Brutal but beautiful

Category: 300 Reviews | Posted by: admin
Article Date: March 8, 2007 | Publication: New Straits Times (Malaysia) | Author: Cindy Koh
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300 is inspiring, to say the least, and surprisingly so. After a few disappointments in films of this genre and being neither a fan of Greek literature nor movies of the genre, many elements of 300 have made yours truly sit down and take notice. First, it was the aesthetics.

The look and feel of the film stayed faithful to the mood of Frank Miller and Lynn Varley's graphics novel of the same title. Matte bronze-sepia finish, or what the computer-generated imagery (CGI) crew termed as "the crush", dominated the frames.

Beautifully rendered objects, background and movements coupled with live actors provided sustained bursts of energy throughout the film. The virtual skies, the land, the seas, the body parts, the beasts, the fight choreography, the makeup effects, and not forgetting the all-important blood, all added up to a visual feast of sorts. To help realise the stunning effects, director Zack Snyder assembled a diverse team of talents, including cinematographer Larry Fong, production designer James Bissell, visual effects supervisor Chris Watts and makeup and creature effects supervisors Shaun Smith and Mark Rappaport. Bissell and his team created three-dimensional environments and concept illustrations of Sparta, the Greek terrain and Thermopylae, the site of the epic battle.

Snyder, Bissell and Watts then reviewed them using Snyder's thumbnail storyboards as a departure point. According to 300's production statement, terrain sets were abstracted so they could be used for different scenes by changing camera angles or adding elements. This way, Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and his army of 300 marched across Greece (which was incidentally filmed in studios in Canada) using only three constructed sets. Watts and his team tested virtually everything that would be seen in the film: the look of fire, the Spartan capes, wounds, weapons, CGI blood versus real blood. "Just about everything, even details that one might take for granted, were painstakingly developed over the course of many months," Watts said. Snyder and his team should give themselves a pat on their back for their hard work as every scene of the film looked richly handpainted, complex and textured. The work was so seamless that it seemed like something that came out of a dream and not a computer. Other elements that made this epic enduring were the storyline, script, characters and sound/music. Cleverly scripted and passionately portrayed, many would not want to lose a beat anywhere in the process.

Due to the number of characters, each supporting actor was given short airtime, sometimes just enough to leave a cutting quote or two, but thankfully, each made his impact.

Perhaps their training (most of them went to drama school in the United Kingdom) had a part to play in their splendid delivery. One particularly outstanding character is Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey), who, despite her relatively brief appearances, gave an impactful performance. She had some of the most memorable lines. Brutal but beautiful is how the film should be summed up; there are no bones to pick. If you are not into historically-based dramas such as this, just go for the sexy men in shields, spears, swords, sandals and Speedos, but refrain from bringing your 12- unders! 300 starts battling into theatres today.