Saturday, March 10, 2007

Frank Miller's 300 and My Computer

Frank Miller's 300 was a disappointing experience, I left the theatres feeling empty. The pretty comic book images failed to light the fire inside me. The theatre I went to was packed with young movie goers, the target demographic for this film. In 2000, the film print of Gladiator melted right before my eyes halfway into the movie. The audience groaned and I could feel the palpable electric aura being sucked out of the room as the screen went black and the lights came on. There was none of that with 300. Despite cheers and some claps in the end, even the audience itself failed to give off the sense that we just witnessed a milestone movie.

I do not wish to condemn 300 as a failure. It is a beautiful picture and for those unfamiliar with Leonidas' legendary defense at Thermopylae, the story may offer unknown twists that titillate the audience. Pretty images abound. Early in the movie, there's a shot of the Spartans, their backs to the camera, standing on the shores amidst a pouring storm, Persian ships smashing into the rocks. For that brief moment, I felt like I was witnessing a live action painting complete with images of the angry sea crashing against rocks, ocean spray exploding onto the screen and the scarlet cloaks of the Spartan soldiers bathed in the dark blue tones of the night.

Some commentators, knowing the digital nature of the film, have been quick to condemn the overuse of the green screen and lambasted the movie as aspiring to becoming a 'videogame'. I note however that few critics were eager to criticize Sin City for the same sins, even though the film was shot with the same technology. Those gamers amongst us also know that 300's visuals aspires to become its graphic novel source material, and not computer generated images controlled with a gamepad.

The film's problem wasn't its computer generated imagery, nor its sets, nor the acting. It was its slavish devotion to the graphic novel. The cuts between the battle and the homefront in the middle of the movie did nothing for me. A friend who viewed the film with me noted that he felt the battles in 300 were incoherent and lacked a smooth narrative flow. Ridley Scott's shaky -cam opening battle sequence for Gladiator had a stronger narrative than the battles in 300, which consisted mostly of stabbing motions, slowmo swishing and stylistic blood spurts.

In contrast Robert Rodriguez's Sin City was composed of three interconnected short stories plucked from a larger pool of stories in his original Sin City graphic novel. There is a richness to the universe in that movie, and one could feel inside that world, there are stories unknown and untold to the audience because we only glimpse three events in a much larger tapestry. 300 is a much more faithful retelling of its original source and one wonders if there really was enough material in Miller's original work to fill a two hour movie.

Shifting gears, I want to make note that my computer of three and a half years had to go in to the shop for serious repairs and is the cause for my insomnia tonight. I really didn't appreciate how much a machine did for me when it was there in my room, humming all day and night. I tried to go to sleep and couldn't. It was too quiet.

I spoke with the computer technician who is trying to fix it, and from what I'm told I'll need a new motherboard and power supply. My harddrives appear to be ok, but the C drive may have to be wiped to re-install Windows as my original settings were tied to the old motherboard. That's all I know at this point and I'm hoping that's all that is wrong with it. I've been promised tentatively that I'll have my computer back this afternoon.

Then I have to go through the task of re-installing a lot of my programs, and Final Fantasy XI tops my list. Not being able to drop my adventuring fellows a note of my absence is difficult, not being able to check the auction house is an added inconvenience, but ultimately I just want to make sure nothing was gummed up and that the game can run fine after this fix. Sadly, the installation process could take hours and I won't even know until after I've installed the game and updated it with the latest patch. Before I can worry about all that, I need to have my computer back with a clean bill of health and I'm not even 100% on that at this point.

The wait is pure agony. Although I don't consider it a living thing, a friend, a pet or anything close, not having it evokes feelings that are reserved mostly for sick family members and loved ones. Today I feel like someone I know dearly went to the hospital and the doctors don't quite know what's wrong and I'm not quite sure if I'll get back the same person I know after all is said