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Mike Schilling

At any rate, even if I'd been inclined to go see it, 300 has already been nixed by our house historian, the thirteen year old.

As the saying goes, one man's Mede is another man's Persian.

Holdie Lewie

I've never read Herodotus and I'm historically illiterate about Thermopylae, but from what I've read here, the screenwriters for "Letters From Iwo Jima" know their Herodotus. There's a flashback in which the Japanese general recalls a dinner in Washington, years before, when the wife of an American military man innocently (and undiplomatically) asks him how he possibly could be expected to prevail, should the United States and Japan ever meet in battle.

Later, when he watches an endless wave of Marines landing on his bleak iwo, it's easy to imagine him grimly thinking to himself, "then we'll fight in the shade." A bitter joke told to oneself.


Lance, you'll like Filmbrain's short take on 300, posted from Berlin:

"Remember that scene in David Lynch's Dune where Sting, at his overacting worst, screams "I will kill him!"? Now imagine a film where every single line is uttered with the same bombastic fervor, whether deserved or not. This is what 300 delivers, and ridiculous doesn't begin to describe it. With laughable attempts at Shakespearian dialog, this is a film that will appeal only to adolescent fanboys or enthusiasts of greased, half-naked men fighting each other. Forty minutes was all I could manage. 300 might just be the new Showgirls."

Funny he should mention the target audience; the anticipation in Libertas's comment section is keen indeed.

I love ancient history, but there is no way I am going to this movie. I just don't dig the comic-book superhero genre, period, even ones based on "history" or ones that are supposed to be good. Sat. night Mr. C watched Batman Begins. I saw about 30 minutes of it and oh god was I bored. I mean fall-asleep-face-first-in-the-snack-bowl bored. I completely agree with your Batman analysis. I have seen three of the movies for one reason or another and the only one that didn't make me want to bite through my own wrist was the one with Michelle Pfeiffer. She is some actress, she even made Catwoman interesting.


If the Right side of the bandwidth had been nearly as paranoid as the movie conspiracy theorists, they would have seen the planes coming.


"Oh gods, please let it die ignobly at the box office so we don't have to listen to any more of this."

Well, Gods and Generals died at the box office--and we still heard lots and lots about it from the right sides of the blogosphere and the punditocracy.

I'd go so far as to call 300 the Gods and Generals of 2007.


Gotta stick up for Frank Miller in regards to THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. Somewhat like Alan Moore and WATCHMEN, there's what Miller actually did and then there's how so many people missed much of the point of what he did. Of course, when you look at a lot of Miller's work post-DKR, it sometimes seems as if he forgot much of the point himself.



I actually bought 300 in the original serial form, and there was an interesting exchange on the letters page in issue #2. A correspondent took issue with Leonidas's throwaway line (which did nothing to advance the plot of the comic) that the Athenians were "boy-lovers". The critic commented that given the extent of man-on-man love in Sparta, it was a ridiculous and pointless line, and it was of a piece with Miller's homophobia in the Sin City comics.

Miller responded that the Spartans were often hypocritical about these sorts of things, and it could have been the sort of thing that Leonidas might have said (oh, and he took his usual condenscending tone in his response). The problem with that response, of course, is that no one reading 300 would ever come to the conclusion that Spartans ever engaged in homosexual intercourse. Miller was caught out, he knew it, and he bullshitted and blustered to save face.

I'm going to take a wild guess and say that there is no evidence in 300: The Movie that the Spartans ever engaged in hot man-on-man action (or owned slaves or were encouraged to kill them to survive in their coming of age survival tests). If I'm wrong ... oh, screw it. There's no way I'm wrong about this one.


"homoerotic hero-worship"

What's wrong with that?


Hey, if it's even remotely as good/bad as "Showgirls," I'm there. But from what I could ascertain watching the Previews of Coming Attractions, it looked like a dreadful amalgamation of "Conan the Barbarian," "Excalibur," "Lord of the Rings (the terrible animated version)" and the least interesting moments of "Sin City." We will see.


