Sunday, August 16, 2009

Spartans v. Trojans

Naturally, after watching Watchmen we wanted to see 300. Same director (Zach Snyder), different comic artist but same techniques, digital video and CGI adapting a comic's graphic style. In this case, Frank Miller's story of the Spartan defense against the Persians at Thermopylae.

The look is very similar to Watchmen - dark, gloomy, and sprinkled or drenched with stylized blood. The stories are completely different, though. Watchmen is a subversive deconstruction of heroism, vigilantism and violence. 300 more or less just glorifies it.

Furthermore, it takes ridiculous liberties with history to do this. Sparta is a land of liberty, not slaves (except for their slaves...). They aren't boylovers like the Athenians - Men only love adult men in Sparta, then?

And their enemies, the Persians? All sexual deviates and monsters, and mostly black Africans, as well. Now, you can consider the movie to be all a story told by the Spartans to whip up some Greek war fever. But is it necessary to make the Persians into negroes for propaganda purposes?

So, plenty of offensive and ridiculous material here, but the look is great. The trademark trick is to stop-action to show a comic-panel-like tableau, then back to normal speed, stopping for another panel. It looks great.

It was so much fun that I wanted to stay with the sand-and-sandals genre, so I queued up Troy. This kind of bombed in 2004, even with Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom, Sean Bean, Erica Bana, et al. Still, I had seen it on a plane and kind of liked it. So I watched it again, and, yes, I find it to be good.

It's a nice contrast to 300. It is light, rather than dark - scenes shot in full sun on a golden sandy beach. This is the Greece that tourists experience, I bet (never been there). Where 300 is fantastic, Troy is realistic. There are no gods, no monsters, just men with ambitions, strengths and weaknesses.

I'm not sure why Troy didn't do so well at the box office. It might have had something to do with all of the scenes where one character whispers a sententious monologue to another. In 300, this was replaced by shouted slogans, which plays better, I think.

Still, I prefer the sunny, blonde-filled Greece (technically Anatolia) of Troy. And my favorite digital video comic adaptation is The Spirit. Root for the underdog.

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