I made a rare trip to the theater over the weekend. How rare? I can’t recall seeing a film on the big screen since Phantom Menace. So that’s, what, almost eight years?
(It was Reno 911: Miami, by the way, and I’d give it a B+. But that’s not the point here.)
One reason I don’t go to theaters — I don’t like being imprisoned in a dark room having my senses assaulted by ads for freaking horror movies, brainless action flicks and whatever else Hollywood has cooked up. I liked one preview — Knocked Up, from the people who brought you the lamentably short-lived TV show Undeclared.
One preview I saw was for 300. It’s based on a “graphic novel,” which is already a sign that this is going to be poor entertainment. And the preview makes it quite clear that the film is indeed quite “graphic.”
Film critics haven’t seemed to notice that movie violence has gone off the scale. If you check in with the big screen every few years, it’s like visiting another planet. It’s sick, in every sense of the word.
When Mrs. MMM had Starship Troopers on TV a couple of years ago, I could watch only a few minutes before feeling physically ill. For historical comparison, I found The Towering Inferno disturbing, but not nauseating.
300 is stylized violence to such a ludicrous degree that I found myself laughing rather than nauseous. One scene had a few men emoting in front of a CGI-created stack of bodies roughly eight feet high and many feet wide. I found myself wondering how a small band of warriors, recovering from a battle of epic mortality, could find the strength to stack so many bodies so neatly.
I know it’s going to be a huge hit, and that’s just going to make me feel even more like a tight-assed old fart. So be it. But I was happy to see Slate‘s reviewer shred this thing like a jazz critic taking down Kenny G. The notion that the 300 are heroic defenders of freedom is ripped open and shown to be completely hollow — the Spartans of this film kill anyone who doesn’t fit their conceptions of a perfect society. The homophobic aspects remind me of Braveheart, a film I happened to see start to finish and truly despise.
Slate‘s Dana Stevens isn’t out on a limb here. The reviews are mixed, and some of the thumbs-down are hysterical. Many agree that making a movie look like a video game is not an artistic triumph. But my favorite is probably “Ode to a Grecian Ab.” Well played, Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune).
So if you must see 300, please do me a favor. Root for the Persians.