Chris ‘Repman Jr’ Cody and I recently viewed two movies based upon historical battles.
The first, ‘Letters from Iwo Jima,’ was outstanding (if a little slow in parts), and portrayed the heroic and, at times, downright moving Japanese defense of the Island of Iwo Jima near the end of World War II. It was not only fascinating to view a war classic told from an ‘enemy’s’ point-of-view, but equally poignant to see what factors motivated the average Japanese soldier to, in most cases, choose suicide over capture.
The second movie, ‘300,’ has received quite a bit of fanfare and been described in reviews as ‘epic,’ ‘breathtaking’ and as ‘…taking the classic war movie to the next level.’ I couldn’t disagree more. The flick, which depicts the heroic defense of Greece by Spartan warriors some 400 years BC, is a real joke.
Director Zack Snyder’s use of computer animation runs amuck, especially in his portrayal of the Persian enemies. In addition to depicting the Persians as grotesque, distorted half-men, the director also equips the invaders with everything from hard-charging, fire-breathing rhinos to six-story tall elephants on steroids. And the Persian leader, Xerxes, looks like he’s just partied all night at some bizarre, transgender nightclub.
Snyder’s Spartan warriors are incredibly rugged, handsome and sculpted with six-pack abs to die for. Each of their women have bodies that could have easily graced the covers of ‘Sparta Today’ or ‘Cosmo Sparta Girl.’ And neither wear much, if any, clothing. In fact, the film ends up being little more than a cross between soft core porn and sci-fi.
Rep, Jr. found the film ‘entertaining.’ I saw it as dark and disturbing.
Why do Hollywood filmmakers play around with the truth? It began with D.W. Griffith’s portrayal of a noble Ku Klux Klan in Birth of a Nation,’ continued with Oliver Stone’s ‘JFK‘ and now reaches truly absurd depths with Snyder’s ‘300’. Will children (and less-astute adults) viewing the movie really believe the battle was fought as shown and with such bizarre half-men, nonsensical beasts and pretty boy leaders involved?
So, who should burden the responsibility for passing along ersatz, fictionalized drama as actual history?
Escapist movies are terrific and directors like Griffith, Stone and Snyder will always be around to distort facts. In my opinion, film reviewers have to dispense with superlatives and hyperbole and exhibit more journalistic integrity. Calling ‘300’ an epic war movie only tarnishes Hollywood’s already sketchy image and reputation.