Wednesday, March 21, 2007

"300": a review

I dithered after work and watched Zack Snyder's "300," an adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novel of the same name, on my computer. It struck me as a confused production, overall. The music incorporated elements from heavy metal (those were the weakest moments in the soundtrack) as well as some heavy-handed orchestral themes vaguely reminiscent of Jerry Goldsmith and Howard Shore, with over-the-top of chorals in case you didn't get the message.

The beefcake factor (the actors in this film trained their hearts out for their roles) makes "300" into what is arguably a woman's movie. While guys will appreciate the carnage, I think I speak for most men when I say that we don't need to see the warriors nearly naked. Ladies: enjoy the abundant pecs and abs of the Spartans, but don't be surprised if heads suddenly part company with those bodies.

The decision to film the movie almost entirely on a soundstage backfired, in my opinion, because I found myself overly conscious of the fact that almost everything I was seeing was CGI. The use of high-contrast lighting along with computer-generated glow and haze were an obvious strategy designed to cover up the backlot. Instead of appearing Wachowski-smooth, the effects ended up looking almost "Highlander"-cheap. I will, however, say one thing in praise of CGI: it's now possible, almost trivial, to depict realistic stabbings and beheadings without having to rely on clothing to cover up squibs and other old-school tricks of the trade. It's quite gratifying, for example, to see a spear erupting out of some guy's chest.

The acting was actually the best part of the film. I found it corny but sincere; I wasn't expecting much (and neither should you), so I wasn't disappointed. Gerard Butler was quite convincing as King Leonidas (Jesus, those teeth!), as was Vincent Regan in the role of Captain Artemis. Regan had a minor role in the movie "Troy" as Achilles' second, and he was one of the standouts in that film as well. In "300," Regan's role is much larger, and would have been more poignant had it not been for the general goofiness of the entire film.

So the verdict is that "300" is decent, though not stellar, eye candy, with almost nothing left for the brain except the references to famous quotes from the legend of the Battle of Thermopylae*-- with Thermopylae rather pornographically translated as "Hot Gates" in the movie. This might be deliberate: it is, quite possibly, a reference to the porn star Hot Gates who, if I'm not mistaken, is mentioned in Frank Miller's graphic novel Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.

"300": entertaining, but no "Sin City."

Check out my buddy the Air Marshal's hilarious review of "300" over at Naked Villainy.

*Examples: (1) "Molon labe," a taunt meaning "Come and take them," shouted in reference to the Spartans' weapons, which the Persians had demanded they submit. (2) "Then we will fight in the shade," spoken in response to the Persian threat that the Persian army's arrows would fly thick enough to obscure the sun. (3) The Epitaph of Simonides, which is recited in its entirety in the film by our one-eyed narrator Dilios, portrayed by David Wenham, whom many will recognize as Faramir from Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy.


1 comment:

Maven said...

The Maharajah came home from seeing that movie last night and used that line, "It will be quick, and it will not be enjoyable," on me.

Sad little puppy, thought it was funny!