27 Mar 2007, 3:00am
Film & Television
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"300": A Review

Much like the early bird getting the worm, the slightly racist, somewhat homophobic, much-protested movie with amazing graphics gets the movie-goer dollar. Yes, I’m talking about “300,” and yes, I went to see it a couple of weeks ago, because I was curious and because a Pars Arts contributor, Javod Khalaj, wrote one of the first critiques of the film when he heard Frank Miller, a writer of the graphic novel it’s based on, reveal his rather orientalist tendencies on NPR.

That essay has been one of our most popular posts (good work, Javod), and with all the petitions and ensuing Persian angst and brouhaha the movie has invoked, I thought perhaps seeing and reviewing the movie itself was only fair.

300 is adapted from a graphic novel written by Miller and Lynn Varley that was based on Herodotus’s account of the Battle of Thermopylae, in which 300 Spartans got their behinds handed to them by a gajillion-strong Persian army helmed by Xerxes. Being that Herodotus was Greek and Xerxes was very much an imperialist and kind of a jerk, the Persians don’t come off looking too great, hence the very vocal and visible protest by the Iranian community over the film. There are petitions, essays, even an awesome art site that protests the movie. Since lots of people are boycotting, we’ve decided to provide you with the Pars Arts condensed version. Enjoy:

The movie opens with an old man inspecting a baby at the edge of a cliff. Apparently the ugly babies got thrown out in Sparta, but this baby is Leonidas, future king and Spartan bad-ass, so he passes the first test and is allowed to live. No word on whether the baby gets circumcised, but my guess is yes. Next we see him learning to fight, which culminates when he’s sent off to every little boy’s dream camp of violence. To graduate, he runs around barefoot in the snow, wearing only an adult diaper and killing a wolf that has neon eyes. Taking a page right out of the Republican party’s playbook, he returns home with the dead wolf on his shoulder and becomes ruler. Which frankly is a lot more fun than the electoral process anyway.

Fast forward a few years and a sexy black Persian envoy with a silky voice (think Taye Diggs, but taller and creepier) pays a visit to Sparta and asks for homage to Xerxes, the Persian emperor. Leonidas says no and throws Taye Diggs in a really deep well, and then goes to see some rotting senior citizens with a topless psychic girlfriend.
These guys are his advisors, and when one of them licks the topless girl, she convulses artfully and advises against war. But then quality time with another topless lady, his wife, convinces Leonidas that he’s got to do the right thing. And the right thing would be to get 300 of the hottest, least clothed warriors with rippling ads to go on a stroll through the country. This is by far the best part. The guys march for a while and get to a place called the “Gates of Hell” (foreshadowing much?) where their abs continue to ripple in the face of the Great Satan: the Persian army! The battle commences and keeps going. The Spartans are like the Viagra of wartime – they just can’t say quit, and there’s round after round of blood, guts, brains, and poop. Just kidding about the poop (they’re wearing diapers, remember?). Actually, the Gates of Hell really reminded me of the place where King Mufasa died in the Lion King, so let’s take a moment and show some respect to the guy in the middle of our flag:
The Persians include a host of evil guys, and I’m pretty sure I’ve dated at least two of them: a big fat guy with swords for arms and a nose ring (commitment-phobic faux-punk) and a bumbling giant with one eye (ultra-masculine with communication issues). There’s also a swarm of guys in silver kabuki masks, elephants, and a rhino. Nobody speaks any Persian, so it’s not very believable, like when Ben Kingsley played the Persian dad in The House of Sand and Fog and didn’t pronounce his own name correctly. But cream of the crop is god-king Xerxes himself, who’s decked out in gold from head to toe with lots of face jewelry and long gold fingernails. He also plucks his eyebrows and is beyond sexually ambiguous, but he has a harem of topless (see a theme here?) dancers as his collective beard. (Come to think of it, I may have dated him too. Very briefly.)

If you want to know what happens at the end, you’ll just have to see the movie for yourself. Or you could just read this next sentence: the Spartans die and it’s really too bad, because they are really impossibly good-looking.

So why the protest? Yes, none of the Persians in this movie were as sexy as the Spartans. But maybe they should have gone to the gym more instead of going to VIP parties every night, riding up to the valet on their elephants, blasting their Persian pop music like they owned the neighborhood. Yes, Xerxes is depicted as a depraved, self-centered guy who probably has a cocaine habit and doesn’t practice safe sex, and likely only half of that was true (probably the second half). But lets give some props to the filmmakers for making him the tallest guy in the whole movie (besides the one-eyed giant). Plus, diversity: our army had black guys, Asian guys, Arab-looking guys, guys with congenital defects – the Persian army of 300 was the original equal opportunity employer.

So keep signing those petitions, or do like us and follow the packs of 14-year-old boys with dirty fingernails to a theater near you. On behalf of Pars Arts , I’m giving this pretty snoozefest four Spartan spears, or three bottles of gold nail polish, a writhing topless woman, or a spoonful of irony and a dash of not taking the movie industry or the audience of this film very seriously.

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great review. If only instead of the VIP parties we had gone to the gym instead or bought less gold jewelry. But hey at least we have the stormtroopers, the force is with us.

 

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