The Worst Film of 2007 -- I Hope

In one of those deathless epigrams that he is so good at offering, Jean-Luc Godard once said, "When a masterpiece has a commercial success it is based on a misunderstanding." But what does it mean when a truly awful, deeply stupid and hateful film is a commercial success?

That was the first question that crossed by mind as the credits began to roll on 300, which I had the misfortune to see earlier today. The film opened with a March-record $70 million week and has remained a steady earner. I don't want to think about what this means.

As you undoubtedly know by now, 300 is the live-action version of Frank Miller's glorified Classics Illustrated graphic novel about the Battle of Thermopylae. As filmed by Zack Snyder, the film is a shrill, noisy and cluttered epic filled with some of the worst acting since the glory days of Steve Reeves. If only Snyder were as inventive as Vittorio Cottafavi, the hilarious posturing of Gerard Butler (he of the shifting UK accent that surely covers all the counties of the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England and the Isle of Man), Lena Headey and Dominic West and a cast of dozens. The screenplay is graced with an utterly redundant and thoroughly unnecessary voice-over narration. The dialogue is straight from the Hollywood school of Ancient Greek bon mots. The direction is finicky and foolish. Snyder repeatedly disrupts the flow his action sequences to freeze-frame specific images in what I can only assume is a ham-handed homage to Miller, and the decision to shoot the entire thing in various sepia and blue tones renders it all the more two-dimensional. As a piece of filmmaking, it's a collection of the sort of half-bright ideas that minor talents frequently latch onto and worry like a dog with a favorite squeeze-toy.

Fine. Another crapola action film designed to appeal to dull subnormal teenage boys. Put it on the shelf next to Robert Rodriguez's entire output, particularly Sin City.

Except that this tedious bilge is also shot through with the ideology that has distinguished the White House's most repellent propaganda efforts, with all the Persian bad guys being people of color (or cartoons of color), lesbians, depraved syphilitic products of inbreeding ad androgynous folks with multiple body-piercings. And the rhetoric of the Spartans speaks most explicitly of a clash of civilizations between the forces of "freedom" and the hordes of Asia, enslaved and led by Persia, i.e., Iran. Of course, "free" Sparta is a nation where women exist solely as breeding stock, even the queen, and where the tolerance of dissent allows the evil Theron (Dominic West desperately looking for the Baltimore PD to rescue him) to subvert the national weal. Spartan men exist mainly to be warriors, the weak are thrown into a crevasse to die.

The end result is what a Nazi propaganda film would look like if it had been drawn by Tom of Finland. Except that Tom had a sense of humor, which this film most definitely lacks. 300 is the last gasp of the morally and strategically bankrupt ideology of the Bush neocons, a repellent and cretinous film. God help me if I have to watch anything worse the rest of this year.


Steven said…
I have not seen it and will probably miss it. Miller's graphic novel was published before Junior Bush's Iraqui misadventure. The color stylization comes from Miller's original. There is differently stereotyping of the Persians, but as a Jew who knows that the persian Empire was good for the Jews and civilization in the whole and sparta was a police state and incredibly misogynist, there was a wierd paradox in the graphic novel. Bush's ideology acts as the glue in the film to fit the contradiction together. So, the Bushies are using Sparta as their image of freedom. Oy Vey.
Steve Elworth