Film Reviews

300 Zack Snyder

Rating - 8/10

Most people probably already know whether or not they intend to see 300. It speaks to machismo and may at first glance appear either overdone or lacking any original dialogue. But I hope you've seen enough movies to not expect the dialogue to be the strong point in a film like this. Viewers don't wait to hear what words will be spoken next with a film like 300 as much as they wait for the next fight scene.

The major appeal of 300 is the visual experience. The landscapes and colours are accented well with smart and frequent point of view changes. There is a focus on the greys, golds, and reds which respectively accentuate the weather and stony landscapes, the fields of wheat and the soldiers' armour, and the long flowing capes as well as blood. Many frames in the movies look like they could stand alone as works of art, and when the film cycles through points of view, they often vary the colour bleeding through, conveying several different perspectives for the very same scene.

The title of the film refers to the 300 Spartans defending their homeland from invasion from Xerxes and his Persian empire. The film is based on a graphic novel written by Frank Miller, who you may remember wrote and directed (with Robert Rodriguez) Sin City. The Director is Zack Snyder who brought us the entertaining 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead.

The story itself is pretty straightforward; complete with all the six-pack abs you could ever want to see. Sometimes we see an overload of cliché, like in one scene where King Leonidas asks to have a word with one of his soldiers and the shot cuts to them with capes-a-flowing on a lonely cliff ledge. In another instance when King Leonidas is about to head off to war, there is narration explaining that his feelings for his wife needn't be spoken as there is no room for softness in Sparta, or something to that effect, but early on you need to decide if that is going to annoy you or if you can buy into it just a little. You have to have a little fun with this film.

The scope of suspension of disbelief for non-animated film vs. a graphic novel or comic are necessarily not exactly the same animal, but I felt 300 found a nice middle ground that respected the intent and identity of Miller's work as it was translated onto the big screen.

Sheffield-born Dominic West stars as Theron, a Spartan opportunist who is sort of a bad guy behind the scenes in the Senate. West is so good in his latest role that we're almost able to rid ourselves of those horrifying flashbacks of clips from Rock Star. Also brilliant is leading man Gerard Butler as King Leonidas, raised to be king and the subject of a legendary youth. The early scenes tell these stories complete with Spartan exaggeration animated for viewer to digest as a local might hear them for the first time.

The violence during the fight scenes is actually quite graceful - less of a bloodbath and more of a bloodballet. The action moves at full speed then slows suddenly, highlighting some of the more complicated combination moves certain to be replicated in any forthcoming video game. And though it is graphic, the violence is surprisingly not overly bloody.

The film comes across as artfully as any gladiator type war movie can hope to. One of the final frames evokes images of Renaissance fresco art something akin to Da Vinci's "The Last Supper" or Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel in a sense. Considering all of this talk about the visual aspect driving the film, and given the better sound quality at your local theatre, the film is a great experience in the cinema and probably much less impressive at home on your 27 inch screen at home. You really need to go out for this one if you want to see it with full effect. Coming from someone who is not a huge action guy, I still found it worth the $10.