Category: 300 Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: March 2, 2007 | Publication: No Face For Film | Author: Editor
Director: Zach Snyder
Starring: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Dominic West, David Wenham, Rodrigo Santoro
NoFace for Film rating: 6 out of 7
Yes, my friends. I have seen an early screening of 300, which doesnít come out until next Friday. You cannot imagine the glee I felt when I came upon this opportunity. I actually got to go to Warner Bros. Studios (which is like, 20 minutes away from me) and watch it there. And now, I get to tell you all about the awesomeness that is this film.
300 is based on Frank Millerís graphic novel of the same name. In turn, the graphic novel is a loose retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae, as seen from the perspective of the King Leonidas of the military city-state of Sparta. When the mighty Persian army arrives in Greece, intending to conquer Sparta and the other loosely knit Greek city-states, King Leonidas (Butler) makes a stand. Against the wishes of the holy men and politicians, Leonidas takes 300 of his finest warriors to face an army numbering reportedly in the millions. Controlling the narrow mountain pass of Thermopylae, the Spartans send a clear message to the self-proclaimed, Persian God-King Xerxes (Santoro) that they arenít going down without a fight. And fight they do.
If youíve seen either of the trailers, you get just a taste of how beautiful and stylish this film looks. Nearly every frame of film looks like a piece of art- or rather, a panel from a comic book. Indeed, like Sin City, many scenes from 300 are straight out of the graphic novel, which Snyder referred to as ďFrank framesĒ. The film in 300 is a muted and grainy sepia color. According to producer Jeffrey Silver, Snyder created a photographic process called ďthe crushĒ, which consisted of crushing the black content of the image and enhancing the color saturation to change contrast ratio of the film.
The battle sequences are absolutely amazing. You canít help but gasp when you see a long shot of an army that would put Sauronís forces at Minas Tirith from The Return of the King to shame. However, I enjoyed the close-up fight scenes the most. Often times the fighting seemed like a brutal ballet. Born and bred to fight, the Spartan warriors effortlessly slash, spear, and hack their enemies. And yes, the scenes are quite bloody. Limbs and heads are separated from torsos, and digital blood sprays everywhere. Survivors are not spared.
The actors overall did a fine job in their respective roles. Butler exudes leadership, strength, and plain old badassness as King Leonidas. West is in fine Judas form as the oily politician Theron. Santoro makes a terrifically comical Xerxes, portrayed in the film as being about 8 feet tall and effeminate. Thereís no depth to him but he is after all, a comic book villain. I especially enjoyed Headey as Queen Gorgo. I love seeing strong female characters in films with a male-centered cast because itís difficult to accomplish. She reminded me a lot of Connie Nielsenís Queen Lucilla in Gladiator.
As great as I thought this film was, there are some weaknesses, notably the overuse of the voiceover, provided by Wenham, who plays Dilios, a Spartan soldier. Unlike most of the characters, Dilios wasnít in the original graphic novel and was created by Snyder as a means of bringing to the film Millerís signature, over-the-top style. Like any good storyteller, Dilios has a flair for the dramatic, so when he recounts the Battle of Thermopylae to the other Spartans (and the viewing audience), he exaggerates. Xerxes is 8 feet tall; rhinos are as big as a bus; a man has giant lobster claws- outlandish things that make sense in a graphic novel. Diliosís voiceover also describes during the first ten minutes of the film the harsh trials male Spartan children endure, which is necessary for audiences to understand them as adults. However, while the voiceovers are overall helpful, 300 went a little overboard with it. There were times I wished that Dilios would just stop talking so I could enjoy the film.
Other minor weaknesses I found were the silly oracle dancing scene, and Butlerís overscreaming. I felt that a near-naked, writhing redhead was out of place in 300 and felt that it was just an excuse to show a sensual dance. As for Butler, as much as I enjoyed him as Leonidas, the yelling was too much for me. We hear him yell twice in one of the trailers, and he does more yelling in the actual film.
Still, these little weaknesses did little to prevent me from thoroughly enjoying 300. Itís an action-packed, bloody, awe-inspring, fantastic work of art. Be sure to catch it when it opens in theaters on March 9.