Whatever it is you think about Frank Miller’s stories, it’s what you’ll think of the movie 300. Both of them being macho, blunt forces. I won’t actually venture much of an opinion here, as I think an audience’s opinion in these sort of cases is pretty much set in stone. I had a bit more pep before seeing it, but now having done so I can’t help but think whatever I said and thought was probably overwrought, equal to the outsized enthusiasm of the movie’s fans, and their righteous indignation at the equally overbaked (though mostly fair) critical reception, but more than this movie actually calls for.
I say this much: It was enjoyable, and quite often beautiful, if awkward and uneven. Still too timid by half, though sacrificing much less to visual fidelity with the graphic novel than other adaptations have…as people seem to confuse that with being faithful to the story.*
And also I have no reason to doubt the director and filmmakers when they say they didn’t mean any sort of Iraq commentary with it. It just means they’re sort of stupid. Either they’re dim, as they were genuinely oblivious to what adding “...politicians just send warriors to their deaths…” and that sort of line adds, as well as getting all that talk about Country and Freedom and Free Men (a little cute, historically speaking, coming from Spartans) from a computer program that punches it in...or cribbing from Braveheart...and what reaction that would garner. Or they’re kinda dim, and they saw the reaction coming and couldn’t come up with anything better to say. Weak sauce, folks. **
But let me follow Jonny America’s lead and leave you folks with a discussion question that thinking too much brought up. Frank Miller probably meant it his original work more as a straight meditation of warriors and heroism, but the filmmakers added a lot of Freedom and Country and Free Men stuff—but who cares about that? ’cause who’s against that?—But why ever appropriate history to this end, if one believes a story requires as much modification (it didn’t even, really) to tell this sort, or any sort of tale? It’s not as if that many historical field fans really pop out for these things and sell that many more tickets. (In 300, there are so many visual cues as to who is evil, that even in lowest denominator it seems unnecessary.) So what out it? Are there any noncommercial benefits that makes this sort of lazy storytelling worthwhile? ***
* Bit claustrophobic too, but such are the limitations of filming green screen and indoors…you can always sort of tell. Legend had that too…which come to think of it, Ridley Scott would be pretty good for this sort of thing.
** I don’t think it’s irresponsible, per se, to make a war movie in this climate and not have anything to say, just as it’s not irresponsible to make a movie about Marie Antoinette and talk about modern ennui, but it seems foolish and wasteful, and a bit willfully oblivious.
*** I want a slightly more complex answer than “It’s easier to film.” (Lazy storytelling also being cheaper.) Probably, that’s all there is though. Well, that and the public has only a small interest in knowing history.