07 April 2007

300 and Hollywood's entertaining lies

JUST finished my second serving of the controversial 300, which turns out to be the film version of Frank Miller's graphic novel of the same title, which, in turn, is loosely based on the heroic stand of Spartan King Leonidas and his band of 300 warriors -- aided by more than 7,000 contingents from other Greek city-states -- against the invading Persian hordes of Xerxes.

The whole ruckus, abetted by the understandable outrage expressed by Iranians (who descended from the Persian empire of old) on how Zach Snyder's movie demonizes them and their heritage, stems from a misconception that 300 will do justice to history, the way its 1962 version, The 300 Spartans, at least tried to do. I had that expectation when I looked forward to this modern retelling, having seen that old movie many years back when Betamax was still king.

Of course, if you didn't know Frank Miller at all, it is very easy to fall into this trap. But after seeing 300 and Sin City, that black-and-white Bruce Willis and Jessica Alba et al-starrer, you will understand where Miller and Snyder is coming from. What they have done represents the convergence of good old moviemaking and videogaming, creating a world of make-believe that puts very little value on historical truths in the name of entertainment.

Check out this review from Rolling Stones, especially the 33 comments that came after, and you will see this point. Many of those who commented, and were rated useful by viewers, emphasized the computer-generated slam-bang action and their pure entertainment value, advising the few who raised valid points about historicity to see History channel instead. Why, even a Cambridge professor on Greek history who wrote a book on the Battle of Thermopylae, enjoyed 300, its spotty factual content notwithstanding. Never mind if the movie is actually one big Western propaganda that evokes the memories of Leni Riefenstahl.

While looking for Filipino movie reviews, I also chanced upon Tutubi's comment on Wyzemoro's entry on 300, leading me to his expanded take on the similarity between Leonidas and his band's heroism and that of Gen. Gregorio del Pilar on Tirad Pass. It was an important point that needs emphasizing and exploring, especially if you see it in the light of this entry by Torn and Frayed that questions, by way of the late National Artist Nick Joaquin, our common knowledge about the Filipino boy general's defense of Pasong Tirad.

I did not realize that Hollywood came up with its own take on Goyo's martyrdom, but it seems a movie was made based largely on a Chicago Tribune reporter's account of that event. But then again, it appears another instance of Hollywood's endless stream of entertaining lies that should always be taken with a grain of salt. Like the plausibility of Iran's two-week capture of 15 British sailors as a way of getting back at the English accent that dominates the movie currently demonizing them, which the world apparently loves.


mschumey07 said...


Happy Easter!

Cyberpunk said...

hmm "demonizes" is such a strong word...

honestly, i think they're overreacting...of course, in everything, there will always be heroes and villains...besides, i found the persians in 300 to be cool, i loved their costumes, loved xerxes...probably we non-history fanatics have more respect for persians than before...

tutubi said...

i was looking for something in Google about people linking to me when i drifted here

that 300 movie actually has too many blown-out-of-proportions if not total lies

ephialtes is not a hunchback
xerxes is not that tall

and tales about the persians, written by the greeks, should also be scrutinized since it's only one-sided.

nothing much about the empire survived including its books after being destroyed by Alexander the great (when in a drunken fit of rage ordered the city burned to the ground depicted in Alexander the movie)

oh well, it's just hollywood

Willy B. Prilles, Jr. said...

Thanks for visiting, Tutubi. One of the reasons behind the post is precisely what you pointed out.

I just found it difficult to reconcile the just Persian emperor Assuerus, who treated the Israelite Esther and his uncle Mordecai kindly, with Xerxes as depicted in '300'.