good degree, eye candy and production values, and a couple of good perfomances. This movie earns the thumbs down for blatant racism, added masala, retarded (non Miller) dialogs, 'historicide' and bias.
You wanna enjoy a mindless action flick, go for this. But if you are touchy/knowledgeable on History/of Persian ethnicity kind, stay at home and watch Jason Statham's 'Crank' instead. Trust me, you'll lavv this flick!
Ciao!

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15 Comments:

At 9:11 PM, Blogger b v n said...

i'm gonna watch this one...just to make sense of this review, comments later !

 
At 1:49 AM, Blogger Jiby said...

i loved 300 but then i am like real partial to period flicks...remember ur last movie we watched here...kingdom of heaven...the cgi was damn good but i'd prefer to watch real movies!

after watching the film i came home and spent 3 hours reading about the persian-greek conflict. as usual i gotta agree with a lot what you said. but spartan women had a greater degree of freedom than everywhere else...so making the queen's character like that was justified...and i am really fascinated with lena headey now.

yeah the part where leonidas gives up the fight, was a bit clumsy. all in all i sat transfixed all thru the film...i went in with pessimism coz zack snyder spoilt a new year of mine with his atrocious "dawn of the dead".

 
At 8:26 AM, Blogger Bala said...

That was a great review!. A few thoughts:

1) Gaius Marius,..... He invented the Pilum, a one-shot javelin that is constructed ...

He didnt invent it. It was there already. However, he is credited with the design changes that made the pila such a deadly weapon against barb hordes and phalanxes. The date of the introduction of the marian pilum is around 100 BC (in time for the battles of aquae sextae and vercellae).

2)I think Herodotus mentions an indian contingent amongst Xerxes's hordes (wont use the word army, it was just a mob of different armies, coming along for the merry ride). So any cheering in indian multiplexes for the jatti boys clobbering the persian hordes (with our ancestors amongst them) will be mildly ironical

3) how did a rhinoceros corps come to be in the persian army?. That is sure funny. is it there in the graphic novel too?

4) Herodotus attributes "Then we shall fight in the shade." to Dienekes. stelios is frank miller's invention

 
At 11:25 PM, Blogger Anand K said...

@ bvn:
Dude! Am I that incomprehensible? Sighhhhhh. Sniff
:P

PS: Waiting for your comments here...

@ Jiby:
Ahhh yes.... Kingdom of Heaven and our last outing in LA. How can I forget!?
I kinda liked the sly humor and social commentary of "Dawn of the Dead".... I therefore expected him to do a good job in adapting the already slick 300. Sigh.. 'twas not to be.

Spartan women were about as 'free' as their Persian, Egyptian and Indian counterparts( remember our classes on Later Vedic/Mahajanapada ages). However, the role of the Spartan mother in the family unit (and therefore their whole societal standing of women) leaves much to be desired for. They were considered as inferior to have a life-partner type relation with.... the 'buddy system' with another soldier was encouraged instead.

PS: BTW, you dig Lena Headey? Tut Tut.... Remember what I always used to say about your taste in women? :P

@ bala:
Hi Bala.... welcome to my blogspace.

1. Thanx for the note... I stand corrected! Of course pole weapons existed since say, Moon Watcher touched the Monolith (Win a trip to Dantewada if you crack this reference :P )..... What i wanted to point out was the change the Marius introduced which enabled a melee force have a ranged srike capablity that effectively destroys the built up opposition.

2. True, Cyrus had conquered what is present day Pakistan and the Persians didn't lose it till the Nandas came to power. The references talk about Indian Spearmen in Thermopylae (and Indian Cavalry guarding Darius III in Arbela).
In hindsight I think i have been too inconsiderate to the young people.... I remember feeling all peaked and excited when I read Tom Clancy's invincible America sonic boomed the Indian Navy in "Debt of Honor" and chased us away in "Executive orders". Trust me when I say that I wanted to be in the USAF when I was a kid growing up in little Trivandrum! So high on the bright Neon lights of the West I was as a kid..... (Now, I was like 13 then.... Forgive me!)
Perhaps the same kids will grown up and take the slow n painful learning curve and get first hand experience of how the current world order/long term sociological psy-ops/economic leverage of the Anglophones is stifling our nation. Maybe they too will change (like I did... about eight years ago, thanx to some good guidance). Only after I re-read my own take on the kids did I realize I am already talking like one of the crusty, dry old creeps I used to hate. For the moment let's just let them enjoy the ride, savor the thrills of carefree youth... The rude awakenings will come later.


3. The Rhino wasn't there in the comic... Perhaps he wanted to bring back that old "Great White Hunter" funda.


4. Yep.... Stelios is a fictional character. One of the cultural-heroes type which is composed of one or more than one real-life people.

 
At 2:33 PM, Blogger vijay said...

As jiby said, Myself also same feeling when i saw movie, it is very interesting and more attractive.


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At 8:04 AM, Blogger Pooja said...

http://salimma.livejournal.com/74532.html - another review.

So, you made this entry 3 months ago & no more stories to tell...?

 
At 5:51 AM, Blogger eric said...

hey man, i happened upon your review and i really enjoyed reading it. just thought i would comment and let you know!

eric drewes
www.adunai.com

 
At 5:55 AM, Blogger eric said...

also, as a white male of euro heritage, even i was amazed and disturbed by the gross polarization of good and evil between the spartans and xerxes army.

it was pretty ridiculous and clearly meant to be an allegory for modern politics.

propaganda? probably not... but pretty close.

 
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At 2:23 PM, Blogger NIKHIL NARENDRAN said...

weel.. weel/exactly my comments

 
At 1:36 PM, Anonymous kg said...

Hey Anand,

I just found your blog dude after I clicked on your name on one of your replies to Mav. I can't believe I didn't think of that before - and this after I spent some time tryng to find the "Wanderers" blog in obscure places!

And to think I tell folk how clever I am on the 'net. . .

BTW: How come you ain't a fan of hammer Horror flicks, it don't say you are on your profile - seems like a serious gap in your education . . .

Later,

kg

 
At 5:30 PM, Blogger Anand K said...

Yo Kg!

Just popped into my old blog on a whim, after nearly a year and I find your comment in it! Niceeee... I like!

Hammer Horror? Don't even go there... it used to be part of my regular diet in school! :) I's just that these days I am more into J-Horror, Psychological Horror and Lovecraft. A long haired, freakishly endowed heroine in white dress and prosthetic fangs (let along a big guy in a hideous rubber suit) just don't scare me anymore. Maybe it's all that cr@ppy Ramsey Brothers midnite-masala movies that immunized me to that genre.

Anyway, my fave Hammer Horror is of course the Carmilla genre of which there are examples abound in Hammer Horror. Remember Ingrid Pitt and those sisters in Twins of Evil? And on a more nostalgic note I remember those Dracula movies which a pal of mine used to describe in *vivid*, *gory* detail in Junior School. He was so good at this story telling that I actually became scared of him for the next cpl of school terms! You know, just like people thought Bela Lugosi and Max Schrek were really vampires due to their sterling performances.
Sigh.... those days!

Ciao,
Anand K

 
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At 2:06 PM, Blogger Anitha said...

കൊള്ളാം. നന്നായിട്ടുണ്ട്.
ഇതുപോലുള്ള പോസ്റ്റുകള്‍ ഇനിയും പ്രതീക്ഷിക്കുന്നു.
ആശംസകളോടെ.
അനിത.
JunctionKerala.com

 

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