“FREEDOM!!”, shouts Gerard Butler in the role of King Leonidas in Zack Snyder’s evocation of ‘300‘, Frank Miller’s realization of the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. But then as now, the question becomes one of whose freedom and the terms thereof.
It’s no secret that the democracies of ancient Greece were highly restrictive. ‘Democracy’ as an idea was limited to wealthy landholders and nobles â€“ typically if you weren’t wealthy you weren’t free, but more likely you were somebody’s servant or sharecropper.
Since ’300′ was released, many critics have tried to determine what the analogy of the tale is, considering we, the United States, are currently engaged in a protracted contest with more than one Middle Eastern foe. Certainly, many people argue, that ’300′s invasion of Sparta by the Persian Sultan Xerxes is roughly analogous to the American misadventure in Iraq and Afghanistan. And anyone who would put forth such an argument is certainly a fool.
Of course, on the surface of things, this might make sense East vs. West in a marvelous contest of military derring-do â€“ but of course in the present circumstance, it is the West and the United States that has invaded Persia and not the other way around. So, already the easy analogies have already fallen flat, for those trying to draw some grand historical lesson from big, pulpy historical entertainments. The PNAC’s activity in Iraq and Afghanistan is not, not has it ever been Leonides’ war against Persia.
Leonidas’ conditional freedom can hardly be referred to as Democracy, since there were so few people who were able to cast votes in Greece considering voting was for the landed gentry and back then, not even Spartan soldiers were permitted to own property. Therefore, Leonidas’ evocation of ‘Freedom’ suddenly becomes suspicious – what freedoms is Leonidas asking his soldiers to defend and to what gain as their culture was ultimately a hapless testosterone-worshipping folly that ultimately fell because they were too proud, too exclusive and too stubborn to create a sustainable society. Yet two and a half millennia later America is trying in vain to wrest some constructive lesson from the 300 Thermopylae martyrs.
That said, ’300′ is a thoroughly enjoyable piece of entertainment. Mr. Snyder has done an admirable job of bringing Miller’s pages to life, doing as throrough an adaptation as Miller’s other comic-to-film adaptation, ‘Sin City’. But again, a treastise on Mr. Miller’s well-known right-wing polemic it definitely is not. See it, but see it for the visuals, for the constantly moving backgrounds, the rich visual textures and the soaring violent choreography, as rich as any Hong Kong actioner.
All in all, I suppose this bodes well for ‘R’-rated comic-book movies and Snyder’s next project, Alan Moore’s ‘Watchmen‘.