300 Big Ones (blog)

Category: 300 Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: April 22, 2007 | Publication: Wordpress.com | Author: Grant TLC
Publication/Article Link:http://granttlc.wordpress.com/2007/04/22/300-big-ones/

Last Sunday night I saw the film adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel, 300. I haven’t read the novel, if you’re wondering, and had seen very little by way of previews, reviews or anything much to do with the film bar a smattering of comments made by the Internet community and a rather melodramatic ‘Comment is Free’ piece in the Guardian overreacting to the political context the film had arrived in.

If you haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil it but suffice to say I thought it was absolutely brilliant. As fine a piece of mindless, digitally enhanced entertainment I have ever seen.

There are many things the film lacks, subtlety being the most glaring casualty. We are treated to at least two slow-motion shots of severed heads spinning in all their bloody, bone splintered glory: Gunter von Haagen would be proud, and I have to say I personally thought that Hollywood overcoming this prissy little delicacy was long overdue. Having said that, though, when the film shows a character receiving a blade through the eye, we default to the standard facial-shadowing technique (boo, hiss!). There is an argument for leaving something to the viewers imagination but, frankly, after 30 years I’m a little bored of filling in the gaps in every film I see – gimme my on-screen vivisection, dammit!**

Oh, and there are plenty of nipples on display in this film, with at least three of them being female! Sexual imagery is sparse and delivered in a blunt, ham-fisted way that owes more to teenage porn fantasies than the natural beauty of human sexuality. One long scene in particular – a floaty redhead replete with strawberry nipples - caused a few in my screening of the film to squirm uncomfortably; I suspect this had more to do with sudden trouser-fly rearrangement than with any serious moral discomfort.

300 also lacks the gravitas that Ridley Scott’s Gladiator had, despite using some alarmingly similar cornfields and other themes (I suspect these fields are where they also harvested the dialogue). Historical accuracy has a few nods, but generally goes unloved while any money available for complex plotlines, character development or clever scripting seems to have been funnelled wholesale into the film’s rich canvas of visual paint.

Finally, for a supposed bunch of Mediterraneans I detected several accents native to my own British Isles. Leonidas sounds distinctly Connery at times, while Welsh, Australian and even English dialects were present and correct. Leonidas may as well have been starring in Braveheart (and probably should have been, thanks-oh-so-very-much, Gibson, you ego-driven Nazi). Okay, the cast was mainly British, but this was perhaps to its detriment: it never really felt to me like a greek story.

But who the hell gives a monkey’s-tadger about the failings of the film when the resulting stew is this much FUN.

The plot concerns the efforts of 300 spartans and several thousand greek allies (though you won’t see much of either force looking at the film) defending a narrow pass against the million-strong hordes of invading Persians. That’s really all you need to know. There is a sub-plot involving Leonidas’ wife berating the Spartan council for not supporting her heroic husband but although necessary for pacing these segments are rudely intrusive in a film designed to be an hour-long showcase of increasingly desperate battles; there’s no way political intrigue can compare to the more visceral carnage on offer. Also, Queen Gorgo (Lena Headley) is reasonably pretty but is simply not enough by herself to hold our attention through the slow, dull, talky bits, especially since she was completely and utterly outshone by Kelly craig’s wondrous floaty redhead 20 minutes in.

To the battles! Blood flies at the camera in rainy torrents, limbs spiral free of their owners, corpses are piled two-storeys high and our spartan heroes slice, spin and dance balletically through the oncoming persian fodder like ultra-aggressive, slow-mo warrior-ballerinas: scarlet capes swirl, ripped deltoids and pectorals ripple, steel flashes and glints. The irony is that while the Spartans represent the greatest collection of homo-erotic imagery ever committed to film, even down to their skimpy leather speedos, the carnage and blood-letting didn’t half make my own blood sing. In this life I’m a committed pacifist and yet half way through I found myself itching to be among them, skewering people in the face with impunity (and steel) and bathing in the testosterone-soaked banter of raw, male POWER.

All a fantasy of course, lol, but this is exactly the best way to think of the film, and the absolute best way to enjoy it: switch off the ol’ higher brain functions for a while and let your reptilian hind-brain soak it all in, while idly licking its eyes. James Bond is too pretentious (and now a gay icon), Gladiator and LOTR are too worthy. The only mildly-similar film I can really compare 300 to for raw machismo is Antionio Banderas’ 13th Warrior, but 300 beats that film into a bloody pulp with its comic-panel, splash-page art-direction, subdued colour palette…and floaty redhead.

In short, forget all the pseudo-political guff you may have heard and avail yourselves of the opportunity to watch the most beautifully made piece of fantasy art you will see all year featuring 300 snarling, naked adonises and, of course, one helluva floaty redhead.

More, please!