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300 Review

Category: 300 News
Article Date: March 10, 2007 | Publication: UGO | Author: Brian Tallerico

Posted by: admin

If Marv from Sin City got a last request before getting fried in the electric chair, it would probably be to kick back with a brew and babe and watch a movie like 300. Adapted from the graphic novel by Sin City overlord Frank Miller, 300 definitely comes from a similar mindset, a world where men are only men if they're willing to die for what they believe in and a woman's strongest weapon is her sexuality (and if that doesn't work, a blade will do the trick.) Also like Sin City, 300 is a visual spectacular, filled with severed heads, more plumes of blood than you're likely to see in any other movie this year, and a fascination with both the grotesque and the gorgeous. It's a unique film - imagine Gladiator filtered through Frank Miller's bizarre artistic temperament - and it's going to be interesting to see how not only fans of the genre, but also fans of movies in general, will respond to 300. Is it too weird for devotees of the traditional swords-and-sandals pics? Will it suffer from its lack of star power compared to Sin City? Or will action fans eat up the chaos and the bloodshed and turn 300 into an instant cult classic? All I know is this is a movie that Marv would definitely love.

The premise of 300 is incredibly simple: back around 480 B.C., the new God-king Xerxes wants more than a token offering from King Leonidas of Sparta (Gerard Butler) - he wants all kings of all the lands around him to bow down before him. As you might imagine, Leonidas bows for no man and decides to take his 300 best soldiers to war against the new tyrant. The 300 Spartans hear word of the destruction that awaits them against Xerxes' armies of hundreds of thousands other soldiers, but they march on. Eventually, as they near their destination, Leonidas' men switch to the "good offense is a good defense" mentality, hunkering down in a narrow, easily defendable canyon and waiting as horde after horde of warriors come looking for their blood. In an amazing sequence, kind of like an Epcot tour of action, Xerxes throws every kind of villain from around the world at the Spartan soldiers - an army that looks African follows an army that looks Indian follows an army that looks Asian and so on and so on. But the 300 Spartans don't care if they live to tell the tale. Like the warriors on Iwo Jima, they only want to make their mark before they die.

In some ways, Snyder and Miller have a similar movie-making philosophy. They're not concerned with typical things like dialogue and character - they only want to make an indelible impression on you before the lights come up. And, no matter what you think of what they've accomplished, you have to admit, like the 300, they make a mark. Some of the visuals in 300 will rank as the most stunning you'll see all year. In fact, the movie only sags when Snyder can't rely on his groundbreaking visuals, as in the exposition-heavy scenes between the stunning Lena Headey as Queen Gorgo and the miscast Dominic West as Theron. When 300 has to fall back on its dialogue, the picture definitely wanes. How are we supposed to be entertained by the political wheelings of the Spartan Queen when we've seen what the 300 soldiers have seen in battle? It also doesn't help that Snyder and Miller employ an awful narration by David Wenham to drive home too many of their weaker plot points. The narration serves a purpose, but it's largely just repetitive and distracts you from what's happening on screen. 300 shows us so much amazing imagery, it doesn't need to tell us about it at the same time.

On a performance level, Gerard Butler is perfectly cast as King Leonidas. The actor may stumble a bit in the accent department, but he brings a charm and charisma to the role that you need in order to believe that hundreds of men would follow him to their certain doom. The gorgeous Headey was also a strong choice - her striking presence always holds the screen, even if her character isn't given nearly enough to do. On the other hand, West, who's always so great on The Wire, doesn't seem to fit the time period, sticking out like a sore thumb, and Wenham reads his overcooked narration like he's stuck in a community theatre Shakespeare production.

In the end, most people aren't going to battle with 300 for its performances, message or dialogue (which is mostly just a series of variations on Leonidas' line "Give them nothing, but take from them everything!"). 300 is, first and foremost, a sensory experience, filled from first frame to last with images that are meant to burn themselves into your memory and force you to tell your friends about what you just saw. Thousands of movie fans will walk out of 300 thinking that they've never seen anything quite like it and knowing that they probably won't see anything like it again for a long time. Well, at least until Sin City 2.


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