300: First Look
Category: 300 News | Posted by: DaisyMay
Article Date: January 31, 2007 | Publication: Underground Online | Author: Justin Clark
Over the last few months when going to the theater, it's been a never-ending source of amusement to watch a bored audiences daydream their way through most of movie trailers, only to snap to attention hearing 300's King Leonidas growl at the top of his lungs, "Spartans! Tonight we dine in hell!" Indeed, the trailer, attached to The Departed a while back, got quite a few heads to turn with the promise of a brutal, yet gorgeous heroic landscape for a battle that time forgot: 300 Spartans versus the entire Persian empire.
Judging from the packed screening room, and the joyously enthusiastic response, the early preview footage we saw at Warner Bros' 300 event in New York last Monday kept that promise. The closest comparison anyone can make to the sheer unbridled coolness this movie looks to offer is the PS2 game God of War. No, there's no one running around with swords and chains ripping the heads off Medusas... at least as far as we could tell. But the balance between breathtakingly beautiful and foot-to-ass coolness is similar.
The footage starts slow, with the birth of Leonidas, and his grooming to become a Spartan king, all with Delios' (David Wenham) narration. It's ominous right from the start, and Leonidas is a tough little scrapper from the beginning. It's nothing compared to the first clip that truly makes an impact: Leonidas, who's grown up to become Gerard Butler, is faced with an ultimatum from the Persians. Embarrassed in front of his soldiers and his wife, Leonidas doesn't shoot the messenger so much as he sends the messenger and his entourage screaming down a well.
The next clip has Leonidas and his wife in bed talking about a prophecy made by an oracle. Despite the nakedness, the scene is actually pretty natural dialogue between a husband and wife. Hopefully, this is the precedent for the whole film. Well, except for the weirdly edited sex. We can get that in Alexander. It also leads right into a few jaw-dropping shots of the Spartan army at sea, and charging themselves up for war, with a bit of Delios' voiceover. We've seen this scene before in Troy, but where that film denies the epic beauty inherent to the story, this footage is bathing in it.
At least until it decides to kick some ass.
The next clip is of the first battle. The Spartans are backed up against a mountain as the Persians charge in, through sheer force, and shields
Leonidas and company keep the entire ravenous army at a standstill, before pushing back in unison, tossing a few spears to thin out the herd. Soon, the crowd breaks, smaller battles break out, and Leonidas is on his own. More accurately, Leonidas, simply, OWNS. With a spear and shield, he tears through about 15 Persians in the hardest hitting, most painful, and gruesome ways imaginable, each hit accentuated by slow motion. Limbs fly off in arcs of blood, soldiers are getting stabbed in very uncomfortable places, people getting their brains bashed out with a shield. Zack Snyder calls it "The Freelance." If it hasn't already, this is the point the film will have audiences eating out of the palm of its bloody hand. From there, the Spartans, being thoughtful weapons of war, decide that the Persians "must be thirsty", and kindly offer them something to drink, which in Greek apparently means pushing the remaining soldiers all the way back off a cliff into a river.
The next scene is Leonidas meeting with Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), which offers a few lighthearted moments, but the second the guy opens his mouth, and a voice that makes Michael Clarke Duncan sound like Mickey Mouse comes out, the jokes end. For everyone except Leonidas, that is.
The final clip is the Spartans versus the Immortals. Think Lord of the Rings' Easterlings, but with cooler masks and uglier faces. Delios makes them out to be elite killers, but not even elite killers are a match for a wall of dead people. You read that right. The Immortals are blocked by a wall of bodies while marching through a mountain pass. Before they get the chance to slice their way through, we cut to Leonidas, on top of the pile, pushing the entire thing over onto the Immortal general. From there, it's bloody warfare again, but this time, not nearly as clean cut. The Spartans are winning, but are taking some big losses here.
Then out comes this... thing, about eight feet tall, shirtless, veins like cables on the Brooklyn Bridge, holding a sword and an axe, and all teeth. Sadly, we don't get to see the thing fight, but what we do see makes it even more frustrating. Delios and Leonidas are obviously having issues; they keep saving the other's life during the fight, looking at each other incredulously. That's when one of the Immortals tosses a sword, in slow motion, while Leonidas is facing Delios. Leonidas ducks, the sword gives the broom on Leonidas's helmet a haircut, the blade's getting closer and...
From there, it's a slightly expanded version of the theatrical trailer, mostly adding a little more dialogue to the "Then we will fight in the shade." scene. After the barrage of cheers died down, there was a Q&A with Zack Snyder, Frank Miller, and Gerard Butler (who did a happy 35th birthday dance for the audience before coming down to speak).
Frank Miller on doing 300 in the same vein as Troy:
"Doing an ultra-realist version of a battle that was never written down would be quite difficult. We based this on oral history, much imagined, much exaggerated. When I did my book I took a lot of liberties because I thought that the average hoplite or Greek knight would be carrying 75 pounds of panoply, weaponry and such, he would weigh about 150 pounds. You would see a bunch of little red caped beetles moving slowly across the desert, and you'd go to the next movie.
Miller on the inspiration for 300:
"I was six years old when I saw a movie called The 300 Spartans and towards the end of it I nudged my brother who was sitting next to me and asked, 'Are the good guys losing?' He said, 'I don't know, you better ask Dad.' And we were very cool kids, so we were obviously sitting two rows in front of our parents. So I scurried back to my dad and said, 'Dad, are the good guys going to die?' [my dad said] 'I'm afraid so, son.' And I went back and sat down, and everything about my creative life, everything I thought about heroes was changed forever. Heroes stopped being people who got medals and got applauded and got statues made of them. All of a sudden they were people who did the right thing whether anybody knew it or not."
Zack Snyder on the Nine Inch Nails song in the trailer and whether that's what we can expect from the score:
"I think that [composer Tyler Bates] really put in a conscious effort to support the visuals. You don't want to counter the visuals so much that you're like 'Oh, rock and roll, this is stupid,' but also where you're not completely playing to the established rules of swords and sandals."
Snyder on the trailer:
"If you watch a movie trailer, you'll see, you can only whisper or yell. Those are your two options."
Gerard on Leonidas' screaming in the trailer:
"Maybe it's because of the physicality and passion and all that, but for me it felt like I got into the physical and mental condition of a Leonidas. I felt like a f**kin' monster, basically. So screaming didn't really hurt my throat."