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Talk about hype. This film has been getting the best of buzz for months now, and that buzz has been getting better and better as the release date has been getting closer and closer. You'd think the film was directed by Steven Spielberg and starred Mel Gibson or something. Wrong. In actuality, the film is directed by Zack Snyder, whose only other feature film credit was the fantastic "Dawn of the Dead” remake. It stars not Mel Gibson...not Tom Cruise...but Gerard Butler? Who? He's the guy who played The Phantom in Joel Schumacher's terrible "The Phantom of the Opera”. So why in the hell would anyone be excited about this film? Frank Miller. He has garnered fans all over the world through his graphic novels and films like "Sin City”. Like "Sin City”, the whole of "300" was shot on blue screen and then entire landscapes digitally constructed. They were going for this whole graphic novel/video game look that they have managed to pull off. Producers have also been targeting young people for the film, despite the R-rating and the puddles and puddles of blood. The producers have been marketing this film very much like a video game, rather than a film, and that was probably a smart move considering the film brought in a staggering $70 million opening weekend, $10 million more than it cost to make the film. So, after one weekend, the film has broken even - the rest is just gravy. How many times is a film about to do that?
Based on Frank Miller's graphic novel about the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C., "300" tells the story of King Leonidas (Gerard Butler), ruler of Sparta. When the Persians threaten invasion, King Leonidas rallies all of Sparta to war, though his cries go unheard by the high priests and the rest of the council. Leonidas breaks traditions, and along with 300 Spartan warriors, travels to the coast to meet an army of millions. But, as we are told countless times, Spartan soldiers are not like other soldiers - they are trained to kill from the time they can walk, and each Spartan can pretty much take out 100 men by himself. Leonidas and his 300 men spend much of the film slashing and dashing through the Persian forces like they're nothing, finding chaotic zeal in their slaughtering and even hoping that they are afforded the chance to die in battle. Meanwhile, back in Sparta, the corrupt Theron (Dominic West) is trying everything he can to keep Leonidas' wife, the Queen (Lena Headey) from speaking to the council in an effort to rally more troops to meet Leonidas. I would venture to say that 75% of this film is battle sequences - Leonidas and his men continually killing everything in site and overcoming staggering odds on the battlefield. The film finally ends in a blaze of glory for the Spartans - something they wanted all along.
There are some fundamental problems with this film. "300" wants to be the blood soaked epic of the year, touting its R-rating like a certificate of authenticity. The problem is that none of the blood looks real. When I see someone killed in a Scorsese picture, I feel it. When Joe Pesci went ballistic in the guy in the bar with the ink pen - I felt it. It was painful. When I see Leonidas and his men running up and down the battlefield, swinging their swords wildly with CGI blood flying at the screen, it has no more affect on me than watching someone killed in "Grand Theft Auto”. Therefore, any emotional attachment I might traditionally develop for the characters is gone. I don't care if they live or die because dying doesn't look real. "300" lacks a lot of human emotion than was present in other war epics like "Gladiator”, "Braveheart” and even "Troy”. What "300" tries to do is present a balls-to-the-wall action film with as much blood and carnage as possible. That would be fine if they didn't introduce us to characters like Queen Gorgo and Captain (Vincent Regan), who loses his son in battle. Normally, I would feel bad for a father who loses a son, but even the father himself states early on that he has more sons to replace him. How can you act like a blood-thirsty killer one moment and then a sensitive grieving father the next? That didn't work for me and all of the emotion was lost. "300" was a case of commotion over emotion.
Something else that's unusual about "300" is that you won't find a marquee performer in the whole entire picture. Gerard Butler is the closest thing to a 'name' we get, and all he's done is "The Phantom of the Opera” and "Dracula 2000". Everyone else looks like they were chosen randomly off the streets for either their muscular build or their ability to model a loincloth seductively. The lead in the film, Gerard Butler, is over-the-top, loud and intentionally snarling. He delivers every line as if he's in the stage version of "Patton”. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it does not. He looks the part and he seems immersed in the part, but sometimes he just seems too fake for his own good - meaning his intensity turns almost comical, at points, when it's not supposed to. As Queen Gorgo, Lena Headey is just awful. Her character comes off as a weak, ineffective and boring. She has about as much passion speaking before the Senate as Ruben Studdard at a Jenny Craig event. Dominic West is also rather dreadful in a disposable role that does nothing but showcase his ability to both look good and act badly at the exact same time. Lay off the walking and gum chewing. And what is with David Wenham's voice? Why would they choose someone to narrate the film who sounds like he's lost somewhere in a vacuous tube, and can't find his way out?
