Hey there Quint, Moriarity and, of course, Head Geek!
This is Randy of AFTimes. I last dropped you a report on an advanced showing of Miami Vice back in the spring. I'm back-with one of THE Geek movies of 2007! Since its actually based on a historic event, I don't think you can spoiler the movie. That being said-I'd call this a non-spoiler review.
These are the days I love living in SoCal... even if I AM unemployed.
Thanks to my friends ROBIN and ROSE, I made my way to the Pacific Winnetka on this balmy November day (95 degrees!) to see one of the anticipated films of 2007: 300
After the usual line then wait in the theater, which passed easily in pure uber-geek conversation with fellow viewer Corey, the film got started about 7:35pm.
The Basics: In ancient Greece, King Leonidas(Gerard Butler) of Sparta who, with 300 of his personal guard, held off the invasion of his land by King Xerxes(Rodrigo Santoro) and the overwhelmingly superior number of the Armies of Persia.
The movie ran approx. 1 hr. 50 min., seemed about 95 percent done with only a few VFX to be cleaned up. Opening and closing credits were in place and though the soundtrack was in place, I don't know for sure if it was Tyler Bates' finalized score.
It's been a good year for me-two of my favorite comics/graphic novels have been brought to the screen well- V For Vendetta and 300.
So you can see up front that I'm biased. I LOVED Frank Miller's graphic novel(actually, comic book as I bough them as individual issues). I was jazzed for the movie adaptation. I was at SDCC and saw the footage which became the trailer back in July. Three times. I was hooked.
So let me tell you the tale of 300.
Not the story but the tale-and that's the important difference in this movie.
Several years ago, several best-selling books were published that told the story of the Battle of Thermopyale in 480 BC between the Spartans and the Persians at the Hot Gates.
But that's not 300.
300 is the tale of Men defending their way of life against an unrelenting, unstoppable force, not because they would win but because there was no option to lose.
This is a tale because, unlike the books that were written, it is not about telling a story based in the real world. 300 is about what tales represent, what they bring to those that hear them. The Spartans are considered great soldiers of history. But in
300, these Spartans are much more. They are Champions of War, seemingly chiseled out of the rock of Greece itself. Creatures of such power and grace, that they don't wound a soldier with a sword, they cleave a whole limb. They don't run into battle, they smash through battle lines. They don't jump into a fight, they gracefully leap into throngs of soldiers killing two at a time.
These are not just men, not just soldiers. These are Heroes.
300 is about a different time and way of thinking. It's about reminding us of what courage and sacrifice mean, about backing up one's words with actions. It's not surprising that I had moments that brought to mind not only Gladiator but The 13th Warrior, Excalibur and Conan the Barbarian. This is tale where everything is in bold, stark capital letters-Men, Women, Honor, Glory, Bravery. And I think those have been sadly lacking in movies lately.
Because of the nature of this kind of storytelling, I can understand that some might see the performances of Gerard Butler, David Wenham, Dominic West as being too stoic, too curt, giving very little in the way character development. But I don't see that as a flaw in the script by writers Zack Snyder, Kurt Johnstad and Michael B. Gordon. These are forthright, plain-speaking people, who do not waste words. These are men of action.
Gerard Butler stepped up into the role of not only king but a man you'd follow into death and beyond. I wasn't sure he would be right for this(Clive Owen came to mind) but he sold me on one moment. During a battle, his face covered in shadow, only his eyes and tooth grimace/smile stand forward-it's chilling, full of equal parts love and menace at what he must do. And while it may seem trivial, I commend him and all the actors for working out as much as they did-it shows in not only the look but in their performance.
For that reason alone (and Butler being nude), this movie will appeal to others on a completely different level!
I cannot help but mention Lena Headey who plays Queen Gorgo. While Gerard Butler may have the most fun playing the Spartan king, Lena Headey show what a Spartan woman is like, a mirror of the fighting man whose strength of character is no less strong then that of the men. She gives both a warm and flinty strength to the Queen. And she shows to NEVER underestimate the cunning and ferocity of a Spartan woman! I think her upcoming stint as Sarah Conner in "The Sarah Conner Chronicles" is excellently cast.
The action scenes are very well-done, getting two or three of the four spontaneous outburst of applause during the film. The first battle between the Spartans and the Persians gives you an amazing feeling of the power behind an army when it connects with
another. I will say that the amount of under and over-cranking of the film speed does start to tire but I believe it fit with what the nature of the film. With only one or two exceptions, I felt that I never lost track of what was happening in the action as has been the case in some of the fights sequences in Gladiator and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
So well done director Zack Snyder! You didn't screw this up... which easily could have happened. He followed his own advice about making movie adaptations of graphic novels: The images are already on the page so stop f-ing it up by trying to change it. (A
paraphrase of his from Comic Con).
300 was shot on green-screen stages with background put in, like Sin City. But this is night and day in comparison! There are images that I very nearly could name you the issue and page it was pulled from! But it never took me out of the action, which is the biggest worry when using this kind of technology.
My suggestion to Warner Brothers is to sneak this movie a week or two before release, to whip people into a fervor. This is a movie that is Big, not because of budget or cast but because of the tale is tells.
"Go, stranger, and tell the Spartans that we lie here in obedience to their laws." And I tell you that you must see 300 in March 2007.
Worth Paying...Evening Prices What About Toys? Coming from NECA in February 2007 - and PLEASE make a 18" talking King Leonidas!
ADDENDUM-I also have to mention something interesting that happened afterwards. While you see the Suits at these screenings, you also sometimes see the director as well. Well, in the lobby, I was surprised to see, hiding under a trucker hat, King Leonidas
himself-Gerard Butler! So Mr. Butler, in case you are reading, I was the one that walked up, shook your hand, looked you square in the eyes and said "Amazing" and walked away. Thanks for being cool about it.
Thanks for reading!
Randy of AFTIMES (www.aftimes.com)