Based upon the trailer, the new movie 300 appears to glorify virtues like strength, courage, and determination. No wonder, then, that so many liberal reviewers are dismissing it.
The following excerpt, from a recent interview with Frank Miller (upon whose graphic novel the movie is based) on National Public Radio, seemed pretty telling. (I can’t find a way to link to it directly, but the transcript appeared in the comments, at Mar 9 12:58 pm, from a post by Dean Barnett about the movie.)
From the interview:
NPR: [â?¦] Frank, whatâ??s the state of the union?
FM: Well, I donâ??t really find myself worrying about the state of the union as I do the state of the home-front. It seems to me quite obvious that our country and the entire Western World is up against an existential foe that knows exactly what it wants â?¦ and weâ??re behaving like a collapsing empire. Mighty cultures are almost never conquered, they crumble from within. And frankly, I think that a lot of Americans are acting like spoiled brats because of everything that isnâ??t working out perfectly every time.
NPR: Um, and when you say we donâ??t know what we want, whatâ??s the cause of that do you think?
FM: Well, I think part of that is how weâ??re educated. Weâ??re constantly told all cultures are equal, and every belief system is as good as the next. And generally that America was to be known for its flaws rather than its virtues. When you think about what Americans accomplished, building these amazing cities, and all the good its done in the world, itâ??s kind of disheartening to hear so much hatred of America, not just from abroad, but internally.
NPR: A lot of people would say what America has done abroad has led to the doubts and even the hatred of its own citizens.
FM: Well, okay, then letâ??s finally talk about the enemy. For some reason, nobody seems to be talking about who weâ??re up against, and the sixth century barbarism that they actually represent. These people saw peopleâ??s heads off. They enslave women, they genitally mutilate their daughters, they do not behave by any cultural norms that are sensible to us. Iâ??m speaking into a microphone that never could have been a product of their culture, and Iâ??m living in a city where three thousand of my neighbors were killed by thieves of airplanes they never could have built.
NPR: As you look at people around you, though, why do you think theyâ??re so, as you would put it, self-absorbed, even whiny?
FM: Well, Iâ??d say itâ??s for the same reason the Athenians and Romans were. Weâ??ve got it a little good right now. Where I would fault President Bush the most, was that in the wake of 9/11, he motivated our military, but he didnâ??t call the nation into a state of war. He didnâ??t explain that this would take a communal effort against a common foe. So weâ??ve been kind of fighting a war on the side, and sitting off like a bunch of Romans complaining about it. Also, I think that George Bush has an uncanny knack of being someone people hate. I thought Clinton inspired more hatred than any President I had ever seen, but Iâ??ve never seen anything like Bush-hatred. Itâ??s completely mad.
NPR: And as you talk to people in the streets, the people you meet at work, socially, how do you explain this to them?
FM: Mainly in historical terms, mainly saying that the country that fought Okinawa and Iwo Jima is now spilling precious blood, but so little by comparison, itâ??s almost ridiculous. And the stakes are as high as they were then. Mostly I hear people say, â??Why did we attack Iraq?â?? for instance. Well, weâ??re taking on an idea. Nobody questions why after Pearl Harbor we attacked Nazi Germany. It was because we were taking on a form of global fascism, weâ??re doing the same thing now.
NPR: Well, they did declare war on us, butâ?¦
FM: Well, so did Iraq.
I read Steven Pressfield’s Gates of Fire last year and enjoyed it a lot. The Spartans are truly inspiring, and the movie 300 seems to be the latest example of their particular brand of inspiration.
At least, the trailer makes it appear that way.
UPDATE: Diana Hsieh writes that 300 was ultimately disappointing. And she’s got some good arguments about why.
UPDATE 2: On the other hand, the movie receives a glowing review from Aaron at Rebirth of Reason:
Most significantly, 300 presents heroes without doubt or apology. There are no anti-heroes to be found, none just going through the motions, no muddled or conflicted ‘heroes’ succumbing to this or that weakness or folly. The rhetoric of Leonidas and others inspire, touting reason, freedom, and deriding the mysticism not only of the East but of the Greek’s own gods and Oracle. Their confidence is unshaken, resolve unrelenting, and words matched by actions to the last stand. Not just imagery, not just presentation, but heroism and sense of life make this film awesome.