Saturday, March 10, 2007

Our Very Own Spartans

Gen. Rick Hillier: soulless cradle-to-grave warrior culture personified?

Watching 300, the new stylized blood-'n'-guts film retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae (based on a graphic novel by Frank Miller), causes the usually reliable Globe reviewer Rick Groen to blow a headpipe.

Off-put by the gorefest's "neocon message" and its "peddl[ing] the gospel of freedom in the garb of the warrior," RG concludes the piece with deep thoughts on the History of Empire, or something:

On it goes, then, as the ferocious band of Spartan brothers, with their unflagging camaraderie and their Marine Corps bellowing, hack through vast chunks of the Persian millions. This prompts an annoyed appearance from Xerxes himself (Rodrigo Santoro), looking rather charismatic in his multiple body-piercings and acres of bling (think of a cross between Mr. T and a back-alley fetishist). In a one-on-one powwow with his opposite number, Xerxes offers our beleaguered hero a final chance to cut-and-run, which gives Leonidas a golden chance to steal a line from the Little Bush book of inflated rhetoric: “The world will know that free men stood against a tyrant.”

Of course, thanks to Herodotus, the world also knows that these particular free men were eventually done in by the traitor Ephialtes, personified here as a wickedly deformed hunchback — his breach of national security rendered literally ugly. Happily, back on the home front, the Queen has successfully lobbied for a troop surge, and the rest, more or less, is history. Athenian democracy gets preserved, safe to give birth to its many worthy successors — you know, those shining examples in Rome, in France, in Britain, in America; all with their same warrior codes and their shared trail of blood; all fighting heroically to keep themselves free, even when it meant keeping others enslaved.

Yes, as visual extravaganza go, 300 is woefully stingy, but there's no denying the timeliness of its pro patria mori sermonette. I'm half expecting a still shot of Leonidas to show up on Coach's Corner, with the pugnacious Don fighting a quiver in his voice to extol “such a fine broth of a lad.” A second of hushed silence, then cut to a commercial — preferably that slick recruitment ad for our very own Spartans.

mp3: The Fall--"Theme From Sparta F.C." (from The Real New Fall L.P.)