300: The Stelios Edition
By Kristin Battestella
(Just a little Valentine treat for the ladies at the Michael Fassbender Online website!)
Yes, after two previous analysis of the 2007 Greek yarn 300, I’ve decided to take another look at this fantastical tale of graphic and gory action, historical honor, and battle rousing inspiration for one be-speedo-ed Spartan: the long haired, high flying, in search of a beautiful death Stelioooooos! I’ve been sick for two weeks and am so looped up on cough medicine that it’s not funny- perhaps that can explain this delusion.
So try to contain yourselves as the IQ seeps from the room and trickles deep, deep down into the gutter- or refer to my initial intelligent critiques via our 300 label instead. You have been warned, Persian.
After seeing his tour de force acting capabilities in films like Hunger and Fish Tank, I admitted I was remiss in not appreciating Michael Fassbender’s crazy Spartan sooner. I was actually in a David Wenham streak as an offshoot of my Lord of the Rings obsessions when I first saw 300 in the theater, but I was more interested in the ground breaking effects, filming design, and Battle of Thermopylae interpretation from director Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead, Watchman) than you know, hot guys in leather hot pants. Certainly if there was ever a film that was so purely designed for the sake of eye candy, beefcake, and every desert in between, 300 would have to be it. However, the entire reason I decided to see 300 in the theater was because the trailers looked so dang cool. If I were just interested in some juicy LOTR excess, I would have waited for the DVD or just watched Wenham’s Better Than Sex again. (Trust me on that one!) Outside of 2007’s pop campaign slogan, “This is
!” or “Tonight, we dine in Hell!” I kept wondering where Gerard Butler was in the previews. Who the hell was this flying Spartan fightin’ so dirtily in the shade and leaping with his bellowing red cape flowing behind him? Not that I knew or cared, but such sweet promos made 300 must see for a lot of people, didn’t it? Sparta
When Stelios first appears 20 minutes into the film, his introduction is strangely accentuated compared to the other 299 personal bodyguards going on a stroll. Why in the hell is this longhaired angry dude the one declaring his loyalty in such quotable fervor? “We are with you, sire! For
, for freedom, to the death!” We got that part already, thanks. And when does he have time to do his hair, anyway? First, it’s all blonde and blowing in the sun kissed Grecian wind, then its half and half by time Stelios woo woos his Spartan profession. It’s as if Stelios is being expressly singled out as the young, wild, pimpin’ badass, and I don’t like that. I have a habit of expressly avoiding going for the designated hottie in a film. Where’s the fun in liking the one that everyone else is going to like, too? Nonconform, people. Then, we’re expected to believe this guy also has a poetic soft side in addition to abs of steel and shampoo commercial hair? It is Stelios who inquires on the people in the village and declares, “Have the gods no mercy?” Well then, I’m certainly not going to like this guy- he’s just too good to be true… Sparta
And then he gets wet and airborne on us!
When I first wrote my original review of 300 24 hours after I saw it in the theater, some viewers were actually angry with me and sent me messages complaining I spoiled the ending by talking about the Spartans’ sacrificial and latently messianic deaths to save
. Um, yeah. If Michael Fassbender was in your high school history classroom dressed like this and reciting Herodotus, maybe we might have paid more attention! I confess I didn’t hear a word he said in the theater- something about ancestors, blood, and mortar. If we were supposed to pay attention, we never would have been given that crotch shot with the sword whip out. Devo, anyone? I was with my future husband in the theater, and it was a good thing the lights were dark. I thought, ‘Geez, will this naked guy put his cape back on already!’ Yes, he is still wearing those very Brazilian undies, but the action of whipping out his faux sword seriously implies he has it all hanging out. We are forced into not taking our eyes off of this damn guy- and it fucking works. People still talk about this “fight in the shade” scene as being the most memorable part of the movie nearly five years later. Michael Fassbender made people like frigging history with his ancient factual dialogue, and The History Channel is still showing its ‘Last Stand of the 300’ documentary because of it. Greece
Maybe Stelios wasn’t my favorite Spartan, but you can’t deny his impact in the film. I confess, for the longest time, I even had a little moving avatar of Mr. Slim and Shady from his pimptastic single-handed takedown of those pesky Persian mystics. His tuck tail and subsequent delight at his own fireworks was just that cool, even to me. While I’m on the subject, did any other character in 300 have a youtube mini parody named in his honor? No. Stalking Stelios is awesome- and not just because Michael Fassbender graciously makes an appearance in it. All humor aside, my favorite Stelios moment has always been his beautiful death soliloquy. Truly, I thought the hair in his face look was seriously annoying, but when giving his insane yet inspiring speech about seeking glory in death, the psycho hair works. The scene is somewhat dark, and with the hair in his face, we only clearly see the shiny whites of Stelios’ teeth and eyes. When he laughs in the face of death, nay runs towards his end with open arms and such a joyous grin and glint in his eye, you can’t help but believe that
