ReelFanatic: 300 Review

Category: 300 Reviews | Posted by: maryp
Article Date: March 11, 2007 | Publication: Reel Fanatic | Author: Keith Demko
Publication/Article Link:Reel Fanatic

When you're watching the spectacle that is Zack Snyder and Frank Miller's "300," I can certainly see why it's tempting to forget that this is simply a comic book movie. Granted, an ambitious and nearly flawlessly rendered one, but a comic book movie all the same.

So, I guess you can forgive two usually very reliable film critics for reading way too much into this. I normally don't like to call out critics, both because I generally like them quite a bit and because, well, in an ideal world I would be one. This time, however, I think I have to.

First up is A.O. Scott of the New York Times: Zack Snyder’s first film, a remake of George Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead,” showed wit as well as technical dexterity. While some of that filmmaking acumen is evident here, the script for “300,” which he wrote with Kurt Johnstad and Michael B. Gordon, is weighed down by the lumbering portentousness of the original book, whose arresting images are themselves undermined by the kind of pomposity that frequently mistakes itself for genius.

"Pomposity that frequently mistakes itself for genius?" Passed by a mirror recently Mr. Scott?

One other critic who just thought way too much about this is Dana Stevens of Slate, normally one of my favorites: And visually, 300 is thrilling, color-processed to a burnished, monochromatic copper, and packed with painterly, if static, tableaux vivants. But to cast 300 as a purely apolitical romp of an action film smacks of either disingenuousness or complete obliviousness. One of the few war movies I've seen in the past two decades that doesn't include at least some nod in the direction of antiwar sentiment, 300 is a mythic ode to righteous bellicosity.

I guess all that was somehow meant as an insult. If you were to tell Zack Snyder, Frank Miller or, for that matter, me, that "300" was visually thrilling and a romp of an action movie, I'm sure we'd all agree. And we'd all be satisfied with that.

If you just take this one for its text, rather than digging around for that pesky subtext, "300" is just tons of fun, and a real accomplishment.

In the area of melding comic books and movies, Frank Miller has definitely risen to the top of the heap. After surviving a slow start, "Sin City" was a big step in the right direction, and "300" takes what was right with that movie a big step further. For the first time, you can really feel like you're flipping through the pages of the graphic novel as you watch the movie, which to me at least is pretty friggin cool.

Alan Moore should be paying attention. What he might learn is that if you actively participate in turning your graphic novels into movies, and perhaps become the director, you might be much happier with the finished product rather than simply complain about it all the time. (Miller, by the way, is listed as the director on a "Sin City 2" and "Sin City 3." I say bring it on.)

Snyder and Miller have a more-than-willing accomplice here in Gerard Butler, who stars as King Leonidas, who led 300 of his best soldiers into battle against the imperious forces of Persia. It may not be an Oscar-worthy performance, but Butler delivers ridiculous lines like "tonight we dine in hell!" not only with a straight face but with gusto. It's his energy that gets "300" through its few rough patches, mostly brought on by the very unnecessary narrator (really my only quibble with "300.")

And the battle sequences, as Dana Stevens pointed out before she lost her mind, are indeed visually thrilling. I don't want to spoil any of it, but what it brought to mind most for me was Kurosawa's "Throne of Blood." A reach? Perhaps, but that's what I saw. Whatever you see in Miller and Snyder's fine film is up to you, I can only encourage you to see it. And, just in case it needs to be mentioned, I am not asking for a remake of "Throne of Blood."