300: Frank's take (blog)

Category: 300 Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: April 1, 2007 | Publication: computercrowsnest.com | Author: Frank Ochieng
Publication/Article Link:http://www.computercrowsnest.com/features/arc/2007/nz11163.php

Co-writer/director Zack Snyder's 300 is a starving fanboy's odyssey drenched in eye-popping, rustic opulence. Artistically triumphant in its arresting visual spectacle, Snyder's historical action-adventure oozes with technological magnificence, finds Frank.

Imaginative and robust in its ode to the escapist take on raging manhood, brutality, throbbing sexuality and bombastic battle scenes, 300 is a skilfully boisterous epic that could have resonated soundly with the movement of an overactive joystick. No doubt that this testosterone-driven tale of blood and guts will give credence to the romanticism of such absurd-minded elements of racism, misogyny and homophobia. Undoubtedly, the hyperactive male psyche for violent-induced petulance is proudly on display in the extravagant 300.

Author Frank Miller ("Sin City") penned the graphic novel upon which 300 is based. The over-the-top grandeur and outrageous vibrancy of the colourful narrative captures the rousing scope with intensity and surreal impact. Aesthetically pleasing in its computer-enhanced presentation 300 is absorbingly erratic and impulsive. Snyder's eye-catching symphony of heavy-duty excess wallows in its outlandish themes of masculine mayhem on a large scale.

Although clunky in some scenes, 300 will probably bring to mind such a concoction of excitable fare that range from its obvious comparisons of Gladiator and Braveheart to sophisticated high-flying martial arts flicks. Also, there's an influence of the Lord of the Ring movie series in terms of its elaborate, exquisite visionary landscape. In all the chaotic slashing, piercing, stabbing and carousing corrosiveness, Snyder and fellow writers Kurt Johnstad and Michael B. Gordon establish a utopian gorefest that's a real feast for the senses.

Some may be fooling themselves if they take 300 as fact-finding storytelling etched in historical adequacy. Nevertheless, the film does serve up its frenzied eye candy with explosive, playful aplomb. The plot is rather straightforward in its chest-pumping machismo. The story tells the tale of the famous mythical Battle of Thermopylae circa 480 B.C. The premise features the gutsy yet sparse and disadvantaged 300-man Spartan army confronting the vastly armed and durable manpower of the invading Persian warriors.

Clearly, the Spartans (intermingled with Hellenic forces) were outnumbered by their massive opponents. Still, that didn't stop King Leonidas (played by Scottish actor Gerard Butler) from leading his minimal supply of men into war against the Persians. Since politics and the ambivalence of the war effort sentiment remained in question Leonidas had no alternative but to select his dedicated fighters and trudge onward in the name of pride and promise. The strategy for the bearded and chiselled Leonidas against his overflowing foes was simple: he needed to figure out how to outsmart the Persians seeing as though his shortage of troops were no match physically for their endless streams of combative competitors.

In the meanwhile, Leonidas' better half in Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) has the daunting task of trying to keep the Spartan spirit alive and offer support while unctuous politico Theron (Dominic West) tries to throw a monkey wrench into the indecisive climate regarding the battle-weary discussions. Tyrannical Persian king Xerxes (Rodrigo Santiago) hopes to pour on the pressure in the battlefield as Leonidas and his crew struggle to contain the enemy to the best of their limited abilities. Indeed, it's a deadly tug-of-war between the determined and crafty Spartan "underdogs" and the monstrous presence of the radical bloodthirsty Persians.

It most likely would be an easy target to pick apart 300 for its creative convictions as some scholars looking to point out the ancient Greek mythology inconsistencies would merely pass off Snyder's overextended flamboyant entertainment as "irresponsible" and unrealistically flawed. The key term is "entertainment" and 300 shouldn't be apologetic for its calculating carnage mired in its sardonic overtones. This slaughterhouse-style of cinema is stimulating in its intended reckless glory of defiance and debauchery. Thus, this manic material stays true to form in the harried manner which creator Miller envisioned his sordid and stylised comic book to mimic on the big screen.

Avidly dazzling in its filmmaking flourishes (slow-motion camera sweeps, ambitious CGI manipulations, etc.), 300 is mindlessly rollicking but does its effective job in executing the exhaustive imagination of choreographed decapitations and serving up other oddball imagery (such as fantasized Cyclops creatures for instance) that's both invigorating and insipidly mind-boggling. Cinematographer Larry Fong's sweeping camera lens paints a seductive portrait of the silly-minded, sensationalized playground where "pain is gain" and the conception of hardened manliness is reduced to a lucid live actioner of over-the-top cartoonish destruction.

Not since television's Xena: Warrior Princess has there been a visceral reaction to the fabled exploits of ancient Greece told with a high-wired spunkiness of ribaldry, rhetoric and redemption.