Batman since the Dark Knight returned has been a medium for late teenage and early twentysomething men whose own adolescences were arrested at the point they first took an honest look in the mirror and saw that they would never be the type who quarterbacks teams to Super Bowl victories and date cheerleaders, to see their self-pitying misanthropy acted out in not quite cathartic violence. “Take that world, for not appreciating me!”

Heaven forfend. Don't those geeks know their places in the great chain of being?


I'm kinda surprised we haven't heard from the smoking remains of Victor Davis Hanson re 300 yet...


Ah, but we have!

(via LGM & WhiskyFire)


Yeesh, I should have known. And just as incomprehensible as most of VDH's ramblings these days... There's a man who went insane on 9/11 and never recovered.

Kevin Wolf

I enjoyed Dark Knight way back when but haven't returned to it. My response to Miller's later work has been much more cool. Sin City at least has the black and white presentation which I think accentuates Miller's graphic style. I only just today saw a copy of 300 and I thought it looked pretty bad. (Just random notes from an ex-fanboy.)

The 300 movie does look dumb and the reviews are not encouraging. I'm in no hurry to see it - I may never see it.

Thanks for the interesting info and quotes from the original, Lance (and son).


Excellent piece Lance.

I predict this will die a quick death. Sure, it will rake in the dollars this weekend but it will end there.

sfmike -- In retrospect I think my reference to Showgirls was a bit unfair. Showgirls is positively Bressonian in comparison to this testosterone-fueled headache-inducing bit of rubbish.


"While we're on the subject, as you can probably guess, I'm not a fan of Frank Miller."

Your loss. I recommend you check out Frank Miller's artwork on Daredevil and Electra, and his graphic novel "Ronin." I just saw the "300" today, it was a superb film. Great visuals, great acting, amazing battle scenes, flowing like ballet - but with flying limbs and blood spurting. Screw all that political "is Bush Xerxes or Leonidas", it was a good action film. You can pardon the contemporary statements and the historical inaccuracies.

As Conan the Barbarian said: "Crom, I have never prayed to you before. I have no tongue for it. No one, not even you, will remember if we were good men or bad. Why we fought, or why we died. All that matters is that two stood against many. That's what's important! Valor pleases you, Crom... so grant me one request. Grant me revenge! And if you do not listen, then to HELL with you!"


I agree with J. People are overthinking it. It's a great action film. It manages to avoid being a permanent gorefest through occasional interludes. Even during the monologues it's never overtly political enough to be making a statement.


It's doing brilliantly at the box office.

What is the political significance of this outrage?

Not much.


$70 million. Sheesh.

I wonder if Herodotus (or his source, since Herodotus usually got these things right) maybe misunderstood Persian mortuary practices.


If you are looking for a Greek parallel for contemporary events, my money is on the Athenian invasion of Syracuse.


Oh, and I'm a fan of Frank Miller's, but the Battle of Thermopolye was one historical event that would benefit from a realistic film treatment. The actual story was so good, that (without having seen the film), I am skeptical of producing it as a stylized, comic-book film.

Ernest Tomlinson

Put me down as another detractor of Miller's. Yes, I thought "The Dark Knight Returns" was the best thing I'd ever read when I was eighteen. Now, fifteen years later, I look at it again and think it's aged really badly. Compared to the reality of urban crime his gangs of "Mutants" are laughable. The endless drone of Batman's internal monologue is, I suppose, in the American comic tradition, but Miller really overdoes it with Batman's constant "--I take a bullet to the head--I ignore it--" comments, which continue even when he's on the verge of death. (Ironical, too, that while Miller has Batman say contemptuously of Superman that "he never stops talking," it's actually Batman who never shuts the hell up.)

