300

 

Review by Mark Walters

 

There's a reason Frank Miller is so highly regarded within the comic book community.  For starters, he has a visual style that is compelling and unique, and so very eye-catching.  But the thing about Frank is he also knows how to tell a story.  It's all one cohesive package too.  The visuals and storytelling flow within each other to take the reader into another world entirely, and usually one we'd never expect.  It's familiar but yet so very different.  My initiation to Miller, like many people, came from reading THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS.  With that story Frank managed to turn the Batman we all knew so well completely on it's head, and delivered a shocking story that in many ways changed the face of comics.  It was disturbing.  It was intense.  It was totally unexpected.  And it was exactly what the comic book industry needed.  Miller mixed things up, and folks took notice.  Then he slaps up in the face with SIN CITY, a creator-owned project through Dark Horse Comics, taking film noir detective movies of yesteryear and modernizing it on paper.  The brutality and hard boiled writing within those stories once again shocked readers in a good way.  It was edgy and brilliant, and oddly enough no one else had been bold enough to do it.  Then came 300.  This was perhaps the most unexpected storyline to ever come out of Frank's head.  As a young man he had become fascinated with tales of the Spartan empire, and the battles to protect their integrity.  So once again Miller put pen to paper, writing and illustrating a story that was so epic in scope, many could argue that comic books seemed like an odd platform to present it through.  But like his other works, the powers that be in the Hollywood community stood up and took notice.  After the success of Robert Rodriguez's SIN CITY film, director Zack Snyder (the cool DAWN OF THE DEAD 2004 remake) grabbed hold of 300 and wouldn't let go.  He saw what Rodriguez had accomplished, and decided to take things a step further.  But unlike SIN CITY, which has an amazing cast of big name popular actors, Snyder cast relatively unknown players to tell this story.  One could say he wanted the film to stand on it's own for what it was, not being overpowered by egos or personalities.  There's been a lot of hype behind this adaptation, and it leaves us wondering if the end result will be satisfying enough to make the build up worth it.

  King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) was raised to be a valiant warrior.  Even at a young age he was taught to fight and defend himself at all costs.  Now that he's King of Sparta, Leonidas is raising a son and living with his confident and beautiful wife Gorgo (Lena Headey).  But his kingdom is threatened by the powerful Persian leader Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), a larger than life man thought to be a God by his people.  Xerxes controls tens of thousands of Persian soldiers, and is descending upon Greece.  Against incredible odds, Leonidas decides to lead his meager but determined army of 300 Spartan soldiers into battle.  Joined by groups of Thespians and other slave soldiers, they bravely face the opposing warriors head on.  But while the violent war begins for this King, back home his wife must go to great extremes, hoping to convince the rest of Greece to stand with her courageous husband, before all is lost.

  Now if you've seen the trailers for this film, you already know to expect some incredible visuals.  But man oh man is this something to behold.  From the first frame we're treated to amazing imagery that continues strongly throughout the entire movie.  Where SIN CITY was an almost panel for panel copy from the source material, this interprets the comics and takes things to a cinematic level far beyond what most directors would probably ever attempt.  Zack Snyder has crafted an epic scale masterpiece of moviemaking that like Miller's comics will grab you and hold you until the very end.  I was reminded of films like GLADIATOR and the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy.  But again, this goes far beyond anything we've seen before.  The battle scenes are carefully displayed, often in slow motion... not to over dramatize the action, but rather to let us experience the ferocity of what's going on amidst it all.  Every kill is clearly seen in gory detail.  In many ways this is the most authentic display of warrior on warrior action you're ever likely to see on film.  Now keeping that in mind, it's important to remember that a large percentage of this was shot using blue and green screens along with digital backgrounds.  This truly is a comic book come to life.  The performances are solid too.  Knowing the extensive use of special effect photography, it would be easy to understand how the actors could have a hard time feeling the moment from scene to scene.  But their portrayals are sincere and effective.  I can't imagine anyone being stronger with their delivery had there even been real sets surrounding them.  I can also tell you how very glad I am that the cast has no huge names.  Along with Snyder's visual style, it's just one more element that allows us to be transported into this era, and appreciate the events without having any preconceptions on acting ability.  As much as I loved the film, I wouldn't call it perfect, but for what it is this is a memorable experience than satisfies on many levels.  There are a couple of characters that involve elaborate make-up jobs, and I think those may have been the only distracting element that I noticed during it all.  You should also note the film is incredibly graphic, to the point of where many could argue it's excessive.  But this story was one of violence anyway, and had this aspect been toned down, I don't know if the overall impact would've worked as well.  I would almost say I liked this better than SIN CITY, and I really liked SIN CITY.  Despite how you feel about the story, or the performances, or anything else regarding this film, it is without a doubt a visual feast that has to be seen from start to finish to be appreciated... and I appreciated it quite a bit.

BIGFANBOY.com score - On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being best, I give 300 a 9.


Visit the official Warner Brothers 300 movie website by clicking here.


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