Doom and Doomer: 300 (part 1)

Welcome to another installment of Doom and Doomer, in which members of the Legion take a look at comics on the big screen. Tonight it’s Jim Doom, Doom DeLuise and Fin Fang Doom taking on 300, the movie adaptation of the Frank Miller / Lynn Varley graphic novel about the Battle of Thermopylae.

JIM DOOM: Well I’ve never read 300, so I can’t assess this movie as an adaptation. But as something that sought out to be a testosterone-fueled action and fighting movie, I thought it was awesome.
And as something attempting to bring the energy of comic book art to life, I thought it was amazing.

FIN FANG DOOM: 300 definitely succeeded as an action movie. The battle scenes were just great fun to watch. But I felt it was trying to be much, much more than just an action movie, and in that respect it didn’t live up.

JD: What did you feel it was trying to be?

FFD: Quite frankly, Lord of the Rings.

DOOM DELUISE: The movie to define a generation, as the commercials said?

JD: Hey, don’t fault a movie for what an overzealous PR firm said.

DD: I wouldn’t fault it for that. I’d fault it for a number of other reasons.

JD: Ok, please share.

DD: First off, let me say that I left the theater quite pleased. I was taken in by the action sequences, and I was thoroughly happy with what was a loud beat-em-up fluff movie.
But, after a few days, I was asked by a friend if I wanted to go see it again, and, frankly, I don’t care to ever see that movie again in my life.
There were no moments that made me genuinely connect with the characters on-screen, so it didn’t leave much of a lasting appeal.
Granted, the movie is an intense two hours of blood and shouting and slow-mo over-the-top action, but, beyond that, there’s nothing to it.
And the Queen is a whore!

FFD: Essentially the plot was an excuse to have cool fight scenes, and that’s almost never a good formula for a movie.

JD: I liked the contrast between the decisions characters had to make. The king, who is supposed to be the hero, really didn’t have a decision to make. His culture and his upbringing meant he had to go do what he did.
Meanwhile, the queen was actually having to make tough decisions she’d have to live with.

FFD: But the “meanwhile, back in Sparta…” held no relevance to the plot.

DD: A friend of mine told me that the whole business with the Queen screwballing around with that rapist wasn’t in the graphic novel.

JD: It did in that they weren’t to receive reinforcements. They could have been saved.

DD: Oh, but they weren’t supposed to be saved. The whole first part of the movie set it up so that the 300 knew they were marching to their deaths.

JD: Right, so if they would have won, would they have been disappointed? They were just fully accepting what they were taking on. This wasn’t like all those other battles they bragged about.

DD: Well, of course not, but they didn’t think they would win, and their intention was to die in battle and have reinforcements forced to come after the King’s been murdered.

JD: That wasn’t their intention. Their intention was to stop Xerxes.
I guess I’m in the minority in that, while I credit it for being a beautiful action movie, I thought it actually did pull together a good plot out of the actual history. And with that suicide mission fully established, I thought one of the best things about the movie was how – even though I knew how it ended – I was right there with them in thinking maybe they were going to pull it off. They managed to make a foregone conclusion suspenseful, which is a good feat.

DD: Their intention was to stand up to Xerxes, as free men. Not necessarily to stop him, I don’t think.

JD: I totally disagree. They wanted to stop him, they knew they didn’t have the support of the government, so they did what little they could do, hoping that would be enough to open the eyes of the rest of the country. Leonidas (sp?) said himself that if the Persians were stupid enough to kill him, then reinforcements were guaranteed, and to pray they’re that lucky.
And for a while, they had themselves believing they were actually going to win. Being at peace with their deaths is not the same thing as wanting to die.

DD: Of course they wanted to stop him, but their primary intention was merely to stand up to him. They didn’t have any delusions of grandeur, I don’t think.

JD: So what’s your criticism, then?

DD: My criticism is what I originally said. They didn’t need that subplot with the Queen trying to get reinforcements.

FFD: I read on Yahoo that subplot was added to “appeal to women.”

DD: And it did. My girlfriend loved it.

JD: I guess I don’t see how your idea that they wanted to stand up to Xerxes and not necessarily defeat him supports that, though. The whole point of standing up to him was to buy time for their country to rally the troops.

FFD: But hadn’t the council already decided to go against the wishes of the king when the 300 left Sparta?

JD: But wasn’t that because of the timing? It was some sort of feast of the gods?
Had the traitor politician rapist guy not fallen at the hands of the queen, the country would have sold out to Xerxes. So the royalty were fighting the battle on two fronts.
Let me try to understand what you guys think this movie is. You think that 300 guys just wanted to walk off to get killed with no desire for their actions to lead to anything?

DD: Their deaths would’ve led to the entire army of Greece attacking the Persians. I think that’s what they wanted.

FFD: I don’t think Leonidas had any hope that his wife would try to rally the troops at home.

JD: I guess I just don’t have as much of a problem as you guys with showing how much the odds were stacked against them by way of political corruption and cowardice.

