Tuesday, March 20, 2007
views and reviews on 300
Wolf and I have both seen 300 and have been knocked out by such a great piece of film making. However, I have been gathering my thoughts on the film, and yet have been reluctant to comment on it; especially with so much back forth going on out in the ether. From television, to radio and newspapers, and especially on the web- it seems everyone has something to say about the film. In such cases, I often hesitate to add something, just because I feel someone out there has said it better than I could have.
That being said I do want to add a couple of words- and direct you to a couple of excellent articles which I believe really tackle and discuss the merits of the film, and in a way discuss why it is being accepted by audiences and rejected by critics and cultural elitists. (and yes, sometimes they are one and the same, but I make the distinction here to include the non-critic talking heads that pop up on TV). This is sort of a roundup on the views and reviews I've seen on 300 that I believe really "get it".
Christian Johnson over at Cinerati, has written two of the best articles on the whys and why nots 300 has been recieved or rejected, and understanding it in terms of both it's origin from the greek ideals and the graphic novel storytelling aspect . They are worth reading. An excerpt:
"One of the classical virtues is that of thumos a kind of spritedness which combines patriotism and courage. It is the virtue that is central to the Spartan society. In fact, Spartan society might be said to value thumos over almost any other part of virtue as we understand it. Spiritedness is a powerful force in people, we like to take pride in our society and we value those who fight to defend it. That is thumos in a nutshell and that is what 300 is about. The film doesn't spend time showing us the ways that Sparta was unjust, and they were in many ways, because then the film -- and comic -- would be about Sparta. This film isn't about Sparta, it is about thumos."
Read the whole article here and a previous excellent article here.
Then the gang over at Libertas have offered a review and several articles that you can read: here, here, and here.
Of course, Victor Davis Hanson offered some excellent thoughs on history and 300 here and here. An excerpt:
Many of the most famous lines in the film come directly either from Herodotus or Plutarch's Moralia, and they capture well, in the historical sense, the collective Spartan martial ethic, honor, glory, and ancestor reverence (I say that as an admirer of democratic Thebes and its destruction of Sparta's system of Messenian helotage in 369 BC). Why—beside the blood-spattering violence and often one-dimensional characterizations—will some critics not like this, despite the above caveats?
Ultimately the film takes a moral stance, Herodotean in nature: there is a difference, an unapologetic difference between free citizens who fight for eleutheria and imperial subjects who give obeisance. We are not left with the usual postmodern quandary 'who are the good guys' in a battle in which the lust for violence plagues both sides. In the end, the defending Spartans are better, not perfect, just better than the invading Persians, and that proves good enough in the end. And to suggest that ambiguously these days has perhaps become a revolutionary thing in itself.
I would only add my following comment to the above: The cultural elitists own worldview tends to make them look askew at one of the most artistic films I have seen in recent memory. There is no coincidence that academia has seen a decline in the offering of classical liberal arts education and degrees. As one professor once told me, "It's called ancient for a reason. Their ideas are dusty- we are more interested in the modern and post modern. The hold more for us." Undoubtabley so. The post modern holds so many tiny nooks and crannies within which one can claim expertise and obscure wisdom , and yet at the same time pass judgement and claim moral relativistism. Ancient and classical history and literature is so often disdained in academia that now it has started to go full circle, and there is an effort to bring it back, much to the chagrin of some history professors who look at political and military history in general as passe and dangerous.
IF you think I'm just flapping my gums about the vapid, self-absorbed post modernists, then read Dr. Sanity's excellent article here on why the post-modernists (in a nutshell, cultural elitists) are in an uproar about this film. An excerpt:
Once upon a time intellectuals who sought to understand the modern world looked to the giants of intellectual thought from humanity's past. In the wisdom of their writings we would be able to find the words and meanings relevant to analyzing the events of today. But now, it is as if history has been turned upside down. We no longer look to the past to understand ourselves and our journey--instead we use our present feelings and our modern understandings and prejudices to reinterpret and deconstruct the past.
...That this rather perversely condescending and ultimately nihilistic tendency is a direct result of the essential narcissism of our times there is no doubt. Only a narcissist of the most pathological sort could or would haughtily dismiss Plato or Aristotle as merely primitive Greeks; or reject the writings of a Thomas Jefferson or John Adams because they were white male slaveholders. Only a self-absorbed postmodernist who believes he has all the answers to not only current problems, but that his superior and perfect intellect has nothing to gain by considering the admittedly imperfect thinkers and ideas of the past.
Read the whole article.
If you haven't seen 300, I would recommend it. But be warned, you may just come out of the film wanting the bad guys to lose and the good guys to win. And the cultural elitists can't have that.
A new age has come, an age of freedom. And all will know that 300 Spartans gave their last breath to defend it.