More "300"? Yes, and we apologize, but no film has managed to stir the masses and provoke the critics quite like Zack Snyder‘s cash-walloping 80 minutes of idiocy. Last week, Variety‘s Peter Bart preeningly held up the film as proof of how out of touch critics were, wondering "If the established media want to stay relevant, should their critics make a passing attempt to tune in to pop culture? In short, should at least someone on the reviewing staff try to be relevant to both quadrants?" Today in the LA Times, Patrick Goldstein tries to side with the fanboys:
Snyder has learned that film is a subliminal art, in the sense that he uses his visuals to supply the film’s emotional underpinning. In "300," the sky is always dark and unsettled, as if to signal the bitter bloodshed to come. "We tried to make the sky reflect the emotion in the movie, which you can’t do in a regular movie," he says. "That’s what is great about this kind of green-screen filmmaking. It’s not just the actors who matter. Every element in the frame supports the emotion of the moment."
Sadly, our critics, who seemed content with hooting at "300," have lost touch with what makes movies different from other art forms. Hollywood’s mass-audience films are not a literary or an intellectual genre. Never have been, never will be. They are built around visuals and emotion, the two elements that "300" used to capture the public imagination.
Honestly, we were sputtering with fury when we first read this article, but on second read it’s merely an embarrassment, and, beyond that, inane to sweepingly suggest that critics just don’t understand popular cinema â€” look at the reviews for "Spider-Man" and it’s sequel; for "X-Men" and it’s sequel; for "Pirates of the Caribbean" and… well, not its sequel; for "Sin City," for that matter. As for the cry of "it’s just a movie!", Goldstein lets Snyder speak for himself:
Snyder says he wasn’t perturbed by the nasty reviews. "Nah, I love ’em, they were funny," he says. "The reviews were so neo-con, so homophobic. They couldn’t just go see the movie without trying to over-intellectualize it."
In the same paper, Carina Chocano acidly disagrees:
Someday, maybe, the "entertainment defense" will no longer hold water. But for now, we’re slogging through the era of the completely implausible denial. Like many films that seem to riff on everything without stooping to make a point (which would be just so hopelessly earnest and dorky), "300" proudly claims to be about nothing. Or rather, like another type of purchased pleasure, it claims to be about anything you want it to be. As long as a movie is dumb and violent enough, it can quote whatever cultural allusion is handy, then deny that it did with impunity.
Sci-fi writer Neal Stephenson claims "300" for the geeks at the New York Times, writing that
The less politicized majority, who perhaps would like to draw inspiration from this story without glossing over the crazy and defective aspects of Spartan society, have turned, in droves, to a film from the alternative cultural universe of fantasy and science fiction. Styled and informed by pulp novels, comic books, video games and Asian martial arts flicks, science fiction eats this kind of material up, and expresses it in ways that look impossibly weird to people who arenâ€™t used to it.
Others refuse to allow the film to worm its way around context: Michael Koresky at Reverse Shot writes that "it would be laughable if at this moment all signs werenâ€™t pointing to an imminent Iran invasion by the Bush administration. The racial and political tangle that is 300 is indicative of a muddled culture, one which flaunts political incorrectness as a badge of honor. Postmodern? Try postmortem. Aesthetically and politically, we need 300 like a hole in the head." Walter Chaw at Film Freak Central sighs that "Though you could make the case that Snyder is going for irony in equating these ancient psychopaths with the politics of modern America, the better case is that 300 is an apology for bellicosity so intent by the end to cast history as hagiography that it quails at every moment of useful truth. I wonder if the simple fact that it’s a violent, self-justifying muddle doesn’t make it a decent allegory in spite of itself."
Also, when did a movie’s dumbness become its own defense? We’re bewildered by those who would duck behind the idea that because something is intended for popular consumption, it’s freed from any greater meaning. We don’t believe that "300" will ever be an addition to the canon in any sense other than as a timely cultural artifact, and we don’t think it’s a sign of the crumbling of the intelligent critical community. We are curious about the way it’s become a rallying point for the unexamined moviegoing life â€” we could care less about Snyder’s motives; the fact that the film is such a draw alone makes it worthy of closer inspection, simply because of it’s bearing on our current dire times.
Over at Pullquote, the cinetrix has thoughts on the film from Ed Koch: "The audience applauded lightly at the end of the movie, but I though it was a ridiculous film and a wasted evening. I tried to get a ticket to see the show on Friday night at a Cineplex which devoted five screens to the movie, but all shows were sold out. I saw it the next day at a different theater, and it was only 80 percent full. Maybe word is spreading. It’s all hype."
+ Film reviewers, moviegoers disagree (Variety)
+ ‘300’: It’s just a movie — or is it? (LA Times)
+ ‘300’ mixed messages (LA Times)
+ Itâ€™s All Geek to Me (NY Times)
+ 300 (Reverse Shot)
+ 300 (2007) (Film Freak Central)
+ Bengalis and platforms (Pullquote)