means business. Sparta
With his contradictory heart of poet seeking death and fighting so damn hard prowess, I must confess, I also thought there was some seriously implied sexual undertones between Stelios and Tom Wisdom’s Astinos. The way the elder Stelios with an implied wife and sons at home teases his Captain’s son, who is “too young to have felt a woman’s warmth” is tough to miss, particularly if you do manage to look past the exuding visuals and pay attention to their kinky banter. The way Fassbender always tends to stand with his little hands on his sassy hips, calling Astinos a woman and claiming he needs his back covered in battle. Astinos gives it, too, claiming Stelios was “more likely offering his backside to the Thespians.” Frankly, it is gay- in both the sense that it’s happy and all in good fun and sexual between men at the same time. The best part? Stelios is still a pimp. You can’t not like that panoramic, slow motion, tag team fight sequence with the kicks, thrusts, sword slices, sword throwing, somersaults, and orgasmic jabs. 300 is in slow motion so you can see everything, and for the most part, you can tell which Spartans are who and where because of it. Sure, sometimes when they have their helmets on or are all shielded up in the phalanx early on maybe you can’t tell who is who- Stelios isn’t even called by name until an hour into the film, just before the “There’s no reason we can’t be civil” apple zinger. However, by the final moments of Leonidas’ last stand, we damn well know who Stelios is when the king calls for him. Not only would ‘Captaiiiiiiiiiin!’ not have been as cool, but when such death is imminent, we know only Stelios will lead the charge. In some ways, you have to admit his final flying leap and death cry is kind of funny looking. Yet at the same time, it is fucking terrifying. If I were a Persian, I’d want to run away from this nothing to loose maniac and his spear, too. Even here in 300, where the leather bikini bottom is everything, Fassbender still presented a damn fine character. Who knew?
Now then, if you need further proof of the power of the Fassinator, even director Zack Snyder is under his spell. When watching 300 with his commentary, Snyder never mentions Stelios or Fassbender through the entire film- except for the end. Now, again, I’m expecting to hear about the story, how Dillios’ narration is actually what is on the epitaph at the Hot Gates today, “Go tell the Spartans, passersby…” yadda yadda history and all that. But no, instead of historical and powerful insights, Snyder takes this time out to point out Michael Fassbender, “that’s him just to the right”, because after the final take, everyone went outside in cold
Rant: Why is there no blooper reel on these DVDs?! End rant.
Now, when I was first touched by these moving final moments for Leonidas and his boys, I thought, ‘Boy, I bet this guy wears contacts and was actually crying. His eyes are really glassy.’ Honestly, I didn’t even know Michael Fassbender’s name until six months ago! I saw the old screen captures I had made again a few weeks ago and still thought, ‘Man, his eyes are really bloodshot here, powerful stuff.’ Well, now we know why, don’t we? Even if it really does completely cheapen the story of the film and the Battle of Thermopylae to purely look at said Hot Spartan Stelios, you either really love Michael Fassbender or kind of hate him with that story. I mean, he’s an actor having a good time; nobody else can get away with showing up to work that hung over. And yet, he still gave a beautiful and bittersweet exclamation to 300. Is Fassbender just that good at his profession?
Yes. And he can fly.
I’ve corrected the error of my ways, and in 2011, American audiences who were in the same ignorant boat will have at least four opportunities to see Michael Fassbender again on the big screen. Despite his knack for completely changing his appearance and absorbing himself 110% into his roles, some smart and aware folks in the theater during Jane Eyre, Haywire, X-Men: First Class, or A Dangerous Method may very well blurt out, ‘Stelioooos!’ in their worst Big Gerry imitation- and rightfully so. Others will just be so smitten and rush to Google The Fass on their supposedly off smart phones, see his filmography, and giggle, ‘OMG! That’s the same guy!’ Either way, I think Michael Fassbender is going to sell a lot of X-Men merchandise this year.
Although a clone in street clothes with a shield and spear like in the 300 behind the scenes features might be a nice purchase, too. Better than a guard dog, to say the least.
(We'll be back to our proper, critical, insightful analysis next week!)