An Inevitable 300 Review

I swore to the gods and goddesses of pop culture that I would try my very best never to write about Zack Snyder or one of his movies ever again.

Then Lou, crafty lass that she is, pulled this April fools switcheroo on me. “I’ll write about Batman”, she said cheerfully. “And you can write about a Gerard Butler movie. It’ll be funny, a real gas, the readers will love it!”

I agreed thinking, like the na├»ve fool I am, that I was going to do Plane, or Copshop, some good nonsense. But no, here we are again, Zack, you and your army of Snydertans dug in to the hot gates of fandom, and me, a liberal lefty who hates fun and thinks Batman shouldn’t be a murdering psychopath, finds himself ready to make you mad all over again.

In the career of viewing many controversial directors, there is usually a movie that the public can agree on: one that is a symbol of all of said filmmakers best traits. Michael Bay has The Rock, Paul W S Anderson has Event Horizon, Jan De Bont has Speed, an outlier in the filmography that makes you think, “yes, more of this kind of thing.” 300 should be that movie for Zack Snyder, but if anything it might be his most controversial. Yet it also may be his best.

300 is an absolutely punishing experience for those that don’t vibe with Snyder’s cinematic toolbox. It’s just loud when it’s going for epic, misguided when it’s going for pathos, and genuinely funny when it’s going for tragedy. It’s as pumped-up and hive-minded as its titular soldiers but for once, unlike Snyder’s work in the superhero genre, this actually makes sense. Is 300 a ‘roided up Trojan Horse movie about the benefits of being in the army and killing people? Fucking right it is. Does that make it disgusting and Snyder a schill? Oh, you bet it does.

Yet unlike his superhero movies, Snyder is making all of this right-wing polemic blindingly obvious which makes this movie a really funny example of this male power fantasy. It’s this reading of the movie which angers fans who argue that it’s just a sword and sandals epic. It is one of those, and, if you want to ignore the political and cultural context of 2006 and the War on Terror that shaped the movie’s narrative more than Frank Miller’s source graphic novel (though I’m sure he loved it), you can do that; I do it with Commando and other 80’s action movies that I love, and with Marvel, but you can’t deny that it’s there.

This was supposed to be about Gerard Butler, sorry, our pal, Gerry. Well, he’s good as Leonidas, particularly in his more sombre moments and his chemistry with Lena Headey does more heavy lifting than anything in the script. This is the role that made Gerry a movie star, equipped with quotable catchphrases, iconic poses, and a cape of a Greek Superman. He’s had better roles, but none more memorable than this, none that would become as instantly-recognizable. Leonidas is his Bond, his Batman, and it’s a credit to him and his sheer leading man chops itself that he has become such a symbol.

Do I like that symbol? Fuck no. Did I like 300? Kind of. For me, 300 is the closest Snyder will ever get to a middle ground. Where sheer entertainment value can distract from the racism, sexism (the Queen isn’t raped in the graphic novel, cheers, Zack), and all-round xenophobia that reeks off the text for a while. Though not long enough, as this article is proving. For all of the great action – the forest fight between the Spartans and Persians is frankly breathtaking – 300’s ugliness ended up wearing me down and by the end I couldn’t wait for Gerry and his lot to die so I could forget about the movie. Which, come to think of it, is the exact opposite of what 300 wants from me. I’m taking that as a win.

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By Kevin Boyle

(header image via Looper)

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