The supposed realism of Batman's vigilantism in opposition to comic-book invulnerability, praised by both DKR's legions of fans and by Alan Moore in the introduction--"all it takes is one bullet," Batman solemnly informs us, as he does again in the superior "Year One"--is just words. All it takes is one bullet but it's not true; thousands of cops from some of the dumbest policemen outside a Hitchcock movie aren't enough and nobody can hit Bats from even ten feet away. He gets his arm broken and the crap beaten out of him in one scene and then, in practically the next scene after which maybe a day has passed, he miraculously fights the same guy, broken arm at all, and chuckles to himself as he wins effortlessly. (In the fight we learn, by the way, that Batman has mastered Vulcan-style nerve-pinches. Convenient.)

And the book looks ugly, too. The penciller never could decide what Batman's face was supposed to look like. In one panel he's a wrinkled old man; in another he's smooth-faced and looking ten years younger. The colourist had some difficulty staying within the lines and there are some seriously messed-up panels with blobs of colour overlapping their outlines.

There's a lot more wrong with the book too much to go into. "Year One" was better because it was a concise story without suffering much from DKR's weird habit of shooting off on irrelevant tangents, particularly his Superman hatred (which took me years to shake off. There's something particularly adolescent about hating Superman.)


It really grind my gears when people who aren't comics fans swoop in and pronounce judgment on some genre work. In theory, they can provide some much-needed perspective, but usually it comes off as holier-than-thou crap. (And with a healthy dose of nerd-bashing in there as well. Boy, I bet those four-eyes deserved those wedgies, malformed specimens of stunted humanity that they are!) DKR served only to cause DC to churn out "grim-and-gritty" crap? Without the success of DKR (and, to be fair, Watchmen), would there have been a Vertigo? Would we have had Neil Gaiman's Sandman without it? Grant Morrison's Animal Man and Doom Patrol? Garth Ennis's Preacher? Warren Ellis's Transmetropolitan? The entire form of the fifty-to-seventy-issue epic came out of that era, and to claim that DKR's effects on comics were entirely negative is plain ignorant.

Also, Superman is a dick. There's nothing wrong with hating Superman, because he's a dick.

Ernest Tomlinson

Eh, grendelkhan there, I should show you a photo of one of my bookshelves. I've got enough graphic novels to keep me going for six months if I decided to start reading them and nothing else starting today. So don't tell me who's a comic fan or not.

...and to claim that DKR's effects on comics were entirely negative is plain ignorant.

I'm not sure what train of illogic got you to this statement from anything I said, which was solely criticism about DKR itself. I said nothing about influence. But I might as well, since you brought it up.

Saying that without X there'd be no Y is a mug's game, pure question-begging. I don't know if it would have turned out that way and neither do you. Maybe you're right about Sandman et al. But also if it weren't for DKR we wouldn't have had Knightfall perhaps, so it all kind of evens out. And it would have been nice if the mad Irishman Garth Ennis--talk about an adolescent sensibility--hadn't been elevated to a position where he could ruin Hellblazer. At least he's largely playing in his own sandbox now.

There's nothing wrong with hating Superman.

Whatever floats your boat, kid. I'll take (say) A Superman for all Seasons over anything that Frank "I'm the goddamn Batman!" Miller disgorges these days.


I was fooled by your stereotyping of people who read superhero comics--I didn't think fans who had presumably been on the receiving end of that crap would turn around and dish it back out.

I read "Batman since the Dark Knight returned has been etc. etc." as a statement about DKR's influence on superhero comics, not just on Batman. That's not what you wrote, and I skimmed there. My bad.

It's a bit curious that you would contrast Superman fandom with Frank Miller fandom, not Batman fandom. I got the same Superman-is-a-dick vibe from Superman: Red Son, which one could say draws on the Batman-kicking-Superman's-ass trope established in DKR and thus can't be considered separately... but that's a mug's game.

Ernest Tomlinson

It's a bit curious that you would contrast Superman fandom with Frank Miller fandom, not Batman fandom. I got the same Superman-is-a-dick vibe from Superman: Red Son, which one could say draws on the Batman-kicking-Superman's-ass trope established in DKR and thus can't be considered separately... but that's a mug's game.

You can imitate a turn of phrase! I am flattered, seeing as how imitation is the sincerest form of such. But imitation isn't quite within your grasp, since...

I read "Batman since the Dark Knight returned has been etc. etc.

