‘300’ is a man’s movie everyone can love

Category: 300 Reviews | Posted by: admin
Article Date: March 20, 2007 | Publication: The Ottumwa Courier | Author: ANDY PAUGH
Publication/Article Link:http://www.ottumwacourier.com

I’ve decided that if a movie is ever made about my life, I want the backgrounds used in the Frank Miller movies.

The man behind the graphic novel “Sin City” as well as “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns” recreates comic book panels by placing actors in front of virtual backgrounds. It’s painstaking to do, but it’s also very cool.

He’s done the same with “300”, the movie based on the graphic novel detailing the legendary Spartan Battle of Thermoplyae in 480 B.C.

We’re told about the toughness of Spartan men by the soldier Dilios (David Wenham, who narrates much of the movie). From the time they’re born, Spartan boys are trained and tested again and again to become the roughest, toughest soldiers the world has ever known. The finest of these soldiers is King Leonidas (Gerard Butler). Leonidas is tough and vicious in battle, but is also fiercely devoted to Sparta and the notion that men should be free. He’s a cross between Russell Crowe’s Maximus in “Gladiator” and Mel Gibson’s William Wallace in “Braveheart”, which is basically what “300” is. When a mighty Persian army led by the god-king Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) demands all of Greece’s surrender, Leonidas issues a resounding “no” and against the orders of the Spartan council, takes 300 of Sparta’s finest warriors to the Grecian mountain pass of Thermoplyae.

Leonidas chooses this particular spot because it forms a bottleneck that makes it difficult to send thousands of troops through and evens the odds for the more skilled Spartan soldiers to fight. The Spartans would suffer minimal losses while inflicting major damage to the massive Persian army, which we’re told numbers in the “millions.”

The battles themselves are blood and gruesome. Blood splatters everywhere, troops and animals are pushed off of cliffs, heads are cut off and flying everywhere. Make no mistake, this is a man’s movie. The testosterone is practically oozing off the screen.

But there are more subtle moments. Leonidas’ wife, Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) is left behind to care for their son, but also tries to convince the council to send more troops to help her husband, as well as ward off the advances of the scheming council member Theron (Dominic West). She shows Spartan women possess power of their own. Why do they have this power? “Because we give birth to Spartan men,” she says.

The real star of the movie is the incredible backgrounds with their rich mixture of colors and shadows. It makes for a world all its own. Butler gives a strong performances as Leonidas. He’s actually much more sinister here than he was in the title role of “The Phantom of the Opera.” Leonidas is a man’s man, a true warrior. He shows off his bulging muscles and gives all of the might speeches about fighting for honor and the glory of dying on the battlefield.

But Butler gives him a hint of vulnerability, especially at the end, that adds another layer and leaves the slightest impression that Leonidas, way deep down inside, may be a bit of a softie.

While “300” has strong influences from other movies, it has enough of its own merits to make it stand out from other epic movies about major battles. It’s a movie the guys will definitely enjoy. But a lot of women will find they enjoy it, too.

“300” is now playing at the Ottumwa 8 Theater. It is 117 minutes long and is rated R for graphic battle sequences throughout, some sexuality and nudity.

Three and a half stars out of four.

Andy Paugh is the Courier's news editor. He can be reached at aspaugh@mchsi.com