Movie Review: 300

Category: 300 Reviews | Posted by: admin
Article Date: March 1, 2007 | Publication: Blogcritics.Org | Author: Kaonashi
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Title: 300
Year: 2007
Director: Zach Snyder
Starring: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Dominic West, David Wenham, Rodrigo Santoro
Rated: R

300 is based on Frank Miller's 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 aren't going down without a fight. And fight they do.

spartan_warrior If you've 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 "Frank frames". The film in 300 is a muted and grainy sepia color. According to producer Jeffrey Silver, Snyder created a photographic process called "the crush", 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 can't help but gasp when you see a long shot of an army that would put Sauron's 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.

Persian ImmortalsThe 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. There's 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 it's difficult to accomplish. She reminded me a lot of Connie Nielsen's 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 wasn't in the original graphic novel and was created by Snyder as a means of bringing to the film Miller's 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. Dilios's 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.

Butler as LeonidasOther miniscule weaknesses I found were the silly oracle dancing scene, and Butler's 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 minor weaknesses did little to prevent me from thoroughly enjoying 300. It's an action-packed, bloody, awe-inspiring, fantastic work of art. Be sure to catch it when it opens in theaters on March 9.

4 1/2 Stars