...isn't to be found among anything I said in my original post either. Have you passed your verbal SAT yet? Let me know when you have, son.


grendelkhan, Without the success of DKR (and, to be fair, Watchmen), would there have been a Vertigo?

[geek mode on] I see Moore's take on The Swamp Thing which motivated DC to do without the CCA stamp as a far more important precursor of the Vertigo line... Super hero comics have always had their niche. Horror comics had to sneak back in. [geek mode off]

That said, I liked Miller's "Electra Assassin" (with Bill Sienkiewicz) for its amazing look and the fooling around with common superhero tropes in a snarky way. TDKR was less playful, but at least it did something new with a very old character. Just because something has been done to death by now doesn't diminish the original. No work of Miller's does the careful, systematic deconstruction of superheroics that "Watchmen" presents, but IMO Miller has always been going for a sarcastic over-the-top approach. Which was fine for a while, but OTT-ness is an escalating strategy. Every new thing needs to be more "out there" than the previous one, and at some point it stops being even vaguely interesting.

Ernest, agree with you on the bounced reality cheques, but (Ironical, too, that while Miller has Batman say contemptuously of Superman that "he never stops talking," it's actually Batman who never shuts the hell up.) doesn't make sense IMO -- just because someone is running a permanent internal monologue doesn't mean that they won't shut up. (In the Buffy episode "Earshot" it's laconic Oz whose inner monologue mimics the Energizer bunny.)


inge, on "Over The Top"-ness: Absolutely, which is why we had giant women made out of frozen meat as fetish objects by the seventh book of Preacher. There's only so geeky the geek show can get, you know?

Ernest: Well, I'll be. I responded to you as though you were the original poster, and that was wrong. 'Course, you responded to me as though I'd been writing to you (the comment directly above my first) and not the original post, so that kind of makes us even. I'll have to order some cheap snark if I'm going to match you there, though.


(Frank Miller on "The State of the Union". It's streaming, so if you wish to hear just click on the 30:40 mark. It just puts some context on the guy's work, in my view -- and some context on the movie)

But the thing is, at it seems to me now, Miller appears to see his own view as a lonely one against the unjustified enemy terrorist bully -- you know that view, where white men feel like minorities "because all the minorities are having it better and having more rights", feeling like they're taking and winning everything? That's what I get when reading the guy today, that sense of overall hostility, that sense I imagine a paranoid white militia guy has (one against many, few against millions, America against almost the entire word etc). That feeling you get when your hear the rhetoric from those Bill Donahue types, that secular jews, the liberal media and the world are controlling the world and lining up against the catholics etc. That sort of extremist right-wing persecution I get from Miller’s work, as being a few steps away from a fantasy-wish-tank. In Frank's interview, most people are either enemies or whiny pussies making it easy for the enemies – either case, they’re both enemies.

I do think Snyder might have made with a sneer behind it all, since many things in the very comic are so blatant that it appears to be intentionally “dumb” Colbert-style (and I like hearing that many are consciously appreciating the homoerotic undertones that the comic itself seems to deny; I was going nuts in thinking I was alone on it, believing it was intentional since first seeing the movie’s stills – only thing is, I fear most people actually see it as the ultimate straight-men macho “no faggot pussies allowed” wink, or “battle call” or a “call to arms and dicks” or whatever, instead of “Do you like gladiator movies, Jimmy?”) .

If this guy could quit comics to join a half-baked paranoid militia, he would. Even if "THEY WERE ONLY 300 AGAINST AN EXISTENTIAL FOE OF DOOM, PROTECTING THE HOME-FRONT".

If you hear this guy talking (his words and his voice) you can see those enemy freak-things are not so much a "exaggerated myth for story purposes" in his head (his words, "these people genetically modify their daughters, barbarians enemies who couldn't even invent this microphone I'm talking now").

What I love most about the interview above is how the interviewer is a bit freaked by this guy and lays it out "oh I see... and why do you think THOSE LIBERALS (actually YOU) are scared, out of touch and whiny?"

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