In similar news, and as seen in the comments of Charlie Pierce’s post on this subject, a dig in the center of London uncovers the ancient Roman city beneath. “The area has been dubbed the ‘Pompeii of the north’ due to the perfect preservation of organic artefacts such as leather and wood. One expert said: ‘This is the site that we have been dreaming of for 20 years.'”
When you’re lying awake at night, it’s alright: BBC’s Stephanie Hegarty delves into pre-industrial sleep habits and discovers that eight hours of uninterrupted sleep may be a recent invention. “Much like the experience of Wehr’s subjects, these references describe a first sleep which began about two hours after dusk, followed by waking period of one or two hours and then a second sleep. ‘It’s not just the number of references – it is the way they refer to it, as if it was common knowledge,’ Ekirch says.”
By way of Hold Fast, archaeologists discover evidence of a paleolithic skull-smashing culture in ancient Syria. Expect Cavemen v. Zombies imminently.
“‘This is the power of tsunamis,’ head researcher Richard Freund told Reuters. ‘It is just so hard to understand that it can wipe out 60 miles inland, and that’s pretty much what we’re talking about.‘”
As a modern-day tsunami wreaks catastrophe in Japan, researchers think they may have found the original Atlantis in the mud flats of Spain. “To solve the age-old mystery, the team used a satellite photo of a suspected submerged city to find the site just north of Cadiz, Spain…The team of archeologists and geologists in 2009 and 2010 used a combination of deep-ground radar, digital mapping, and underwater technology to survey the site.”
…or not. Also in the trailer bin, Michael Fassbender, Dominic West, Noel Clarke (i.e. Doctor Who‘s Mickey Smith), and a host of other Roman legionnaires find themselves behind enemy lines and surrounded by angry Picts of some kind in the new trailer for Neil Marshall’s Centurion, also with Olga Kurylenko (who really should’ve gotten Scarlett Johannson’s part in Iron Man 2.) Well, ok then. Here’s hoping Marshall squeezes in a good Asterix and Obelix cameo.
“In a period ranging from a few months to two years, the scientists say that 90% of the water was transferred into the basin. ‘This extremely abrupt flood may have involved peak rates of sea level rise in the Mediterranean of more than 10m per day,’ he and his colleagues wrote in the Nature paper.” A new study suggests that, over five million years ago and with an event called the Zanclean flood, the Mediterranean Sea may have been re-formed in as little as two years. “The team estimates the peak flow to have been around 1000 times higher than the present Amazon river at its highest rate.“
Coincidentally, two years is about as long as it takes to read Ferdinand Braudel’s seminal two-part history of the Mediterranean. Cut to the chase, man!
In today’s trailer bin, director Matthew Vaughn borrows a little bad reputation from Freaks & Geeks to make the case for his adaptation of Kick-Ass, with Aaron Johnson, Chloe Moretz, Nicolas Cage, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse. (So far, so good — from all indications, Moretz’s Hit Girl will steal the show.)
Meanwhile, Sam Worthington takes on big scorpions and sundry other Kraken-like things in the very 300-ish trailer for Louis Leterrier’s Clash of the Titans remake, also with Alexa Davalos, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Danny Huston, Gemma Arterton, Pete Postlethwaite, Jason Flemyng and Mads Mikkelsen. Frankly, it sorta lost me with the lousy aggro-whiteboy rock, but ya never know. And “Titans Will Clash!“…ugh. Who were the ad wizards who came up with that one?
The story is old, I know, but it goes on (usually in a David Wenham voiceover): In the ancient warrior city-state of Sparta, presided over by the robust, strapping King Leonidas (Gerard Butler), the men are men, the women are women, and those stunted weaklings born without a killer six-pack are picked off at a very early age. But, alas, this militarist utopia finds itself threatened by the global ambitions of the — clearly not manly enough — Persian God-King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), who asks only that Leonidas and his people submit to his divine benevolence. Submission? You must be joking. So, while his beautiful Queen (Lena Headley) negotiates with the Spartan Senate in a number of insipid let’s-take-a-meeting scenes straight out of The Phantom Menace, Leonidas takes 300 of his best, least-clad warriors to the Hot Gates, where he and his ilk must fight off — without benefit of armor, mind you — wave after wave of Xerxes’ elite assassins: the fearsome Persian Immortals, known mainly by their grinning demon masks and matching Ahmadinejad windbreakers.
Ok, that gag aside, and despite what you may have heard, there’s really not that much allegorical grist in 300. I mean, you could very easily call out the political and racial subtext of the film: very Anglo-Saxonish looking Greeks beating down evil brown and black folk, in order to defend Spartan freedom(?) against the “mysticism and tyranny” of the Asian hordes. (After all, writer Frank Miller is the same guy who felt it necessary to sic Batman on Al Qaeda.) Or, you could fault 300‘s unabashed reveling in blood, guts, and glory: Faramir won’t shut up in this movie, and yet there’s nothing at all here akin to his opening lines in his last crusade against Men of the East, The Two Towers: “His sense of duty was no less than yours, I deem. You wonder what his name is, where he came from, and if he was really evil at heart. What lies or threats led him on this long march from home. If he would not rather have stayed there in peace. War will make corpses of us all.”
In short, to say 300 is the anti-Letters from Iwo Jima is an understatement.
But, really, all of that is basically beside the point: the movie is way too shallow to merit any deeper readings. The inimitable, foul-mouthed Neill Cumpston hit the nail on the head: 300 is in essence a video game, with waves of easy-to-dispatch bad-guy mobs punctuated by the occasional mini-boss. And, besides, let’s be honest: All subtexts aside, I came to 300 — and if you saw the trailer, you did too — to chew gum and watch people kick ass, and I’m all out of gum. But, for every adrenaline-firing sequence of Leonidas and co. carving through baddies in slow-motion — one, you’ll know it when you see it, is pitch-perfect Frank Miller — there are several others where the movie just grinds to a halt, and we’re forced to watch Leonidas look angst-ridden or Queen Gargos engage in some cut-rate speechifying about freedom: “Freedom isn’t free,” “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose,” etc. etc. ad nauseum. (And, alas, poor McNulty gets the shaft again: Dominic West gets a terribly-written, totally unnecessary part as a mustache-twirling politician/diplomat, which should tell you all you need to know about his role here — Like Sparta’s intrepid warriors really need his cut-and-run, Hans Blix pansy-ass screwing things up on the homefront.)
Still, for all of 300 pacing woes, dialogue groaners, and two-dimensional characters, I have to admit — it does have its occasional moments…usually when it drops all pretense and just lets its “Tonight, we dine in Hell!” freak flag fly. A sinuous oracle in flimsy gauze writhes ecstatically through a soothsaying as if underwater. The God-King Xerxes, his voice booming with inhuman authority (nice job, sound editing guys), rests majestically on his obscenely large throne stairs, making Leonidas an offer he can’t refuse. Persian ships are rent asunder by the stormy wrath of Poseidon, as Greece’s warriors roar with approval in the rain. In these moments, and at others, such as when Xerxes unleashes his menagerie of rhinos and elephants against the 300, or when the Spartans first encounter the Asians’ arcane magick of gunpowder, Zack Snyder’s film settles into a big, dumb, loud, and rousingly enjoyable groove. Alas, 300 can only sustain that intensity for minutes at at time, and for the rest of the run, it’s not so enjoyable. Too bad — I get the sense there’s probably a really amazing half-hour short-film in here somewhere. As it is, 300 feels disappointing, and makes me wonder if Snyder has the wherewithal to do Alan Moore’s The Watchmen justice.