A tale of two movies

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,’ 300_1 ‘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.

7 thoughts on “A tale of two movies

  1. Many didn’t understand that this is a complete exaggeration of Greek mythology. Most Greek myths (actually, all Greek myths) are a humungous stretch of the imagination. There were mythical creatures, warriors who could do things no one else could, and over-the-top action…This is equivocal to what is shown in the film.
    The fighting scenes were ridiculous–in a most certainly favorable way. Battles were depicted as this outlandish in Greek mythology, so it wasn’t uncommon to see people get decapitated, moments of great luck (the storms washing out a fraction of the army) and “monsters” appearing (I use that term loosely, as most of the “monsters” were actual animals that were bigger than their modern selves).
    If people were actually expecting a physical representation of the battle at Thermopylae, then they’ll be sorely mistaken (and should berate themselves. This is not a documentary and obviously has some supernatural elements: they should know better). What was given was a good amount of plot and a great depiction of battle sequences, which are what was mainly advertised anyway, so people know what they’re getting.
    Enjoy it for what it is people: a myth told in the fashion that most Greeks would have done (and do in Greek mythology) to try and boost morale in particular regions or fascinate others. It worked for me.

  2. Dear Mr.Cody,
    I didn’t checkout the film credit but previews and offical websites of the film tell you it is based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel. That means when I walked in to see the film I knew it was not an actual depiction of the real battle. Furthermore if you look up Gates of Fire that book is also a book based on fiction mixed in with some real history. In the end what does that matter as the film was marketed in such a way that anyone with that read up on the movie knew to expect a film that was not based on actual events but rather a graphic novel that has some of its roots to the central idea of 300 Spartans fighting a bigger army.
    “the director does try to intersperse historical facts every now and then”–Steve Cody
    Please elaborate on this.

  3. Beth and Nasty Andy: check the film credits. They say the movie was based upon the book, “Gates of Hell,” which I happened to read. It was an historical novel based upon an actual event at the Battle of Thermopolae. If you actually go to see the movie, the director does try to intersperse historical facts every now and then. That’s what makes the over-the-top animation such a joke.

  4. repman- looks like you might want to reconsider this post. you are taking more enemy fire than the soldiers in black hawk down- another great documentary, err, i mean MOVIE

  5. I’m not sure what reviews you’re reading, Rep, but the ones I’ve seen laud the film for it’s fantastic imagery and liken it to a comic book or video game — certainly not making any allusions whatsoever about it being even remotely historically accurate. This film is not intended to be an accurate retelling of an historical event, but rather another live action comic book, similar to Miller’s Sin City. The reviews, though mixed as to positive and negative, mostly reflect that. You just can’t assume that the blurbs from the movie’s advertisements, which have mostly been pulled out of context, are the overwhelming consensus of reviewers.

  6. Dear Mr.Steve Cody,
    In no way shape or form did this movie try to be anything close to an accurate description of history. The film is based on a graphic novel by Frank Miller. If you were to read the comic you would understand that the director has done a great job making the adaptation on to film. Its not meant to be a serious type of film as the one you compared it to. Its meant to be a bit of history mixed in with fantasy.