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Gorgeous brutality excuses all flaws in 300

Category: 300 Reviews
Article Date: March 8, 2007 | Publication: North by Northwestern | Author: Patrick St. Michel
Source: http://www.northbynorthwestern.com/2007/03/2367/gorgeous-brutality-excuses-all-flaws-in-300/

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Zack Snyder’s 300 shouldn’t work. An adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel of the same name, the film aims for stylized beauty and breath-taking visuals while keeping a comic book feel. On top of that, it tries to be more manly than a WWE main event. With all these disparate parts trying to fit into an hour-and-a-half movie, 300 should be a confused picture bogged down by too many elements to truly take off.

But everything works. 300 balances all the conflicting elements without breaking a sweat, never letting one element flex its muscle more than the others, creating a balanced and enjoyable action romp. It’s a bloody and beautiful Greek epic, all magnificent vistas and artistic gore splattering around, much in the same vein as other recent ancient-times dramas, minus some of the brains. Call it the meathead’s Gladiator.

Based around the actual Battle of Thermopylae, 300 follows Spartan King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and 299 other Spartan soldiers in their fight against the Persian Empire, led by the imposing Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro). The Persian army outnumbers the Spartans immensely, a million strong to 300. But Leonidas and his men enter battle anyway. They don’t care about afraid of defeat or death, but rather how many of Xerxes men they can take down. In a side story, Leonidas’ wife Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) tries to convince the Greek tribunals to send more men to fight the Persians, in an effort to save the man she loves from death.

Compared to other old-world thrillers like Gladiator and Troy, 300’s plot isn’t terribly innovative. It’s the same story of epic war with overriding themes of honor and dignity. But is a recycled story such a problem? Not when you drape it with gorgeous backgrounds and (most importantly) cram it with plenty of fist-pumping action. The film plods along until Leonidas and his men reach the battlefield, where the plot simply becomes “watch a bunch of muscular men plunge swords into ninjas and rhinos.” This is when 300 is at its brutal best. The minor plot, centered around Queen Gorgo, slows down the picture significantly, prying the viewer away from the jaw-dropping war-grounds for what amounts to a sub-par political drama with more (fewer?) boobs.

300 does bloodshed best, and the people behind the splatter-full film know it. The majority of the movie centers on the actual fight at Thermopylae, a bloody and gory affair (hope you like decapitations, I counted four!). The fight choreography flows perfectly, a mixture of classic military fighting and brawling found in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. But what sets the conflict in 300 apart from other films of its sort is how artistic the violence is. Blood spurting out of soldiers isn’t just a goopy red-liquid, it becomes strokes of red more common to canvas than celluloid streaking across the screen. Spartan warriors move in and out of slow and fast motion, capturing all the glory and gruesomeness of the battle along the way. The film oversteps the artistic limits sometimes (slow-mo doesn’t need to be used that much), but 300’s battle scenes stand as some of the most pretty you’ll see in a war movie.

The beauty doesn’t end at the killing fields. 300 as a whole is a breathtakingly gorgeous film. Shot entirely behind bluescreens, the movie’s backdrops are achingly beautiful, majestic mountains rising over an angry sea pounding into the coast. The shots of Xerxes’ massive army forming on the beaches are equally impressive, a feast for the eyes. Snyder’s picture is stunning to look at, even when coated in blood.

The acting in 300 does exactly what it should do: Move the plot along just enough so more killing can commence. All the actors involved do their jobs (be ripped and look badass) great, so they can be excused for sometimes sounding kinda corny when screaming out lines. 300’s dialogue fizzles a fair amount of the time, being composed mostly of uninteresting banter and cheesy one liners ripped straight from the pages of a seventh grader’s history book (“Come home with your shield, or come home on it”). Still, the character’s lines aren’t why this film exists, so these oversights can be ignored when the spears start flying.

300 combines violence and visual beauty magnificently, creating a world both brutal and beautiful. Snyder’s latest effort shines, and will surely have viewers pumped after watching Leonidas’ epic stand against the Persian army. 300 may not be the brainiest ancient-times movie, but it is one of the most exhilarating and fun ones you’ll ever see.

 


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