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Beautiful death

Category: 300 Reviews
Article Date: March 14, 2007 | Publication: Seacoastonline | Author: Gina Carbone

Posted by: stagewomanjen

"300" should be the Marines' new recruitment video. The few, the proud, the Chippendales with swords. The story may be true -- 300 Spartan Davids did fight hundreds of thousands of Persian Goliaths at the battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. -- but the film is decidedly modern, pulsing with adrenaline and machismo.

Zack Snyder ("Dawn of the Dead") braves the sword-and-sandal turf tread most recently by "Alexander," "Troy" and "Gladiator." While at times "300" reminds viewers of those films -- as well as "Braveheart," "The Lord of the Rings," "The Matrix," and any other underdog tale -- this one does more to make history sexy, cool and completely detached from reality. "300," like "Sin City," was adapted from a graphic novel and retains the source material's imagery. The filming (if we can still call actors shot in front of blue screen with the real backgrounds done in post-production "filming") is done in music video/video game style: computer-generated action, slow-motion fighting, fast battle cuts and hard rock mixed with rousing instrumentals.

There's plenty of gore, head-slicing and bare chests. This is man country! But everything from drops of blood falling to an oracle's sensual awakening/shampoo commercial are so ridiculously overstylized it's hard to get worked up over sex and violence. In fact, the parts of the film without carnage -- when we cut from the battlefield back to the ranch -- are so boring there might as well be a crawl at the bottom of the screen reading "now's a good time to hit the restroom." Too bad. Not just because it's a shame to make violence so invigorating, but because the homefront scenes are devoted to the token female, Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey). She tries to get the rest of Greece to get its head out of the sand while her man, King Leonidas (Scottish hunk Gerard Butler of "Phantom of the Opera") and his 299 buddies go pick a fight.

This storyline was put in to draw women, but little do they realize how willing women are to 1) watch good-looking men and 2) watch a good butt-whuppin'. I don't empathize with Gorgo as much as Leonidas. We all want to be the skilled warrior leader, fighting at the front of the battle, protecting fellow soldiers, making bold speeches and remembered with reverence. But at least Gorgo gets more action than Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), the androgynous Persian man-god. If you're going to be a man in "300," best be a professional Spartan warrior. Everyone else comes out looking like a sissy -- including shady Spartan politicians, scholarly Athenian "boy lovers," nasty lecherous Ephors, weak Persian slaves and skittish but well-meaning Arcadians.

Ancient history may be Greek to me, but "300" packages it like a Happy Meal -- bloated with empty calories and too much cheese but still very tasty. Boy toys included.


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