March 12, 2007


300 Shocker: Hollywood takes a detour to reality (David Kahane, 3/12/07, National Review)

Okay, this is weird.

Since about, oh, September 12, 2001, every writer, producer, director, and suit in this town has known one thing to be true: Don't make fun of our so-called "enemies."

Don't stereotype them as bad guys. Don't mock their beliefs. Don't even mention their names. And for heaven's sake, don't make them mad.

Instead, try to understand them. Celebrate their diversity. And realize that, in a world (as the voice on the trailer intones) in which black is really white, up is really down, an attack is really self-defense and self-defense is really a provocation, we ourselves are actually the enemy.

This made things really easy. Out went any script that ascribed anything but the purest of motives to Arabs, Iranians, and Muslims. Back came everybody's favorite villains: ex- and neo-Nazis (I haven't met any, but I hear they're everywhere) and crazed Christian fundamentalists, lurking out there in flyover country, itching to pull the triggers to establish a theocracy in a country we all know perfectly well was founded by unarmed vegetarian multicultural atheists.

Not even Jim Cameron could get a picture like 1994's True Lies -- in which the current governor of California slaughters hundreds of Arab terrorists single-handedly -- made anymore, and he's the King of the World. Instead, we got things like Kingdom of Heaven, in which the Christian ruler of Jerusalem becomes a hero by surrendering the Holy Land to the noble Saladin.

So now along comes a bunch of schmucks nobody's ever heard of -- graphic novelist Frank Miller, director Zack Snyder, and a couple of other writers -- to pull in $70 million over the weekend with a movie about a handful of brave warriors who stand up against the limitless central-Asian hordes, iron men vs. effeminate oriental voluptuaries, and patriots against robotic slaves. How was this picture allowed to be made?

I'm not sure of the timelines involved here, but one interesting thing to consider is that it may have been the success of Mr. Miller's repellent "Sin City" that made it possible to get this story produced--certainly the fact that hot filmmakers like Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino did that earlier project will have helped.

'300' Becomes 2007's 1st Blockbuster (DAVID GERMAIN, 3/12/07, AP)

The ancient battle of Thermopylae was the stuff of 2007's first certified blockbuster as the bloody action tale "300" debuted with ticket sales of $70 million over its opening weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday.

That's about $233,000 for every one of the legendary 300 Spartan soldiers who fought off a much larger Persian force in the epic battle.

"On a Spartan-by-Spartan basis, that's a lot of money," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers. "Summer came a little early, because this is a summer-style opening."

The number of movie-goers for the Warner Bros. epic "300" outnumbered crowds for the rest of the top-10 movies combined. If the estimate holds when final numbers are released Monday, "300" would break the record for best March debut ever, topping the $68 million haul for "Ice Age: The Meltdown" last year.

Not coincidentally?

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 12, 2007 8:21 AM

Also, the fact that it's a comic-book movie, semi-animated, and, supposedly, only one person in Hollywood recognized the word "Thermopylae," helped it stay under the radar. This is the Age of Stealth, after all.

Maybe now, the Clint Eastwood/Tom Clancy/John Milius project on the Battle of El Khafji will have a chance.


Posted by: Bob Hawkins at March 12, 2007 10:21 AM

You know you are dealing with someone who doesn't understand this country, or is being disingenuous, when their criticism of it includes the Hollywood monopoly's products. As this film's initial success shows, Hollywood (and its imperial colonies like Sundance) are producing products for themselves, drek which the rest of the country only consumes because it have little choice and rarely anything better. (Now, that people consume drek at all is a valid criticism, but one that can be made of "the masses" in any culture.)

Doesn't matter about the artistic merits of this film (and it sounds like something I won't even watch when it appears free on Spike!), but its success will encourage other outsiders to risk the capital and effort to bypass Hollywood for the really big bucks there for the taking. And that's what's really got to scare some people.

Posted by: at March 12, 2007 10:22 AM

I saw the movie. It was a good time. It is less about ancient history than about today's political situation. The story is complete with bad-guys who dress like the taliban and have a penchant for head-chopping. It even has weasely members of the spartan ruling council who want to sell out their country for a chance to gain more power.... cough...murtha...cough. The point of the movie is that good and evil do exist and that the culture that produces free citizens is superior to the culture that produces serfs. Supposedly most of the spartan dialog was drawn from historical souces like Plutarch, but it could have been drawn from de'Crevecoeur, de'Toqueville, or even the USMC. No wonder hollywood critics hate it. It would have been perfect if king Leonidis had thrown in a Bush-ism and said something like,"our stategery is to defend the pass". LOL.

Posted by: lebeaux at March 12, 2007 4:32 PM

leb, was it too violent and gory for your average old granny? I hate to have to watch a movie with my eyes closed.

Posted by: erp at March 12, 2007 6:57 PM

The gore was mostly cartoonish, but there are a couple of graphic head-chopping scenes. The worst part for me was all those ummm... nipples.. I don't know why, but I fear them.

Posted by: lebeaux at March 12, 2007 11:17 PM

How was this picture allowed to be made?

Because what the movie REALLY stands for (note the "Spartan" uniforms) is the valiant, bloody, gore-filled war that courageous if, alas, doomed Global Warming Inc. activists are gearing up to fight against those effete minions who deny, who decry, who laugh at them (and, moreover, who think Al Gore is just, well, more than a bit weird).

This movie is just the opening shot. (And aside from that, it has, um, a certain crossover appeal.)

Posted by: Barry Meislin at March 13, 2007 7:11 AM