Blood on the screen and in print

The gory, CGI-heavy ‘300’ gets panned by critics and much love from the masses

Michael Garberich

!”300″ has been in theaters for three weeks, so I trust that you have either already seen the film or have at least decided whether you will. In a world of file-sharing and blogospheres, what is the whittled-down function of reviews these days if not to check whether “credible” persons share or reject your firmly held and equally credible opinion?

DIRECTED BY: Zack Snyder
STARRING: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Rodrigo Santoro
PLAYING AT: Area Theaters

Rest assured, no degree of egotism – and that of the critic is the worst – will persuade me that my currently endorsed perspective can sway you significantly or, dare I say, change your stance.

So let’s adjourn and appeal to those judgments already cast.

They are many opinions and the line that divides them is nearly as defined as the thousands of hi-resolution CGI details that sculpt every inflated pectoral and rippling abdomen of the Spartan soldiers in “300.”

But quickly, in all fairness, a bit of synopsizing is in order. Should you know it, don’t hesitate to jump ahead a few paragraphs.

The film is adapted from Frank Miller’s (“Sin City”) graphic novel “300,” itself based on the historic fifth century B.C. Battle of Thermopylae in which Spartan king Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and 300 Spartans defended Sparta against the Persian king Xerxes I (Rodrigo Santoro) and his army numbering more than a million.

There are enough blood-splattering spear impalements, scenes of gratuitous female nudity and exotic, facial-pierced Persians throughout to nullify any attempt to intellectualize the apparently ideological battle between the outnumbered forefathers of democracy (Spartans) and their demonized, tyrannical opponents (Persians).

It’s all mindless action and cathartic aggression from beginning to end, for better or worse.

But the verdict? Is that so bad? Or so good? Who’s to say?

A quick glance at the two predominant online review repositories – Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic – reveals a rift between those two masses who have long wrested with one another over the merit of everything meritorious.

I speak, of course, of the readers and the critics. The “you’s” and the “me’s” – myself and the hundreds like me who have, by sleight of hand and a touch of magic dust, received a by-line, and the readers who know they could do better.

Critic approval at Rotten Tomatoes is at 60 percent, and only 51 percent from the “cream of the crop” reviewers – New York Times, Rolling Stone, et al. Though not entirely dismal (“Premonition” with Sandra Bullock notched only nine sad percentage points of approval), the critic response is far from the 88 percent of Rotten Tomatoes users who bought the blood, breasts and numerous battle sequences and felt they received their eight dollars worth.

Metacritic’s numbers are at 53 percent and 71 percent, and, an online movie database, has ranked “300” at number 176 on its list of the best 250 movies of all time, as voted on by registered users.

So what’s the point of all these numbers and percentages and “us” and “them” dialectical jabber?


At its core, “300” simply wants to depict a watershed moment in the birth of democracy, and do so with a flash. Well, that’s fine.

Sometimes you just have to let a spear be just a spear, and leave the fifth century B.C. tyrant in the fifth century B.C.

But there’s a discussion happening somewhere in the world (or at least this country), and it feels curiously democratic. Isn’t that, after all, the supposed ethos of the Internet?

If we critics sometimes feel like tyrants dictating to you how you should think, psh, do something about it.

The paradox of the 21st century thus far: You can be active, in publishing as well as politics, without ever leaving your desktop!