This is Sparta!!!!

May 21, 2013

300 Essay

Filed under: —— Christopher Hayes @ 3:52 pm

Christopher Hayes
English 391w
Prof. Ferguson

300,A look Within.

Comic books and graphic novels are often known for their vivid violent scenes. The graphic novel 300 is no exception. The most popular comic books, such as The Dark Knight and The Amazing Spiderman, are based off the modern day superheroes that we all know and love today. Then there is a comic book like 300 which is based off a historical moment in history, when the Sparta and Athens along with other Greek city-states united to battle the mighty Persia. 300 (film), directed by Zack Snyder, has tremendous box office success by grossing over $450 million dollars. The results 300 displayed in theaters is most likely not because of it’s connection to the graphic novel written by Frank Miller, many people didn’t know it was based on a novel since the novel was published in 1998 and the film was released in 2007 nearly 10 years later, but because of it’s historical significance. The scenes in the movie are closely related to that of the graphic novel. The movie and the graphic novel maintain the violent nature of the battle with Persia but portray it in a manner that is more appealing then just simply retelling the actual historic battle. 300 most likely wouldn’t have the same prestige without it’s overtly cinematographic violent scenes. Does 300 historic nature enhance it’s value as a film adaptation?

300 is a film based on the graphic novel written by Frank Miller of the same name. 300 retells the battle of Thermopylae. A war in which an alliance of Greek city-states went to war with the Persian King Xerxes. The graphic novel and the film however is based on the last stand of King Leonidas and 300 Spartans to defend the rear of Thermopylae as long as they can before their untimely demise. Historically the battle between Greece and Xerxes at Thermopylae consisted of more than 300 Spartans, as dictated by the film, Athens also participated by attacking Xerxes army from the sea dwindling down Persia’a forces. In the film 300 the duties Athens serves in the battle at Thermopylae is portrayed by a storm. Numerous amounts of Persian ships are destroyed which gives King Leonidas and his Spartans a fighting chance on the field to win the war. The film is about the mighty 300, thus it wouldn’t be satisfying to the viewer knowing that the 300 Spartans played a much smaller role than displayed on screen. To say the least viewers rather see 300 Spartans take on and brutally slaughter 20,000 Persians than a actual war. Although there are some deep stretches in the historical content, the film is rather accurate in it’s delivery on Leonidas last stand against Xerxes. In the film a hunchback dwarf reveals a small path to Xerxes and betrays Leonidas and his fellow Spartans to lead to their downfall. That is a scene from just watching the film or reading the novel, it would be assumed not to be true. In actuality it is very true. The Greek betrayer name is Ephialtes, Ephialtes showed the Persians a small path around the allied Greek position, for some type of reward said to be gold and status, that subsequently lead to their defeat at Thermopylae. The film shows this story rather accurately, besides the hunchback, giving 300 more historical credit than most people believe. Which is one on the best things to know while watching 300, it’s historical content, the fact that this is based on true events, combined with enhanced Hollywood violence gives the viewer a different experience opposed to going to the theater to watch a movie based on a novel of complete fantastical events such as The Dark Knight or Watchman.

Speaking on 300’s source text by the same name, written by Frank Miller, is the film faithful to the novel? With every film adaptation the question of fidelity rises when the film is being critiqued. According to Robert Stam “When we say an adaptation is unfaithful to the original, the very violence of the term gives expression to the intense sense of betrayal we feel when a film adaptation fails to capture what we see as fundamental narrative, thematic, or Aesthetic features of it’s literary source.” (Stam 14) Very often after reading a good book then going to watch the film version of that book, at some point in the future, we leave the theater with a since of emptiness because the director left this part out, or the director added this character and that character isn’t as good as the source text character. Stam is arguing that is the wrong thing to do because the adaptation is a creation all on it’s own and should be judged on that basis only, held separately from it’s source text, otherwise the art of film is discredited.

Then there’s a movie like “300” which is based of actual historical events and a novel. Movies like “300” suffers from two counts of fidelity, one being it’s faithfulness to the novel it’s adapted from, and two being it’s faithfulness to history. How much of the movie is historically accurate? What to believe and what not to believe. That makes directing a film harder because when adding and deleting content from the source text for cinematic purposes because it’s hard to make changes without disrupting it’s historical background and maintaing a certain level of faithfulness to the source text. “300” seems to portray the spirit of the text while maintaing it’s unique historical significance. Stam would accept “300” as it’s own piece of art not to be simply labeled an adaptation.

