Release Date: March 9th, 2007 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Zack Snyder Actors: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Michael Fassbender, Vincent Regan, David Wenham, Dominic West, Rodrigo Santoro
n adrenaline-charged rush of over-the-top, stylish imagery, colossal battles, and gratuitously fulfilling bloodshed, “300” is the first must-see film of 2007. It’s an adolescently orgiastic, arresting cinematic thrill-ride that lives up to the teaser trailers from the 2006 San Diego Comic-Con that heralded just such an adventure (and contributed largely to its viewership). The slick, kinetic visuals of “Sin City” combine with the exciting, epic uprisings of “The Lord of the Rings,” embellished with “Gladiator”-like combatants (each one adorned in rippling muscles and sinewy definition), for a nearly indescribable sensory feast.
At age seven, Spartan children are taken from their parents and unrelentingly trained to fight, hunt, and kill, combating Mother Nature and each other to survive at all costs. They are taught that dying on the battlefield in service of Sparta is the greatest achievement accomplishable. More than 30 years later, one such warrior, King Leonidas (Gerard Butler), is faced with the challenge of an unstoppable, massive army rapidly approaching his territory. Tyrannical Persian ruler Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) advances, intent on conquering everything he desires. He demands that Leonidas surrender and submit to new leadership.
Determined to defy the deranged warlord and protect his homeland, but restricted by the inane traditions and corrupt politics halting supported action, Leonidas leads a mere 300 of his finest Spartan soldiers into battle against the massive Persian army. Using cunning strategy, superior combat techniques, and the advantageous terrain of Greece herself, the dauntless troops fend off wave after wave of increasingly deadly enemy onslaughts. Meanwhile, Spartan Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) wages her own battle against traitorous politicians in an effort to send reinforcements to her valiant King and his vastly outnumbered men.
Based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel, “300” closely follows the writer’s often historically inaccurate, though unquestionably imaginative, retelling of the extraordinary Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. While special effects are sometimes forced to drive a film that is short on story, such is not the case with “300.” Miller’s vision is as compelling as it is entertaining and the CG used to translate his artwork to the screen only enhance the tale of honor and bravery. Superbly adapted from Miller’s drawings and Lynn Varley’s coloring, the filmmakers perfectly capture each panel of art, while additionally realizing the unseen action in between. Little is left to the imagination, but few could dream up a more fantastical world. The hyper-stylistic melding of digital creatures, backgrounds, and computer animation with Miller’s characters illustrates an experience unlike any other.
Masterfully drawing upon the artistic influences of Miller’s original graphic novel, the movie also creatively expands upon its premises by adding several new characters and events. Gorgo’s defiantly pronounced role, along with her plight against the senate, supplements the bloody bouts of warfare. Extra insanely crafted villains, like the Uber Immortal (Robert Maillet) and war rhinoceros, heighten the already incredible adversaries the Spartans must face. The intensely vibrant style director Zack Snyder has created often outshines its source material.
Despite so much imagery filling every frame, some hinting at repetitiveness, there’s still time for character development. Gerard Butler confidently portrays the noble king with measured reserve and a powerful, commanding presence (which at times is guilty of leaning toward overdramatic shouting). Lena Headey exudes an assured sexiness and an authoritative demeanor as the humble Queen (replete with her own eloquent speeches and questionable sex scene); and even the villainous Xerxes matches his exotically terrifying appearance with a deceptively calm delivery and menacing poise.
As Frank Miller himself proclaimed, “There is no way to tell the story of ‘300’ without being amazingly brutal.” And brutal it is. But with vicious crimson spraying the battlefields while bronze clouds clutch the skies, the spectacular action scenes resemble art more than carnage. This is stylized violence at its finest. “300” is also one of the first films (and best) to overuse slow-motion to such an impressively dizzying, unforgettable extent.
– The Massie Twins