Spartan warriors do battle in bloody scenes

Category: 300 Reviews | Posted by: admin
Article Date: April 5, 2007 | Publication: The Courier Mail (Australia) | Author: Rodney Chester
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Copyright 2007 Nationwide News Pty Limited
300 (MA) ***

IT'S ridiculous to protest that Zack Snyder's film 300 is not historically accurate. This is a film based on a comic book and it doesn't even stay true to that.

The 300 referred to in the title are the 300 Spartan warriors led by King Leonidas who, in 480BC, made a heroic stand at a narrow mountain pass against the might of the enormous Persian army.

The tale has been told before on the big screen in the 1962 film The 300 Spartans with Richard Egan, but Snyder has taken his interpretation from the graphic novel by Frank Miller of Sin City fame.

To retain the look of a graphic novel, the entire film has been shot in a studio in front of a green screen, with the background added with a colour palette that defies description. It's not black and white like Sin City, nor is it washed out. Snyder calls the colour balance ''crushed'' although I think ''trippy'' is closer to the heart of it. Gerard Butler (who played the bloke in the mask in the film of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera ) is Leonidas, a Spartan king who believes that nothing is better than an honourable death on a battlefield.

When a Persian messenger arrives at Leonidas's house, demanding that the Spartans pledge allegiance to the Persian king Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), Leonidas delivers his response with his sword.

Sparta, as we are reminded in the background story that begins this tale, is a brutal land where only perfectly formed children are allowed to survive, and those who do are bred to become the ultimate warriors. So, you would expect that all of Sparta would follow Leonidas into battle against the invaders.

And that's what Leonidas expects, too, until he goes through what equates to parliamentary debate, namely consulting a bunch of freaky looking priests who govern the rules of the land, with the outcome dictated by the size of the bribe served up and the mutterings of a sex slave.

He can't take his army into battle, but he can take 300 of his closest friends. What follows is a series of battle scenes as the determined group of men fighting for their freedom take on everything that Xerxes can throw at them.

And he can throw a lot, with the Persian army in this version having at its disposal a giant, rampaging rhino and armoured elephants, and gold-masked ninjas. Hard to believe? No harder than Xerxes himself, who is a towering figure of about 4m tall -- clearly they bred them well in those days.

Leonidas's brave 300 includes a beefed up David Wenham as Dilios, the narrator of the story who presents his lines with both feeling and a rather funny accent.

And Wenham is not the only actor who has been chiselled into the physique of a Greek god for this film. Just about every scene looks like it could be a cover of a men's health magazine, with abdominal muscles in abundance.

Snyder also diverts from the novel in beefing up the role of Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey), who sends her husband off to war with the advice to come back carrying his shield or being carried on it.

The fight scenes, which make up most of the story, range from the spectacular to the repetitive, and the dialogue, which sticks perhaps too closely to the sources (both historical and Miller's version), at times resembles lines you might hear in an episode of Thank God You're Here.

But you don't go and see a movie like 300 for the conversation. This is a spectacular vision of a good old-fashioned battle, with arrows blocking out the sun (''We'll fight in the shade,'' Leonidas says defiantly) and limbs being lopped off by the thousands.

300 is not an epic; it's just a simple action-man flick. Times 300. (116 min)