Stam also speaks on the different roots of prejudice towards film adaptations, calling them “sources of hostility” towards adaptation and is overall how people judge film adaptations. During Stam’s explanation of the seventh source of hostility to the cinema and adaptation he states “Literature pays indirect, and begrudging, homage to film’s popularity, while film pays homage to literature’s prestige. Adaptations, in this view, are the inevitably “dumbed down” versions of their source novels.” (Stam 7). “300”, to the contrary, is a “hyped up” version of Frank Miller’s graphic novel. While the film doesn’t often live up to the expectations of the novel’s readers. “300”, film, however carries the prestige compared to the novel. As fans of “300” acknowledge the film opposed to the novel. Stam mentions in the final source of hostility towards adaptation that, “Adaptation are seen as parasitical on literature; they burrow into the body of the source text and steal it’s vitality.” (Stam 7). Stam argues that film illustrates their adapted novel uniquely but will always be under criticism because it’s an adaptation. Stam mentions the adapter, it seems, can never win. 300 succeeds as a creative adaptation.

Zack Snyder’s 300 falls into the trumping concept of Kamilla Elliott’s “Rethinking the Novel/Film Debate” taking Frank Millers graphic novel and turning it into a visual defining thriller. There’s several elements to why “300” falls into the trumping concept, for one it takes several ideas such as the ending of the film in which the Spartans embrace their deaths on the battlefield. The last stand, in the novel by Frank Miller, has the Spartans literally being hit with thousands of arrows and still trying to put up a fight against Xerxes army. While in the film version of that very same scene the Spartans make a last effort of glory, attacking Xerxes army, right before being subdued by the immense sets of arrows that covered the sky. The film version takes out some of the excessive inhuman traits that the novel gives the Spartans and brings in a more realistic approch to the end, trying to remind it’s viewers that this battle actually happened. Zack Snyder seem to take on more of the being faithful to 300’s historic roots, in terms of changes, rather than using more outrageous false truths.

A secondary source that complies with “300” is “Leonidas’ Last Stand” by John R. Grant.In “Leonidas’ Last Stand” the article goes through what prompted King Leonidas to have that famous last stand at Thermopylae. Grant starts off his article by stating “The most difficult problem remains, what was the purpose of Leonidas in clinging to his position at Thermopylae when it had apparently become untenable.” (Grant 14). Successfully displayed in the movie 300 Leonidas choose to stay and fight at the battle of Thermopylae knowing his demise was imminent, instead of returning to Sparta and gathering more soldiers to wage a proper war on Xerxes. Grant wrote to one of the reasons that, “retreat was dishonorable, whereas if he remained he would win great glory and enduring prosperity for Sparta.” (Grant 14). In Spartan culture retreat on the battlefield is one of the worst things imaginable and can damage your honor to the point in which a Spartan no longer wishes to live. This article is another historic factor in the plot of 300 that proves that it is possible to take a historic event and add an fantasy aspect to it for entertainment, such as mythological creatures or mutant soldiers, and still tell a somewhat historically accurate description of true historic events.

Another source that compliments the argument that 300’s historic nature helps it’s creditability as a film adaptation is Tom Holland “Mirage in the Movie House” in which Holland discusses In his article that the battle of Thermopylae is too inaccurately dictated in Zack Synder and Frank Miller’s 300. The authors of the movie and the graphic novel respond by saying “It’s just entertainment.” (Holland 173). Even though it’s just entertainment movies like 300 based off of historical events always have an impact on the real world. Critics of the film and the novel would argue that it ruins the image of a great historic tale, and others would simply judge 300 based off it’s own content than it’s relevance to it’s historical value. It is discussed how the historic value of movies or books based off history has a large part in people watching them. Historic movies don’t tend to be “box office.” Although it has been done for example a movie like Troy ranked in over 475 million worldwide compared to “300” mark of 450 worldwide. Domestically, however, 300 pulled in around 100 million more than Troy. The cultural aspect of film is appreciated more internationally compared to in the United states where people are more into having their eyes entertained opposed to their minds. When you infuse those two concepts it creates “300”. “300”, to many peoples surprise, was box office because it focused on the entertainment factor that most people look for when they read a book or watch a movie.

Does “300” historic nature enhance it’s value as a film adaptation? It is believed that theanswer is yes. Considering the fact that in order to successfully accomplish the movie, Zack Snyder had to draw from multiple elements, more so than other adapted directors, because he is drawing information from his own creative mind, drawing information from the source text 300, and drawing information from The Battle of Thermopylae, the historic battle that the novel is based on. Since a large amount of people did not know that the film was based on a novel all the credit goes to Zack Snyder and the historical significance of the Spartan war for the success of the adaptation in theaters. Otherwise if it was just an adaptation of a novel based on a group of unknown soldiers going to war, chances are it wouldn’t have been as successful.

Works Cited

300 Dir. Zack Snyder. Per. Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, David Wenham, Dominic West, Vincent Regan, Rodrigo Santoro, and Michael Fassbender. Warner Bros. Pictures,
2006. Film.

Grant R. John, “Leonidas’ Last Stand.” Phoenix 15.1 (1961): 14-27. Web.

Holland, Tom. “Mirage in the Movie House.”Arion: A Journal of Humanities and the Classics 15.1 (2007): 173-182. Web.

Miller, Frank. 300, Oregon: Dark Horse Comics, 1998. Print.

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