FFD: But those odds being stacked against them were irrelevant to fighting the Persian army.

JD: And from a storytelling perspective, I also like that the “Meanwhile back in Sparta” moments allowed for some rising and falling in the action. All that fighting would have just lost its power with no pacing discipline.

FFD: They could have easily had rising and falling action without cutting back to an irrelevant sideplot.
And they did, many times.

DD: Here’s what I think the relevant “odds stacked against them” were: The Persians had an army bigger than any other in the land. The Spartans weren’t in support of the King and refused to send troops. At that point, the 300 marched, and any other political corruption or deception odds were unnecessary. Unnecessary and boring.

JD: Well, I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree, unless you want to keep going on this, because I still think 1) it wasn’t as irrelevant as you say, 2) it gave depth to more characters, 3) as far as having rising action without “irrelevant” subplots, it’s still all going to be at the battle.

FFD: It wasn’t a constant wave of fighting, though. They had time to build a wall and stack corpses.

JD: No kidding. so you’d rather watch them sitting and cooking a duck or something?

DD: Which is where it should’ve been. And, please, can you name me, like, three characters in the movie who had depth?

FFD: Can you name three characters in the movie, period?

JD: the queen, abe lincoln, and the bad guy.

FFD: exactly

JD: Sorry bucko, not really a point. you think because I don’t remember their greek names they’re somehow irrelevant?
I couldn’t remember your name for the longest time.

DD: The Queen was a whore, Abe Lincoln yelled a lot, and the bad guy was just a huge faggot. There’s not much more to them than that.
Correction, Abe Lincoln yelled a lot and rolled around in mud.

FFD: Wait, did I miss a scene?
JD: I don’t remember him rolling around. He snuck around to try to get the queen to the council. He risked his credibility within the council to try to bring an incorruptible voice.

DD: Wait, who are we talking about?

JD: the guy who looked like Abe Lincoln – who got the queen an audience before the council – who was betrayed by the corrupt guy.

DD: Oh, shit, I thought you were talking about the guy whose son died. The one who was all covered in mud for no reason.

FFD: He didn’t look anything like Abe Lincoln.

DD: He had a beard

FFD: they all had beards

JD: that’s another one. I really enjoyed the statement about how Spartans revel in their freedom and they’re willing to talk big about it, but when it comes down to it, they’re still as bound by their own rules, and a man sacrificed his own son because of their brand of “freedom.”

I don’t think just saying that characters had no depth means they didn’t. Sure, character depth in an action movie is different than character depth in other genres, but there were themes and character arcs here that were more significant than just fight punch and kick and no less relevant because I don’t know their names.

FFD: example?

JD: of what?

FFD: An example of a character arc.

JD: the queen goes from being a proud queen to a disgraced whore to being rendered powerless due to her gender and then redeeming herself through an act of passion.

FFD: Besides her.

DD: The King goes from yelling a lot to dying.

JD: the captain goes from being a tough-talking poster boy for Spartan pride, but then it’s the selfishness of pride that takes his son from him and breaks down what being a spartan was all about.
The hunchback buys into the Spartan nonsense, realizes that being a “free man” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and has its strings, gets all he wants by selling out, and then gets the ultimate insult from the king when he says he hopes he lives forever (or whatever)

FFD: None of the 300 had a character arc. Abe Lincoln didn’t have a character arc. The traitor guy didn’t have an arc. They all ended the movie exactly as they began.

JD: ending where you begin doesn’t mean nothing was in the middle.

FFD: But in this case, there was nothing in the middle. The captain got sad when he son died. Who wouldn’t? He didn’t take his sone to battle because he was proud, but because he was a good warrior.

DD: I would say that the Captain did have a middle.

JD: the captain didn’t just get sad. he changed. he started to see the nonsense of the Spartan myth.

FFD: I guess I didn’t get that from him.

JD: And you need to decide what your point is. did nobody have a character arc? or are you going to pick and choose people who didn’t and damn the movie as a result? There were a lot of characters. it’s the nature of a movie that some characters are just supporting.

DD: I don’t think any of us are “damning the movie.” I know I’m not.

FFD: No, not at all. It just wasn’t great.

JD: I think Fin Fang is using the argument that there was no character development as a pretty crippling blow, is he not?

FFD: You brought upcharcater development, not me.

DD: No, I brought it up.
As far as characters go, I just didn’t think that there were very many to latch onto, to identify with, to relate to.

FFD: Exactly.

DD: When the King died, I didn’t feel much of anything.

JD: So was character development not any kind of factor in your enjoyment of the movie?

FFD: No, I was there to watch cool fight scenes.

DD: Of course it was. If there had been better, stronger character development, I would’ve probably liked the movie a great deal more. As a result, I just think it’s kind of shallow.

JD: So your feeling that the movie “wasn’t great” has nothing to do with the characters? It’s all based on the fight scenes?

FFD: No, it’s that the storyline used to tie together the cool fight scenes was subpar.
That’s probably the same reason I disliked the graphic novel.

Come back tomorrow for part 2 of our discussion on 300