Sunday, March 11, 2007


On February 1, 2007, I announced that Stephen Hunter's excellent first-offering in his "Bob the Nailer" series would be available on March 16, 2007.

In that article, I offered a note that "300", a movie based on Frank Miller's Graphic Novel, would be appearing in theaters on March 9.

Today I went to see the movie. It was indeed "Graphic", as well as "novel".

I admit, I've never read a "Graphic Novel", but I read a lot of comic books as a child (until my tastes matured to the point where I learned to appreciate that much of the appeal of written fiction lies in the much richer imagery we create in our own minds as we read actual books.)

Still, I must also admit that I have a great affection for movies based on comic book characters, many of those movie titles having some variation of the word 'man' in the title.

eg: Superman, Spiderman, Batman.

Not to mention the Wonder Woman TV series. Yum Yum.

I also very much enjoyed "Dick Tracy", "Blade" and whatever that Ben Afleck movie was where he portrayed a blind super-hero with a skin-tight costume. ("Daredevil", also a later Frank Miller treatment.) Not that I was attracted by the skin-tight costume, it's just that I had been conditioned by years of comic book reading to equate skin-tight costumes with super powers. ("Catwoman", with Halle Berry, affirmed the rightness of this prediliction.) Daredevil later spawned another movie about his nemisis, Electra.

I sure wish someone would make a movie about Mighty Mouse, and The Blackhawks.

All of this is misdirection, of course. None of these (essentially cheerful and update) 'graphic' publications would have prepared me for The 300.

Richard Egan stared in the 1962 effort to present the story of The 300 Spartans, but it was a pallid affair at best. Bloodlest and without fury, it completely failed to depict the confusion and horror of war at any level, especially war waged at arm's length with spear, sword and shield. There were not even any carrion birds in the hygienic scenes of the battlefield.

This is NOT a misdirection: in at least one reference, Frank Miller is said to have viewed this movie and to have been inspired by it.

The reference is vague, and I can only assume that he was inspired by the story, if not the treatment.

The 300 is overly populated by bizarre characters and monsters, but it does prominently feature one factor which is not present in the 1962 version: dirt.

Do you remember the original Star Wars movie? I do. The thing which impressed me the most is when the rebel alliance were preparing their fighters and we saw them as dirty, worn, aged and imperfect machinery.

That's what The 300 managed, what '300 Spartans' failed to do: show the reality of war in its back-stage manifestation of warriors who cannot go to war without ... getting dirty.

This was parlayed against the inevitable necessity to make every scene look as if was drawn from the guts of a "graphic novel" ... or comic book, if you will. Every shot was perfect, which is inevitable in a movie created with such slavish dependence on CGI (Computer Generated Imagery).

In the "Production Notes" on the movie website, you can read background material which described the genesis of the movie.

Personally, I've read it and it seems palid in comparison to the end result.

I understand that star Gerard Butler, who played King Leonidas, has a certain following among the ladies (one lady at my place of employment said she took her 17 year-old daughter to the movie just to see "The Greek With A Scots Accent" because they liked him. I didn't recognize him as the guy who played Beowulf in the 2006 "Beowulf and Grendel", but I was very impressed by both that movie and the actor. Who knew he was a sex symbol? And how did I forget to blog about that movie?)

Never mind if you recently saw the PBS special on The Battle of Thermopylae, you must go see this movie. It earned seventy MILLION dollars in box-office returns the opening weekend, which makes it one of the biggest earners in recent history.

There must be a reason for this.

And it must be the "my friend told me I MUST SEE this movie" factor. It hasn't been especially well publicized, if you haven't visited the Internet website or read the Graphic Novel.

SWMBO and I went to see the movie Sunday afternoon. It was showing at one of the two theaters in Corvallis, with 3:40 and 3:50 show times. I said: "We'll show up at 3:30, and buy tickets for the 3:50 showing because the 3:40 will be packed and we want to find the good seats." She said "The battle of Thermopylae? In Corvallis? You must be kidding." I said "It's a college town. Trust me, it will be a sell-out."

It was a sellout, and for good reason.

After the movie, SWMBO asked me if I don't get tired of being right; but it was a no-brainer if you think about it. College students are all wanna be geeks and if I wanted to see it ... every (other) kid in town wanted to see it. And they did.

When was the last time you heard cheering in the theater? I'm old and grumpy, so I didn't join in. But I felt like saying "Yeah!"

You'll read many much more interesting revues of this movie, but it won't be from the MSM or The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. It'll be from the folks who sank a lot of money into producing a movie that resonates in the hearts of those who truly believe that accountants and moralists never won a war.

War is an immoral way to preserve freedom. It's also the only way to preserve freedom.

Besides, it was HOT!

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