300

I went into 300 preview last night feeling quite nervous. In the past, when my expectations have been high for an Ancient World set film, and my excitement stoked by kickass trailers, I have been horribly disappointed. Troy was the prime example.

I wasn’t disappointed in 300.


This said, I was very close to the subject matter, having read Frank Miller’s graphic novel twice and followed pretty much all of the online build-up to the film’s release. So I didn’t exactly go into the cinema ‘fresh’. Apart from some sequences involving Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) rallying support for her husband back at the Spartan homefront, and some new battleground villains, 300 is almost panel for panel, the graphic novel brought to life. So for fans of 300, the book, most of the pleasure will come from connecting what’s onscreen with what you’ve read. There is little new, although director Zack Snyder’s additions do actually improve on the novel, if you want to start making cross-medium comparisons.

The major thing to remember about 300 is that it is based on a graphic novel, based on a historical battle. As a result, don’t expect realism. 300 is heavily stylised. This is something I’ve never had a problem with in terms of adult fantasy (Conan the Barbarian, 13th Warrior, Excaliber), but audiences expecting a realistic war epic may find certain things cheesy or over-dramatic.

But as fans of Sin City and Kill Bill know, you have to surrender yourself to the visual and visceral.

The battle scenes in 300 (set to Tyler Bates’ rocking score) employ a great deal of slow and speeded up motion. This actually works because it brings out all the details of combat, crisp and clear. It turns the battles of 300 into a beautiful, bloody… to use the cliché… ballet of death. This is in contrast to many other action films where the fights become a confusing mangle of shots apparently randomly thrown together.


Amazingly, 2 of my favourite sequences were away from the battlefield. I loved the writhing oracle sequence and Leonidas and Gorgo’s sex scene. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen such glorious sensuality depicted onscreen.

As for the characters in this stylised world, they’re similarly archetypes. The Spartans, male and female, are a hard warrior nation groomed for a life of combat. No one thinks to wear armour in combat – just a thong, cape and helmet. Ladies, you have never ever EVER seen men with bodies like this!

Gerard Butler finally has a role into which he can channel all his fiery intensity. As King Leonidas he is an incomparable warrior and strategist, but he’s also a concerned ‘father’ devoted to his loyal men, and the Spartan nation as a whole. Leonidas is a convincing leader to follow into battle.

Lena Headey does a good job as Leonidas’ tough female counterpart, the type of determined woman Sparta was historically known for producing. Her role was enhanced from 2 panels in the graphic novel, and provides some much needed, if tempered, oestrogen in the film.


I also particularly liked Persian emperor Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), a deep voiced, gold-adorned giant, who is 100% confident in his ‘god’ status. Being a world of stark contrasts, with the Spartans as the rugged, muscled heroes, villainous Xerxes seems to be a magnet for assorted monsters and freaks. His ‘harem’, in particular, is decadent and rotten. You can see why the Iraqis and Iranians would view the film is an attack on their region’s history.

300 can viewed as a gung-ho action movie, celebrating Western masculinity, military might and political concepts. It can be viewed as a lot of things given the times we live in.

I was surprised though to find that it still managed to choke some tears from me in the end.

I’m looking forward to seeing 300 again on Sunday morning so I can absorb the beauty of the film some more (as well as its clever, graphic novel influenced credits sequence). You really can’t do much better in terms of an entertaining and absorbing action blockbuster. Particularly if you’re of the fanboy or fangirl persuasion.

Comments

Jeremy Barker said…
Glad you liked it - it is always tough going into a film with high expectations. Other than the TV ads I didn't know what I was going to get was impressed. I love your line - you have to surrender yourself to the visual and visceral.
VhailorZ said…
I was very impressed with this movie. Nu metro had a power failure 10 min before the end. needless to say the people were very pissed. So we were forced to go watch the pirate copy I got on Tuesday.
Pfangirl said…
In a way, I wish I had gone to see the movie "fresh". I think I did spoil some parts for myself having tracked the movie online so much (reading reviews, looking at pics and video clips) before its release.

Vhailorz, movie piracy... tut tut ;)
VhailorZ said…
thats even worse than piracy, ;) Its like reading the last page of a book before you start reading. anyway... wasnt there somewhere a rumor that in the end ...

---------->> spoiler alert DONT READ FURTHER--->>>

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............ when they all die in the end one of the Gods reveal themselves to leonidas (only one alive) and he raises them all from the dead and they go on they demolish the entire persian army. that would have been cool!!

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