'300' retells battle in stylish 'war opera'

Category: 300 Reviews | Posted by: admin
Article Date: March 22, 2007 | Publication: The Daily Beacon | Author: Will Robinson
Publication/Article Link:http://dailybeacon.utk.edu/showarticle.php?articleid=51229

Finally, here is a movie that will have people cheering at beheadings more than a French mob. �300� is of a new breed of film � the cinematic graphic novel � that was first brought to the big screen in Frank Miller�s �Sin City.� It is a movie with no sets, no locations � nothing but actors and a green screen.

�300� throws every movie formula off a cliff. Unlike any movie, it is more like a video game cut scene than a comic book. Director Zach Snyder centers on the action, making the story secondary. The plot seems only to allow the audience a break from battles. In fact, the whole film could be defined as a �war opera� in which fighting replaced the singing.

The movie is based on Frank Miller�s version of the battle of Thermopylae, where some 300 Spartans fought to the last man against an overwhelming Persian force poised to invade Greece. The battle of Thermopylae, as Miller portrays it, is the Spartans� desperate stand of freedom against royal tyranny under the Persian rule of Xerxes.

The Spartans, led by King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) were fierce warriors trained from infancy to fight. They decide to fight the Persians at a narrow mountain pass called Thermopylae in order to gain the advantage. They only sent 300 warriors, along with some Greek allies, to stand against the massive Persian army, but as long as the Greeks could hold the Persians at the pass (and hope that the Persians didn�t find a way around to attack from all sides), there would be no strength in numbers.

Perhaps due to their training, a ridiculous superiority complex and probably one too many blows to the head, the Spartans in the film have a unique outlook on life. When a Persian tells one of the Spartans that �our arrows will blot out the sun,� the Spartan calmly replies �then we shall fight in the shade.� The movie is filled with one-liners like this (remember it is based on a comic book) that will surely be repeated only by armchair warriors playing X-Box.

The only real plot seems to be Leonidas� sacrifice of himself and his soldiers. This may seem simple to some critics, but there can be nobility in simplicity.

The odds against the Spartans are brilliantly shown through the outrageous forces of the Persians (silver-faced ninjas, elephants, rhinoceros and mutant giants).

The cast is relatively unknown and lacks any big names; however, everyone involved steps up to the challenge. Butler does a superb job of balancing fierce warrior with noble king in the character or Leonidas, and his death is the only one in the movie that doesn�t make people cheer. His face, though half hidden behind a beard, portrays brief glimpses of emotion � all that a steely king would allow. His voice and body make it obvious why he was chosen for the role.

Leonidas� wife, the Spartan Queen Gorgo, is played well by Lena Heady, who exudes hotness and nobility at the same time. For the villains, Dominic West is brilliant as the slimy politician Theron, and Rodrigo Santoro is downright creepy as the 9-foot-tall Persian Emperor Xerxes.

The movie has garnered close to $130 million at the box office and is also showing at select IMAX theaters. It has also angered some Iranians due to the portrayal of the Persians.

The film shows a new type of violence. Blood flies as a rock soundtrack plays, but the violence has an artistic quality to it. Decapitation has never been shown in such slow motion glory. There is also ample nudity and the biggest on-screen collection of freaks since the �Hunchback of Notre Dame.� This movie is pure testosterone. And although women may find everything but the Spartans abs unappealing, guys will be cheering from the opening credits.

Grade: A+