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Graphic novel adaptation '300' a raging success

Category: 300 Reviews
Article Date: March 14, 2007 | Publication: The Northern Light | Author: Jena Benton

Posted by: stagewomanjen

Although movies based on comic books are becoming more popular, they still aren't considered very mainstream and generally haven't been very successful. Some superhero films have certainly pulled ahead of the pack ("X-Men" and "Spider-Man" come to mind) and brought in soaring box-office numbers, but for the most part, many true comic book adaptations have been financial failures. This is not the case with "300."

"300" adapts a graphic novel by Frank Miller, who is most known for reviving the "Batman" comic book franchise. This particular story is based on the true historical events that took place at the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. when the Spartans tried to hold off invading Persian forces. Director Zack Snyder ("Dawn of the Dead") wanted to keep the vision of Miller's story as intact as possible, and he succeeded. The screen comes alive with artistic scenery and painted blood spatters that look just like scenes out of a comic book.

Initially to some viewers, this might seem a bit staged like "Sin City" (another Frank Miller graphic novel movie adaptation), but as the movie progresses, it becomes breathtakingly beautiful, almost as if it is a watercolor painting. This should come as no surprise, as the movie was shot almost entirely in front of greenscreens, with virtual sets added later. And the visual beauty is necessary for so brutal a story.

The film earns its R rating for the gore, death and dismemberment that occurs while the Spartan warriors fight to defend their homeland. Yet the artistic arterial sprays and the added sound effects somehow soften the blows: It is obviously staged, and the viewer can watch all the bloodletting without flinching, as it seems more make-believe.

And while the actors do an excellent job in this film, they too seem larger than life. King Leonidas (Gerard Butler, "Timeline," "Dear Frankie") is the perfect leader for this small group willing to stand against a much greater enemy to protect the ones they love. Butler, as Leonidas, is able to portray the anger, courage and fortitude necessary for the king of the Spartans. He is also able to deliver many quips that had the audience laughing and joining in the "kick butt" feeling of the film.

King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro, "Behind the Sun," "Love Actually") also seemed impressive, but part of this might have had to do with his many piercings or his androgynous appearance played up for the comic-book aspect. However, it could also have something to do with special effects. In one scene he towers over the 6-foot-2-inch Butler by a couple of feet, when in reality he is the exact same height.

But the men in this film aren't the only ones to conquer the acting arena. Queen Gorgo (Lena Heady, "The Brothers Grimm," "Imagine Me & You") gets have some amazing screen time as well, delivering her own great lines and speeches. She is no typical female on the sidelines. Instead, she too joins in the fray and kicks butt in her own way, providing justice in one much-needed instance that had the audience cheering her on. She too is a true Spartan.

The acting and the design aren't the only things this film has going for it. The soundtrack is an eclectic mix of opera and electric-guitar songs, depending on the coordinating scene. This only added to the adrenaline of the film and rallied the audience to the war in front of them, leaving them quite rowdy by the time the film reached its bittersweet ending.

While the plot itself is simple, if bloody, and the gratuitous boob shots were many and lasted a bit too long, this film left the audience thrilled and revved up. It delivered what it promised: a good epic film that was finally under two hours long. The audience that packed the theater as if this was a fourth "Lord of the Rings" movie was not disappointed.

4.5 of 5 stars


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