Meet the Spartans (UK - BD RA/B)
Chris Gould does his best to sit through the worst mainstream movie he's seen
Hollywood has produced countless great films over the years, many of which I own on DVD and Blu-ray. Films such as The Godfather, Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings are examples of superb commercial features that have gone on to permeate every aspect of popular culture. Meet the Spartans is the complete antithesis of them all. It's the sort of film that makes me despair at the current state of movie-making, not to mention the state of mind of the people who actually paid to watch it.
I simply cannot remember viewing such an offensively bad (meaning poor, not good) film distributed by a major Hollywood studio. Sure, I've watched my fair share of DTV crap on VHS in the eighties, but this is Twentieth Century Fox, the studio responsible for bringing us such landmark films as Alien and the aforementioned Star Wars. Granted they've released their fair share of filler, but I can honestly say that I can't remember them serving up anything approaching the crassness of Meet the Spartans. Simply put, the film has no redeeming features. The plot, for want of a better word, is loosely based on Zack Snyder's adaptation of Frank Miller's 300, but when I say loosely I'm talking 'clown's pocket' proportions. Basically, it's just an exercise in cramming as many pop-culture references and film parodies into the running time as possible, with nods to such 'topical' events as Brittany Spears' mental breakdown.
No one is safe from their wrath. Along with Ms. Spears there are scathing attacks on such hard targets as Brad and Angelina, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and George Bush, along with a host of other 'celebrities' and pop-culture icons. Unfortunately each and every one of the celebrity impersonators is so bad that the characters in the film literally have to introduce them by name, just in case the audience fails to recognise them. So you end up with situations where an impersonator will do a questionable impression of a celebrity, only for one of the main characters to turn to the camera and say 'hey Ryan Seacrest' (or similar) with such a look of desperation in their eyes I almost felt sorry for them. It comes to something when a film as dumb as this doesn't credit its target audience with enough intelligence to understand the 'jokes'. It's like one giant admission of failure on the part witer/director duo Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg.
Of course when all else fails (which is the only constant in the film) the filmmakers fall back on the tried and tested dick and fart jokes, but these are so poor they make Kevin Smith look positively Kubrickian in his execution. I have to wonder which screenwriter came up with the idea of having the penguin from Happy Feet shit in Leonidas' mouth. Wow, comedy genius! Then of course one of the writers figured out that there were slight homosexual undertones running through 300, so we get endless 'the Spartans are bummers' gags. There's even a point where the Spartans wheel on a blue screen in an attempt to point out that 300 used a lot of CGI. What incisive minds these guys have! I don't think I can possibly overstate how repugnant Meet the Spartans actually is. In fact, I can't think of a single positive thing to say about the film, other than I wouldn't mind a crack at Carmen Electra (circa ten years ago).
When will these talentless, juvenile morons realise that there’s more to parody than simply stringing a bunch of unrelated, unfunny sketches together around the (very) basic framework of a far superior movie? Even their previous shite-fests, such as Epic Movie and the Scary Movie series, didn't induce the level of retardation I experienced after watching Meet the Spartans. At the risk of causing offence, anyone who finds this film funny needs to take a long hard look at themselves, because the likelihood is that they're a total idiot. This isn't the first time I've felt cheated by a film, but it's the first time I've felt cheated by a film that I didn't have to pay to see. As it stands, I think Seltzer and Friedberg owe me and everyone else that sat through this cinematic abortion a refund and a sincere promise to never again inflict their particular brand of 'humour' on the world.
Fox presents Meet the Spartans in 1080p/24 (AVC) at its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. To say that the transfer is far better than the film deserves is perhaps the understatement of the year, but since the film is deserving of nothing that was always going to be the case. The image is clean, colour rendition is good, contrast is solid and the level of detail on offer is fairly high. There is a fair amount of digital grain to be be found in the image, but this is intended to emulate the look of 300, so it's not a flaw in the transfer per se (the colours are also slightly desaturated in keeping with Zack Snyder's film). On the whole this is actually a pretty good looking transfer, but what's the point when no one in their right mind wants to watch the film in the first place? That visual clarity also has the unintended side-effect of showing up the cheap sets and poor effects.
