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300 sweet revenge

In 1990, Frank Miller was massacred by Hollywood. Now his comics are used both as a script and storyboard.


[action] The Spartans march as a mix of superheroes, Greek gods and an armed version of Chippendales, while the Persian hordes are a mutated version of 1001 night, led by a pierced black giant who is more reminiscent of a New York nightclub king than the historical king Xerxes I. The blood splashes across the benches, and in the cinema chair, cartoonist Frank Miller grins the widest of all.

At the height of the 1980s, Miller was king of the mound in the American comic book industry, following sparkling updates of Batman in The Dark Knight Returns (1986) and Batman: Year One (1987). Miller was ready for new challenges, but ended up working in Hollywood. He tried ultraviolet-laden script, contemporary satire with heavy lab and all-black humor, but after RoboCop 2 (1990) and RoboCop 3 (1993), Miller swore he would never have anything more to do with Hollywood since the scripts were tampered with to such an extent that they were almost unrecognizable to the author.

Miller's worlds

At the same time, Miller had also quit smoking with Marvel and DC Comics, the superhero giants in the serial business, due to copyright strife. In doing so, he began to create his own worlds for the smaller publishing company Dark Horse Comics, which ironically had built up with good continuations of films such as Aliens, Predator and Terminator. Miller served the political science fiction satire Give Me Liberty (1990-97) and extremist action in Hard Boiled (1990), shooting the golden bird with the hard-boiled "Crim Noir" pastry Sin City (1991-99).

Miller's universe was created in parallel with Hollywood's growing fascination for comics, and today the film industry is so faithful to Miller that his comics are used both as a script and storyboard. In Sin City (2005), Miller was co-director, unheard of in a Hollywood where the unions have insisted that the films have one director. Sin City 2 is coming to summer, and now the movie is based on Miller's war opus 300 ready for Norwegian cinemas, with Miller as "executive producer".

To make Miller's revenge on Hollywood extra cute, the publisher Avatar created a cartoon of Miller's script for the two RoboCop films, and it's hard to understand why Hollywood got cold feet when reading this grotesque, ultra-violent and nihilistic science fiction story .

Unhistorically correct

300 tells of the battle between the Spartans and the Persians at the Thermopylene in the year 480 BCE. The series is an elaborate style exercise from Miller, inspired by childhood's violent fascination for the film The 300 Spartans (1962), in which he retells the battle as a myth with the broad brushstrokes and pencils, characterized by the violent exaggerations, grotesque caricatures and violent romance that permeat most of his series.

300 is Greek history retold with superhero glasses. When Zack Snyder, the man behind the intense zombie movie Dawn of the Dead (2004) and the upcoming film adaptation of the cartoon classic Watchmen, gets a grip on this material, the circus only gets bigger. Snyder unfortunately adds some supernatural beings that make the associations to the battle scenes in Lord of the Rings stronger, and the thin story is expanded with a bit of political conspiracy at home in Sparta. Otherwise, the film is as faithful to the original as Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange was to Anthony Burgess' novel. Scenes and dialogue are lifted straight from the series, and in the action sequences this sometimes works superbly. The dialogue is more than theatrical and stylized, and it is typical of Miller that his scripts do not always come out of reading aloud.

Where the series was a style exercise for Miller's dash, the film is a style exercise in modern computer animation, and together with films such as Sin City and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004) it helps to tear down the partitions between animation and feature films further. In many ways, Snyder's film adaptation is more energetic and captivating than the original, but this probably ends up as a cult film – for Miller fans, people who love giant battle scenes and gays. Because even though the Spartans appear to be homophobic, there is more leather, glistening muscles, testosterone, grunting basketball and homoeroticism here than in the overall career of Village People.

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