Warner Brothers Pictures Presents
A Film Directed by Zack Snyder
Written by Zack Snyder, Kurt Johnstad, Michael Gordon, based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller
Gerard Butler as King Leonidas
Lena Headey as Queen Gorgo
Dominic West as Theron
David Wenham as Dilios
Vincent Regan as Captain
Michael Fassbender as Stelios
Tom Wisdom as Astinos
Andrew Pleavin as Daxos
Andrew Tiernan as Ephialtes
Rodrigo Santoro as Xerxes
Giovani Cimmino as Pleistarchos
117 Minutes(Rated R for graphic battle sequences throughout, some sexuality and nudity).
For the last few months I have heard nothing from my peers other than "300", as well as various terms related to it, like people shouting "Sparta!" in the middle of the hallways on the way to class. When this began happening last November I became curious-I had heard nothing of this "300." I tracked down the trailer, and when it was done I simply said "oh boy." I was looking more forward to "Grindhouse" than this one. I knew that I wouldn't dig "300." That it would be over hyped to death even before it came out, and that it wouldn't be a very good movie anyway. And it isn't. It isn't an intense and effective battle film-more of an over the top film with awful acting and a lame script, which also happens to be visually stunning. However if you want to see some of the best visuals(except about four images that come to mind right away) than you needn't look more further than the film's trailer. I wasn't disappointed with "300" because I did not build it up. However, I have a feeling that in a month or two the appeal for "300" will slowly die down, and that it won't hold up to the cult status of other films of this nature.
"300" was based on a graphic novel by Frank Miller, whose work was responsible for 2005's "Sin City," (and just saying the year for "Sin City" and then looking at the current year, and the fact that that was almost two years ago just makes me very sad.) "Sin City" was hailed far too much, and it was made out to be a much greater film than it really was. "Sin City" had some amazing visuals, and there was obvious care into every single shot. It was made to be a panel to panel comparison to the graphic novel, because Miller obviously has a strong amount of respect in his fan base. His story here involves King Leonidas, who was saved from being thrown over a cliff as a baby, and was slowly trained to be a warrior. After defeating a wolf in the middle of winter(or as they say in the film "in the winter cold"), Leonidas becomes well respected among all the Spartans. When Leonidas declares war on the Persian army in their city of Thermopylae he told by many people in Sparta not to go. But Leonidas goes against the wishes on some of the council members and gathers an army of 300 men against the massive army that the Persians have assembled. And the battle begins as the Spartans kick some Persian behind, and then eventually going against the various creatures that the Persians inflict upon them. Meanwhile back on home, Leonidas wife Gorgo(played by Lena Headey who, and I have never said this before about her, is smoking hot) tries to gain support from the council to give her husband support in war, while also trying to be plotted against by the evil Theron.
I suppose I could appreciate "300" more than I actually enjoyed it. For it's artistic vision, I would give it the highest rating possible. I never read the graphic novel, but I hear that Snyder stayed very true to the source material, even going for the panel for panel thing like "Sin City." The battle scenes are easily not the best parts in the film, but the best things to watch are the backgrounds and setting. It's beautiful and you forget that he entire film was shot on green screen. But, sadly, they show all the best images in the trailers-the wolf about to face a young boy, the men all falling off a cliff, the boats sailing on the raging waves. There are some images worth seeing that aren't in the trailer, one of them being Spartans laying down with one of them in the center with an arrow in his chest. A second highlight is the Queen's back story which actually ended up being the most gripping, and contained the biggest surprise scene where everybody in the theatre actually clapped. That and Headey is a rare beauty that pulls that off while also not appearing vulnerable. Her character seems stronger than some of the Spartans. I also liked the music-the score, I mean, containing the large choir. Most of that was pretty powerful stuff.
And then there are the negatives. "300" has the worst script of anything that I have seen in a while. It was almost like George Lucas penned it. Whenever there was nothing to say, they would say a line with the word "Sparta" in it. "This is SPARTA!" "SPARTANS, tonight we dine in hell!" "The tactics of SPARTA!. . ." and so on and so forth. The rest of the dialogue is just over the top and silly(I've already mentioned the "wolf in the winter cold.) And then there is the acting. Very much like Leonidas assembled 300 men to attack the Spartans, but Zack Snyder assembled 300 of the worst actors around. Not including Lena Headey, and to an extent Gerald Butler. However, Butler has managed to play the same character within the costumes of Leonidas, The Phantom of the Opera, and Beowulf, so I don't know if I could give him any more credit. The rest of them don't even look like their trying-as if they are blaming the lame script for their laughable acting. At one point a Spartan runs over to Leonidas, and then right before he is about to speak to him he pauses for a breath. This could seem humorous as a joke, but it became humorous because of the way he acted it out. And lastly the battle scenes were uninspired, offering nothing new and no really cool ways to show the killings. After watching "Gladiator" and seeing the intensity of that film, "300" paled in comparison. The best scenes were the more political ones, which ended up being the saving grace. There was also the choice to add some horrible metal music before most of the battle scenes.
Overall, "300" ended up being a rather annoying film that happens to be pretty to look at. Snyder is obsessed with the art of slow motion. Battle scenes are always a lose-lose scenario. They either focus too much on slow-mo, which makes them go on for an eternity, or they do them with five hundred different editing cuts to the point where you can't even see anything. Snyder works with a mixture of the former and the latter. He will start in normal speed, but right before any impact we'll start to go at a frame per second until the wound is complete.
And so I am slightly torn. It was hard, I'll admit, to rate this. I didn't know if I should give it four stars or zero stars. For "300" is a great film when it comes to a visual style and the visual style alone, but like I have said before it isn't a visual style that makes a film. So I have to give it something slightly less than a recommendation. It just fails at being a compelling or even memorable war film. It's ambitious and it's the work of someone with talent, but it isn't a masterpiece and doesn't come close. At times I think that it thinks it does, and with the teenage audience that will worship it, I'm sure that won't help the films ego either. On a final note, I saw "300" on the IMAX screen, which is really the only way to see anything. If somethings out on IMAX, there is not reason not to go. I saw this on IMAX, and then I poked my head in the next day at work to see a piece of it and it pales in comparison. And if on a standard big screen "300" doesn't look as good as on IMAX, then I would hate to see how it looks on a television screen.
"300" is a magnificent failure-it's important to see big, but it isn't important to see it at all. I would rather wait for "Grindhouse."