Tuesday, March 13, 2007

300: 2007's 1st Blockbuster, and Iran cries fowl

ABC News:

'300' Becomes 2007's 1st Blockbuster
'300' Earns $70 Million in Debut to Win Weekend Box Office, Become 2007's 1st Blockbuster

LOS ANGELES Mar 11, 2007 (AP)— The ancient battle of Thermopylae was the stuff of 2007's first certified blockbuster as the bloody action tale "300" debuted with ticket sales of $70 million over its opening weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday.

That's about $233,000 for every one of the legendary 300 Spartan soldiers who fought off a much larger Persian force in the epic battle.

The number of movie-goers for the Warner Bros. epic "300" outnumbered crowds for the rest of the top-10 movies combined.

Along with many domestic movie critics, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's art advisor criticized the film. Isn't that reason enough to go see it ten times?

Strongly condemns, I should say. Albeit not as strongly as certain hysterical
left-wing American film critics

The news network Khabar organised a special programme in which the film was evaluated from several angles by film critics who argued that the film’s alleged efforts to expose Persians as violent was a US political plot implemented through Hollywood and the Warner Bros. company.

Steve Daly on ew.com has great coverage about the movie's controversy. Summing it up for critics like A.O. Scott of the New York Times, and Dana Stevens of Slate, who have tried in vain to paint the movie as either a race-baiting epic, or vindication of the President's current war, Daly first points out what should have been obvious to critics:

In all likelihood, Spartan warriors didn't actually do battle in nothing but clingy leather underwear and red capes. They wore body armor and loose drawers like kilts. But here on the Montreal set of 300 — a retelling of the Alamo-style last stand that a Spartan army elite took against a Persian army 250,000 strong — history is not the guiding force. It's what looks cool.

The filmmakers themselves have been saying that for months. The stylized film is not intended to be a History Channel documentary about Thermopylae (although, incidentally, if anyone watched it last week, the program on Thermopylae looked suspiciously similar to Synder's movie). It's what looks cool. And...

''That's the way Frank drew it,'' says director Zack Snyder. He's referring to Frank Miller, a cult-star comic-book creator best known for Sin City and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Snyder, a buff, energetic 40-year-old who got his start in commercials and scored with 2004's Dawn of the Dead remake, debated tinkering with Miller's concept of Spartan attire, circa 480 B.C., but went with the nearly naked look.

How many times must the creators, producers and fans yell that it is a faithful adaptation of Frank Miller's 1998 comic book?

"It's what looks cool" also included violent and entertaining...

Snyder's plan was to make a kickass, hard-R-rated action movie that felt like anything but a period piece. It would be shot almost entirely on bluescreen soundstages with computer-generated backgrounds added later. CG would also be used to create geysers of spurting blood worthy of Jackson Pollock, the better to control the precise level of the gore if the MPAA's ratings board found it all too much. The battle scenes would be filled not with conventional swordfights but with post-Matrixslow-to-fast-motion mayhem, heavy on impalements and decapitations. In short, it would be what Snyder's wife and producing partner, Deborah Snyder, describes as ''a ballet of death.''

Many critics bemoaned the alleged "racist" overtones. What of the feminist overtones?

''We got, like, a 100 percent recommend from women under 25,'' says the director. ''They don't even get that kind of score on a romantic comedy.'' Why did women respond? In Miller's original graphic novel, Leonidas' wife, Queen Gorgo, appears only in passing. In the movie, Queen Gorgo (Brit Lena Headey) is a front-and-center partner to Leonidas, calming his nerves in bed (while both are very, very naked) and getting her own new subplot about political corruption as Leonidas marches off to war.

"Freedom is now a dirty word"

The studio had banked on how well sword-and-sandal movies play abroad, but when 300 was unveiled at the Berlin Film Festival in February, the filmmakers got some hostile reactions from journalists. ''I was getting bombarded with political questions,'' says Snyder. Some Europeans saw Leonidas' lone-wolf march against the Persians as an allegorical defense of President Bush's incursion into Iraq. ''When someone in a movie says, 'We're going to fight for freedom,' that's now a dirty word,'' says Snyder. ''Europeans totally feel that way. If you mention democracy or freedom, you're an imperialist or a fascist. That's crazy to me.''

Some critics took the political metaphor way too far.

To be, or not to be... homoerotic.

The movie, true to Miller's vision, is also loaded with sweaty hunks running around in those tight leather Speedos and capes. None of this is played for gay appeal, but could induce snickering among some teens. Snyder shrugs it off. ''Some people have said to me, 'Your movie is homoerotic,' and some have said, 'Your movie's homophobic.' In my mind, the movie is neither. But I don't have a problem with people interpreting it the way they'd like to.'' As long as they buy tickets first.

At the end of the day... money talks and bull$hit walks.

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