Tuesday, March 27, 2007

300





Year: 2007
Dir: Zack Snyder
Writing: Zack Snyder, Kurt Johnstad, Michael B. Gordon
Graphic novel: Frank Miller

Stars: GERARD BUTLER, Lena Headey, Dominic West, David Wenham, Rodrigo Santoro, Vincent Regan, Michael Fassbender, Andrew Pleavin.

Depending on what kind of movies you prefer, 10 minutes of 300 may be too much. Then again, if you enjoyed Gladiator, love simple blood-spurting fight-fests, with testosterone charged warriors decapitating their foes in slo-mo, and don’t care much if liberties are taken with the truth, (so long as the fight scenes are awesome), you’re going to love this!

Jack Snyder directed this rousing piece of virtual reality, entirely on a green screen sound stage in Montreal. The visuals are stunning and in some cases, awe inspiring. The characterizations are pretty superficial but it doesn’t really matter. The movie has all the appearance of a computer game, with its obvious CGI and thumping rock soundtrack. Don’t expect a history lesson or Greek mythology. This is not that kind of movie.

Based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller (Sin City), and sourced from the historic tale of the 480 BC Battle of Thermopylae, 300 recounts the efforts of the vastly outnumbered Spartans, to hold back one million soldiers of the Persian army for three days.

Gerard Butler does a fantastic job as Leonidas, King of Sparta, the chief protagonist and only man in Greece mad enough to withstand the Persians. He doesn’t get much dialogue to work from, but his sparse vocabulary lends enough for the rallying of the troupes, as he bellows the clich├ęd words “no retreat no surrender”, “take no prisoners” and “show no mercy”.

Having little to say didn’t do Russell Crowe much harm. But unlike previous sword and sandals epics, 300 deals less with a conniving political backdrop, and indulges more in the battle itself, with pure fighting-fantasy. There are echoes of warriors from The Return of the King, with elephant war machines and black masked machete wielding soldiers, in highly stylized scenes of carnage. Slicing up your enemy never looked so good!

Remembering this is Frank Miller territory, there is plenty of flesh on display too, notably belonging to the Spartans, their six packs glistening in the moonlight. Not to be out done, the Spartan Queen Gorgo, played by Lena Headey, wears a piece of muslin strategically placed around her torso with a couple of leather belts… kinky?

Well, 300 has got a little bit of everything, from corrupt religious leaders, double-crossing politicians, cavorting slave girls, to under dressed transsexuals, with plenty of pseudo-eroticism thrown in. Little time is spent on character exploration and small talk.

There are a few laughs too, even in this bloody bone crunching, decapitating fest. You’ll find yourself smiling as Leonidas bites into his ripe Cox’s apple and talks with his mouth full about being civil in battle, as his Spartans continue to skewer the maimed Persian soldiers collapsed around him.

Whatever side you’re on, the Persians here can represent just about any foe you like. There’s an obvious Asian - Far East flavor to the enemy with Persian King Xerxes, played byRodrigo Santoro, looking more a native of Pakistan than Iran (present day Persia).

If there’s a message here it’s about freedom and the price we pay for it. But the moral fades into the background as scenes of war fill the screen. Some critics have described 300 as veiled pro-war propaganda. Iran’s UNESCO representative has officially protested the films release, calling it blasphemous, and stating that 300 will lead to ‘conflict among civilizations’.

Well conflict or not, there were cheers and applause in Athens on opening night. You don’t hear many Greeks complaining, especially after the disappointment of ‘Alexander’. Gerard Butler can expect to be made an honorary Greek citizen judging by the audience reaction at my local Cineplex. They swallowed 300 like their popcorn, by the bucket full!

Thank the Gods this was not meant to be a history lesson, just a movie based on a comic book!

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