So, I adore Frank Miller. He is an innovator, a brilliant artist and a great storyteller. Miller’s world is highly a stylized and codified one, and when I read one of his books, I have come to expect certain things about the story I am being told. The ladies that Frank gives us are generally well muscled, well endowed, and often unclothed specimens, but I’ve always considered his mode to be tongue-in-cheek, and accepted it for what it was.
Miller tells stories in which women are often the objects, but rarely the subjects, and yet the actions of his protagonists are always, in one way or another, dictated by his women. Miller’s 300 is a story about men striving hopelessly to protect their lands and wives from pillage and rape, and the film does a competent job of bringing this to life, without really adding anything of value to the translation. The entire enterprise felt a bit joyless…perhaps because it lacked the charisma and depth which the stellar cast of Sin City brought to the screen.
So forgive me for not being delighted that the makers of the film version of The 300 chose to tack on a subplot following the homefront tribulations of Queen Gorgo, (played by Lena Heady.) Heady was extremely toned for the role and looked great in a series of costumes apparently constructed from belts and bedsheets. (After a montage depicting the training regimen required of Spartan men and boys, but no equivalent explanation for the physical perfection the women, I couldn’t help but wonder where Gorgo was hiding her Stairmaster in the royal compound). Heady’s Gorgo stoically endures a rape, the inevitability of the death of her husband and her own pending estrangement with her son. When she stabs her smarmy attacker on the floor of the forum, many people in the theatre where I was watching the film cheered and applauded; but why? What about this robotic woman could they possibly have identified with?
Ultimately the “home-front” subplot somehow left me feeling both cheated and pandered to. It added a stale second dimension to a plot that was already stretched wafer-thin by the feature-film format. This was one story that I felt was best left in the capable hands of the boys club that created it.