Blaze of gory

Category: 300 Reviews | Posted by: admin
Article Date: March 8, 2007 | Publication: | Author: Robert Newton
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Zack Snyder represents Frank Miller in 300

Starring Gerard Butler, Lena Headey and Dominic West; Written by Zack Snyder, Kurt Johnstad and Michael B. Gordon; Based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller; Directed by Zack Snyder; 117 minutes; Rated R [for graphic battle sequences throughout, some sexuality and nudity]

Worcester Movies Weekly has given this movie a score of 3.5 out of a possible 5. In that film is a visual art form, movies that amp-up their visual component risk neglecting the one thing that is at the core of any film — the script. However, pair up a young, level-headed director with pop sensibilities like Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead) with a brooding, focused scribe like Frank Miller (Sin City), and the result might be, well…this bloody good epic.

As the inimitable Samuel L. Jackson once said, “Hold on to your butts!” Snyder’s faithful interpretation of Miller’s tale of 300 Spartans versus 5,000 Persians at the Battle of Thermopylae, circa 480 B.C., is a rockin’, adrenaline-fueled ride. With it, he has crafted the kind of immersive, dead-ahead free-fall that makes you want to holler with abandon like you were ringside at a Monster Truck rally while wrapped in vinyl sheeting, like the lucky folks in the front row at a Gallagher show wary of being showered in melon squishins. Hail to the King!

Unlike Wolfgang Petersen’s mechanical spectacle Troy, Snyder’s film is engaging. His lead, Gerard Butler (Beowulf & Grendel), is every bit the strong King Leonidas of lore. Like all the men who play his soldiers, he is amazingly fit and spry in this physically grueling role, though older audiences might think this parade of way-buff male specimens, prancing about as if they were being led around by elephants attached to their nipples, to be part of a casting call from an old Steve Reeves movie. Stunts and fight coordinator Damon Caro, who put Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie through hell in Mr. & Mrs. Smith, does an incredible job creating the up-close and personal feel of war as it was, the kind of visceral chaos that would end all wars if we had to fight that way today and watch the life wane from the whites our enemies’ eyes.

Meshing smartly with Snyder’s grubby pragmatism is James D. Bissell’s surreal, otherworldly production design. With a keen eye, he blends the work of hundreds of CGI folks and make-up artists, making the whole seem like one continuous in-camera shot. It is a far cry from his comparatively simple work in Good Night, and Good Luck, and is the kind of gorgeous, prolonged visual climax that will prompt the kind of repeat ticket sales that make a movie a hit financially. Also illustrative of the kind of across-the-board blending of media and styles is Tyler Bates’s kick-ass score. His rousing combination of chorus, orchestra and modern elements like metal guitar is very tight, and sounds like a 21st century tribute to Orff’s “Carmina Burana.”

In the same way that Snyder and company want to raise the bar and change the way that audiences think about movies, so too have some of the exhibitors stepped up and given those audiences new ways to enjoy them. Not only are the more commercial large-format IMAX theaters, like the Jordans Furniture venues in Natick and Reading, featuring a day-and-date rollout this week, but progressive local outfits like National Amusements (at the Blackstone Cinema De Lux) are presenting ever-sharp digital prints of the film, as well (and will also feature a 3-D version of Disney’s Meet The Robinsons later this month). It is fitting that how in the movie, the Spartans fought so fiercely for their freedom, especially in that in this modern battlefield, getting moviegoers’ butts in seats has become such a fight. In light of shrinking DVD windows, rampant piracy and loss of consumers to television and the Internet, it is a commendable effort, and one that would make King Leonidas proud, even if the victory doesn’t involve placing the heads of the vanquished on a pike at the concession stand.•••