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300: an epic bloodbath

Category: 300 Reviews
Article Date: March 22, 2007 | Publication: The First Post | Author: Laura Barton
Source: http://www.thefirstpost.co.uk/index.php?menuID=4&subID=1274

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There's an awful lot of blood in 300. Great cartoony splurges of the stuff seem to drip down almost every scene, to the extent that one rather begins to miss it when it's off-screen. But the high gore-quota should not come as a surprise. Firstly, this is a battle movie set in 480BC, when mighty warlike fists held spears and swords and any kind of sharp, bloodying weapon they could find. Secondly, this is an adaptation of a graphic novel by Frank Miller. You may recall Miller as the man who wrote Sin City, and 300 has been adapted in similar style: the actors are shot against blank screens onto which backgrounds are drawn to recreate Miller's original strips. The violence here, then, is separated from us by both historical and artistic distance.

The plot arguably plays second fiddle to the visuals, but, briefly, Leonidas (Gerard Butler) is the Spartan king, Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) his fair wife. Their happy kingdom is troubled by news that the Persians are scheming to take over the world, and so Leonidas leads out his tiny troop against the mighty Persian army with a fiendish plan to trap them in a mountain pass.

In the era of Apocalypto, and the BBC's lavish yet lame Rome, movies of this ilk are enjoying their moment in the sun. Short on nuance and characterisation, but big on hulking physiques, loincloths and grunting, they put one in mind of WWF wrestling, and work perhaps as a cinematic counterpoint to all the documentarial seriousness also flourishing just now. The real glitch with 300 is that it is weighed with a leaden pomposity - in the form of some voice-overed nonsense about Spartan honour - at odds with the vigorous, pantomimed joy of spurting blood and bulging muscle.

 


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