Spartan Spittle

Category: 300 Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: March 22, 2007 | Publication: The - Oklahoma Daily Reader | Author: Ryan Syrek
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Thanks to missVictoria for the article!

Intensity to the power of 300

A conversation between 300 writer/director Zack Snyder and Gerard Butler, who plays King Leonidas, may have gone something like this:

Butler: “What’s my motivation again?”
Snyder: “You’re really pissed.”
Butler: “But I was pissed in the last scene.”
Snyder: “Yep.”
Butler: “Sounds good.”

Nearly every sentence in the film is a descriptor of bravery, usually starting with “Spartans do” or “Spartans do not,” followed by an intense verb, meaning the scriptwriting process must have been a lot like playing a game of Greek Mad Libs. Still, audiences will not be turning out in throngs for the dialogue. No, like attendees at the Roman coliseum on fight night, viewers are coming for hyper-stylized violence, and the arcing spurts of visceral blood should be more than sufficient for the hordes to sup.

300 is based on a graphic novel by Frank Miller, and, much like the adaptation of his Sin City, the film is entirely green-screened, meaning backgrounds are digitally added. The subject of this pseudo history lesson is the Battle of Thermopylae, where 300 Greek warriors squared off against a slew of Persian warriors, lead by Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro). While the Persian numbers are exaggerated (the final count is somewhere between one and eleventy billion), the idea remains true. While the King is out getting his sword fight on, his wife, Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey), tries to convince the politicians, lead by Theron (Dominic West), to send the remainder of the army. For Leonidas, there’s no time for democracy, there’s only time for decapitation and dismemberment, the official Spartan pastime.

Snyder keeps the plot relegated to bystander status. Words are the mere opening act for the visuals that headline the film. The imagery is a mix of blood and beauty, from the gossamer-clothed oracle, who gyrates and seizes her predictions (facilitated by what appears to be Greek meth), to dead bodies piled high into the horizon. In terms of acting, Butler is running a one-man show. Screaming every line of dialogue he utters, complete with flecks of spit, his intensity is pitch-perfect. The character may be in shallow waters, but Butler makes quite a splash.

While some critics have chosen to examine the film from an Iraq War perspective, such a reading seems not only implausible, but wishful thinking. In the end, 300 isn’t about anything more than visual artistry painted on a violent canvas and if your favorite paint color is hemoglobin red, you’re in for a treat.

4 out of 5 heads