With all of that said, "300" is all visuals and little substance. The testosterone junkies out there will probably fall in love with it - a $70 million opening weekend suggests they already did. But, you're not going to take anything away from "300" other than some potential nausea and headaches from the battle sequences and the CGI blood and carnage. Director Zack Snyder has talent. "Dawn of the Dead” was one of the best remakes I've yet to see. And, "300" shows that he is very creative and very popular with audiences. I can't wait to see what he attempts next. As for now, I'll give the film a recommendation and tell you to check it out, but I will also warn you that "300" is not nearly what it has been cracked up to be. I was disappointed. At the end of the day, it's tame. It touts blood and carnage, but it all looks fake and isn't nearly as affective. "300" wants to be a bad ass movie in a year filled with bad ass movies. It does not live up to the buzz of the others. If you have nothing else to see, catch "300" in theatres, rather than DVD. It adds a little something. If there is anything else out there you might want to see, I'd recommend that instead.
- added 03/14/2007, 04:01 PM
im not quite sure you read 300 and understand the
style he was going for...
- added 03/15/2007, 10:47 AM
I understand exactly what style he was going for,
and I have read everything Frank Miller has
touched. I don't think it translate effectively
to film. Everything was too fake. It was like
"Daredevil" with Spartans.
- added 04/11/2007, 05:10 AM
but not, cause daredevil was just shitty special
effects stolen from the Matrix left over bin.
there was all of 1 scene shot in any kind of
location with 300 and that was the horsemens
approach. thats the ONLY shot in the entire movie
that wasnt on a green screen. saying that
everything was too fake is just stupid. sin city
was done in the same sort of over the top style
and it was awesome. or are yellow people too fake
- added 04/11/2007, 10:27 AM
No, "300" was fake because it was cheaply done
and it showed. "Sin City" was crafted much better
and looked better, as a result. I don't care if
they were going for a video game look, because it
didn't work for me. IT DIDN'T WORK. "Sin City"
worked. "300" did not.
- added 04/11/2007, 11:18 AM
I will admit, I was disappointed with 300. Sin
City was clearly better. I still liked this movie
a lot, but it could have been better. 8/10
- added 04/11/2007, 11:28 AM
Wait -- NO -- I'm not done yet. "300" had a
budget of around $60 million, which is pretty
cheap by today's standards. Typically, a film
like that would normally cost much more. Examples
-- "King Arthur" cost $90 million; "Troy" cost
$185 million; "Kingdom of Heaven" cost $130
million. In one sense, it's amazing that "300"
was done on such a minimal budget. On the other
hand, it showed. The compositing was weak...very
weak...and you could tell while watching the film.
As someone who makes movies as well as critiques
them, I can tell you the compositing showed its
expense. So, when I tell you that it was fake, I
mean it was fake, primarily, because the special
effects -- the compositing -- it all looked bad.
Plain and simple. Beautiful...but bad.
- added 05/06/2007, 07:28 PM
It's almost as if you wanted... like... I
dunno... realism in this movie... you've read the
graphic novel then? It was just as real and
fine-trimmed as its source material. The entire
idea of bothe the GN and the movie was that the
story was told from a story teller's prospective.
The looks were all they had to work on, the story
was crafted well enough on its own. I don't see
any real flaws in this film at all... none that I
didn't see in "Sin City" anyway. They used the
same idea and style as far as transferring the
written/drawn work to screen and it looked
fantastic in both accounts.
The movie had no
more or less substance than the book it was based
10/10... wasn't the fun-on-a-bun that
"Grindhouse" was but certainly worth repeated
grain of sand
- added 07/26/2007, 04:50 PM
man, I loved sin city.. but this shit was
annoying, call me a stickler but I get tired of
the same exact squirts of blood w/ every spear
thought the beheading monster or
whatever it was was pretty cool though..
- added 09/01/2007, 02:13 PM
Loved it. I doubt it'll actually crack the top
ten when all is said and done, but it's certainly
a candidate for my best of '07 list.
- added 09/27/2007, 10:00 PM
I enjoyed this movie. When I found out that this
movie only cost $60 million I couldn't believe it.
The odd part does look bad though, like the blood,
but overall this looked great, especially on HD
DVD. I've watched this 3 times since i bought it
early September, and I expect more viewings. 9/10
- added 07/17/2010, 02:53 AM
I have to admit that I agee with meanie on a few
parts on here. I coudn't stand the queen and
Butler was a little over the top, but I still
thought the movie was pretty cool on the fight
scenes. Yeah the CGI was a little over the top,
but I didn't mind it as much. 7.5/10