The primary audio track for this release is an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 effort that, like the video before it, is much better than the film deserves. As I have to keep pointing out in my reviews, I still can't experience the delights of full DTS-HD Master Audio, but the 1.5Mbps Core track is still pretty impressive considering the source material.
There's plenty of surround action from the start, with thunder claps, lighting (very, very frightening) and other ambient effects setting the mood. Panning from the front to the rear of the soundstage is also effective, while bass kicks in with an appreciable thud whenever it's called upon to lend its weight to an action scene. Dialogue is well balanced in the mix, although with Meet the Spartans that's a bit of a mixed blessing. Christopher Lennertz's score is actually a pretty good take-off of Tyler Bate's 300 score (which itself was a rip-off of the Titus score); in fact, it's probably the most impressive thing about the whole release...
First up we have a commentary track by writer/directors Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg, along with selected cast members. They sit around discussing the fun they had making the movie, laughing at all the on-set antics. Personally I couldn't care less about how much fun these people had while making this unholy abomination, but it is at least funnier than the film itself. Personally I think the filmmakers should have recorded an apology track, but there you go.
A 'Know Your Spartans' trivia game comes next. Basically you just have to answer questions on some of the characters and events 'spoofed' in the film. Get an answer right and Leonidas kicks someone into the Pit of Death. Get one wrong and nothing happens. If you still care after the first three questions, you're a better man than I. 'Meet the Spartans: The Music' is simply a way to jump to any of the musical numbers found in the film without having to endure the whole thing. It might be useful if they weren't so atrocious.
'Prepare for Thrusting' is a mercifully short featurette in which Kevin Sorbo (yes, the bloke who played Hercules) takes the crew through a short training regimen. I think it was supposed to be funny, but I couldn't find any evidence to support this theory. 'Tour the Set with Ike Barinholtz' is another short featurette in which a terrible Dane Cook impersonator gives us a quick tour of the set while everyone pretends to hate him. Once again, I couldn't give a toss.
A short gag reel follows, but to be honest the movie made me gag plenty all on its own. However, if you want to watch more puerile humour, this is for you. The 'Celebrity Kickoff' game asks you to kick celebrity impersonators into the pit of death using clumsy controls for little reward. Personally, I'd rather have played something along the lines of 'Execute the Meet the Spartans Writing Staff'. 'Super Pit of Death Ultimate Tactical Battle Challenge' (sounds Japanese) is yet another incredibly poor game that requires you to press the coloured buttons on your remote to kick various impersonators into the pit of death. Is it just me or is there a theme developing?
Things are rounded off by a couple of theatrical trailers and some weblinks. The trailers do nothing to suggest that the film is anything other than the crap-fest it turned out to be, so Christ knows why it took any money in the States. On paper the bonus material appeared more impressive than the film deserved, but closer inspection reveals that it's just as hollow as the main feature.
For once it doesn't matter what the rest of the disc is like, nothing can salvage this train wreck. I don't know how much attention (if any) people pay to our reviews, but if you buy this film on Blu-ray (or any other format) you'll have no one to blame but yourself. Furthermore, you'll only encourage the knuckle-dragging throwbacks who made this piece of crap to pull their fingers out of their arses long enough daub faeces onto what will undoubtedly become their next 'script'. I don't think I'm being unfair when I say that everyone involved in the creation of this film should be sterilised so that they can't pollute the gene pool. In fact, Meet the Spartans is so devoid of humour it makes paedophilia look positively hilarious. Do not buy this disc, not even in some half-arsed attempt at irony—you won't be subverting anything other than your own will to live. You have been warned.
As an aside, my Samsung BD-P1400 flat out refused to play this disc using the latest firmware. I'd like to thank Samsung for the undocumented 'taste filter' in their machines, even if it did mean I had to borrow a PS3 for this review.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over
Release Date: 18th August 2008
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Audio Description 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 German, Dolby Digital 5.1 Hungarian, Dolby Digital 5.1 Portuguese, Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish (Castilian), Dolby Digital 5.1 Thai
Subtitles: Arabic, Chinese, Danish, English, Finnish, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Thai
Extras: Commentary, Games, Featurettes, Gag Reel, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer
Cast: Sean Maguire, Carmen Electra, Kevin Sorbo,Diedrich Bader, Ken Davitian
Length: 86 minutes
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