Stylish, violent and true to
Category: 300 Reviews | Posted by: admin
history comic books
Article Date: March 9, 2007 | Publication: Houston Chronicle | Author: AMY BIANCOLLI
Read the movie's 3-star review
Action/Adventure, Drama, War
for graphic battle sequences throughout, some sexuality and nudity
David Wenham, Dominic West, Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Vincent Regan
Frank Miller, Kurt Johnstad, Lynn Varley, Michael Gordon, Zack Snyder
Bernard Goldmann, Gianni Nunnari, Jeffrey Silver, Mark Canton
Mar 09, 2007
Warner Bros. Pictures
"Prepare for glory!" yowls the granitic and pointy-bearded Spartan king to his virile troops in 300, a handsome monstrosity of a film.
This directive has been repeated on every shred of the movie's advertising, priming audiences for a battle between muscle-head combatants on a beach in ancient Greece. Glory? Sure, there's glory, along with a pop-eyed ogre and a smashingly accessorized Persian god-boy with a brow as plucked as Barbie's.
But brace yourselves for something else, too. Prepare for a film that decapitates with conviction, splatters with glee, poses like a fitness mag, emotes like an opera, intones like a sportscaster and plays out like Homer in the age of comic books. It is to conventional cinema what graphic novels are to prose: mannered, trenchant and chesty. (Not since Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan havean actor's pectorals been so alarming.)
It's also the strangest and most deliriously violent movie I have ever confessed to liking.
300 is based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller (who wrote and illustrated) and Lynn Varley (who created its distinctive, slashy colors) and directed by Zack Snyder, whose waggish re-do of Dawn of the Dead shed similar quantities of blood in a similarly losing battle.
In that film, a brave few mall denizens staved off teeming hordes of the hungry undead. In this one, the brave few are 300 Spartan warriors, 480 B.C., and the teeming hordes are Persian armies on a quest for world domination. The setting has moved from suburban tarmac to the Battle of Thermopylae, where the Greeks fight off invaders at a narrow pass.
Leading the Spartans and their much-wussier Arcadian allies is King Leonidas, he of the pointy beard and Ricardo Montalban bustiness.
I cannot say enough nice things about Leonidas or the actor who plays him, Gerard Butler, who's never been a wispy presence in film (Beowulf and Grendel, Phantom of the Opera) but here comes across as a large hunk of metamorphic rock. He's elemental. So much of the film is so thoroughly green-screened — so beautifully computerized — that I began to wonder whether Butler himself was assembled by techies with only Miller's book and a few Greek myths to guide them.
The whole undertaking has this look about it — this geek-chic celebration of demigod six-packs and mondo-stylized overstatement. Scenes are staged from comic-book angles, with comic-book lighting, casting comic-book shadows that darken vistas of dreamlike trickery. Realism is nowhere to be found, replaced by go-go gory reenactments in which gobs of blood fly in perfect arcs and combat rings with the splish! krak! shkreek! of death by metal pike.
Every few minutes comes a scene of fantastic artifice: the arrival of the Persian disco-king Xerxes (Brazilian star Rodrigo Santoro) on a temple carried by slaves, or a gray cloud of arrows that curve toward Spartans huddled under shields. Snyder's movie is as breathy, epic and expressionistic as many classic silent films, hacking huge emotions from fire-eating dialogue ("Hold! Give up nothing! But take from them everything!") that might have ripped from title cards.
It's airless, but so are graphic novels; it's hyperbolic, but so is the mythos of war. Is 300 faithful to history? For all I know, Spartan foot soldiers yelled "Ah-whoo! Ah-whoo! Ah-whoo!" (sort of a reverse Marine Corps "Ooh-rah!") before plunging into battle.
A better question to ask is: Does the film stay faithful to the Miller and Varley's vision? Indeed it does — to a kunch!