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300: brutal, inaccurate, awesome

Category: 300 Reviews
Article Date: March 23, 2007 | Publication: The Keystone | Author: Jean-Bernard Hyppolite
Source: http://www.keystoneonline.com/story.asp?Art_id=2113

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Gerard Butler plays the fericiously stubborn King Leonidas who valiently leads 300 of his bravest fellow Spartans to a "glorious" demise on the agrandized battlefield of Thermopylae.
In case anyone's been living under a rock the past few weeks, 300 is now in theaters and it does not disappoint. Zack Synder (Dawn of the Dead) directed this adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novel, 300, which is based on the Battle of Thermopylae, which took place in 480 B.C. In this battle, 300 Spartans fend off a Persian Army consisting of hundreds of thousands. It's a classic story that doesn't bother with historical accuracy so much as machismo.

Starting with a crumbling Warner Bros. logo, the screen descends to Frank Miller's bloody, testosterone filled world of perfectly sculpted men, beautiful curvy women, monsters, and gods. The narrator, Dilios (David Wenham), introduces King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) to us as if he were Hercules himself.

A group of Persian messengers arrive at Sparta with a message for King Leonidas. Sparta either yields, or faces the massive forces of Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), a huge man who claims to be a god. Leonidas turns to his defiant and elegant wife, Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey), for a contemplative moment, then growls the most memorable line from the film, "This is Sparta!" as he kicks the messenger into a convenient bottomless pit.

Thus, the war begins and what ensues are some of the most shameless displays of toughness, dominance, and violence ever to hit the big screen.

Here's where 300 shines. An expertly directed mix of slow motion and acceleration emphasizes the graphic nature of war. The soldiers are so trained that it looks like mere practice as they slaughter thousands of weird soldiers gathered from the sprawling Persian Empire. Limbs fly loose and bodies flop to the ground like lifeless, leaking sacks of blood.

While the action scenes are easily some of most impressive displays of butt-kicking ever, 300 does suffer from it's script, which contains some questionable dialog and plot-pacing problems. It's easy to get a little confused about what's going on with the politics behind the war. Also, the plot takes a bit of a back seat to action. (Who cares why they're fighting? Just look at all that awesome blood!)

The acting isn't bad, all things considered. In fact, for playing characters with personalities based entirely on stubborn one-dimensionality, it's actually pretty good. At times, though, the actors come across a little too forced for emotion. Don't worry-the good far outweighs the bad; 300 really is not supposed to be story driven anyway. If anything, Butler's Leonidas stands out the most. He's a man who cares for his soldiers, his Queen and Sparta. But what he cares about most-more, even, than victory-is glory. The Spartans mention outright more than once that they would prefer to die on the battlefield rather than surrender.

One more thing that must be noted about 300 is the cinematography. It is truly a visual masterpiece. Every shot is saturated with rustic yellow and gray tones, giving us a sense of a colder, harder world where war and violence are commonplace. The look and feel of the film is sure to stick in the minds of moviegoers, regardless of whether they like the film or not. Frank Miller's graphic novel is recreated with striking closeness from page to screen like Sin City before it. If the formula works like it did in this movie, maybe more direct comic-to-film translations need to take place.

300 is a film that should be seen in a movie theater or IMAX, if possible. There's enough washboard abs and romance for women to enjoy, just the right amount of bloodshed for men to drool at, and a batch of breathtaking moments that will make everyone understand history the way Hollywood intended. Macho.

OVERALL RATING: 4 of 5

 


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