"300" portrays epic battle

Category: 300 Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: March 15, 2007 | Publication: The Record - SJU | Author: Justin Theodotou
Publication/Article Link:[url]http://www.users.csbsju.edu/record/archive/2007/03/15/variety/300-portrays-epic-battle.html[/end]

reviewer’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars


After “Gladiator” was released in 2000, it immediately shot to the top of my favorite movie list, and I consider it the best epic movie of the last decade (yes, even better than “Lord of the Rings,” sorry fans). Ever since, others have tried to imitate and top the superb performance delivered by Russell Crowe as well as the stunning cinematography.

Movies like Oliver Stone’s “Alexander” come to mind. This epic was uninspiring, and frankly, too epic. It drug on and on, and I never felt a connection to any one character. It was just too big. And I still can’t get over Angelina Jolie’s seemingly Russian accent.

But “300″ delivers. And with about as much subtlety as a spear through the head. This bloody epic, based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel of the same name, chronicles the Battle of Thermopylae, where 300 Spartan soldiers defend Greece against the invading Persian army that numbers in the hundreds of thousands.

Early in the film, we learn that the main character, King Leonidas, played by Gerard Butler, of “Phantom of the Opera” and “Reign of Fire”, is the muscle-bound definition of a rebel. As a young boy, he is sent out into the wilderness to kill a wolf and bring its pelt back to the city. Not an easy task for a 12-year-old.

Leonidas and his army are sparked into battle by a Persian messenger sent to Sparta who asks the king to simply surrender his city. Leonidas won’t have any of it and literally boots the messenger into a bottomless pit.

The next day, after a very naked goodbye to his wife, Queen Gorgo, played by Lena Headey, of “The Cave” and “The Brothers Grimm”, the king and his 300 soldiers march to meet the Persians at Thermopylae.

Thus begins the incredible journey into the minds of Frank Miller and director Zach Snyder, director of “Dawn of the Dead”. When placed side by side with the comic, the movie more than does it justice.

Miller is the same man who penned the gritty graphic novel Sin City, and some of the cinematographic elements of the film adaptation carry over into “300,” but are taken to the next level.

The film was shot almost entirely in front of a blue-screen, with computer generated backgrounds added in post-production, so the landscapes, seascapes and cities have a very surreal feel to them, but this only adds to the film.

This blue-screen technique also helps give this film its epic feel. Without it, the hundreds of thousands of Persians would not look nearly as colossal and intimidating.

But the mass of digital Persians fall quickly to the Spartans, and by the end of the first day of battle, Leonidas has lost no men, and the Persians hundreds.

But the battle scenes wouldn’t be complete without expert fight choreography, something “300″ does just as well as “The Matrix.” Spear thrusts and shield blows are followed by sword clashes that never cease to amaze and elicit a cringe and an upturn of my nose (all with a pure boyhood smirk on my face). The quick transitions from slow to fast motion during the battle scenes only emphasize the deadly blows.

The inspiring performance by Butler as the strong, determined King Leonidas is topped only by that of Headey as the hard-willed and poignant Queen Gorgo. Her impassioned speech to the Spartan senate to send more troops to Thermopylae wasn’t the only time I pumped my fist during the film.

“300″ has set a new standard for epic movies. Its ground-breaking use of blue screen and computer generated backgrounds have raised the bar very high indeed. With the success of this film — it grossed more than $70 million in its first weekend alone — Snyder has established himself as a more-than-competent Hollywood director.

I think it goes without saying that “300″ has given “Gladiator” a run for its money.

Heads up, Russell Crowe.