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Ridiculous War Cry!!!

Category: 300 Reviews
Article Date: April 13, 2007 | Publication: | Author: Nathan Chapman

Posted by: stagewomanjen

Went to see 300 last night with Pop. It was good to spend some time with my old man - we don't do it often enough which is a cause of considerable guilt on my part.

Dad and I share a similar interest in jingoistic epics like Gladiator et al, and I was tempted by some of the visuals I had seen of the movie, but my anticipation was tempered by the fact that the last Frank Miller adaptation, Sin City, had left me cold.

I guess 300 shares the same strengths and weaknesses as Sin City, but overall I much preferred it. Yes, it plays fast and loose with history, but if you want a history lesson I suggest you don't go to the cinema.

It looks amazing. The fight scenes are spectacular, and in general the camera work is astonishing, playing as it does with frame rate and colour palettes. At times it was almost harking back to the golden age of epics, with three-dimensional actors standing out against matte backdrops, and for me this feel was self-conscious rather than poor visual effects. I haven't seen so much flesh in one film for a long time, and not all of it is pretty. In fact, another thing I relished about the film was the way it mixed mythology with reality - a parade of freaks and monsters rubbing shoulders (and more) with kilos of pure beefcake. I really like this new cinema aesthetic which is moving away from realism, opting instead to exploit the things that only cinema can do - heightened reality, extreme slo-mo, crowd scenes on a ludicrously epic scale. We know they're digitally multiplied, but should we care? Granted, some of these crowds seemed to disappear inexplicably at times: the famed 300 were more like a dozen at times, and the massed column of Immortals shrank to the size of an aerobics class. By all means do away with realism, but at least go for consistency.

The cons? The shadow of Gladiator, which reinvented the epic genre, looms large despite being a very different film. Lingering shots of crop fields, the wind the shakes the barley, the rallying and ultimately nonsensical address to the troops, the haunting soundtrack were all very much a copy of Ridley Scott's vastly superior film.

But the main problem I have with 300 is the same as Sin City: a bizarre lack of humanity or emotional contact with the audience. Characters are grotesque and simply drawn. They are good or evil, there is no sense of ambiguity or conflict which would make us engage with them, and I felt as though I was being kept at arm's length - the emotional equivalent of "Keep off the Grass." I don't relish the idea of a cinematic future devoid of heart, where the millennia old rules about morality, poetic justice and examining the human condition at its best and worst are disregarded in favour of eye candy and spectacle.

Plus, the Spartan warcry has to be the silliest in history. "Ha-ooh!"?? C'mon! It was like the Persian hordes were facing an army of Tim Allens.


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