The Movie Buffer

Sunday, March 11, 2007



Corrumpo ergo sum


300 is the latest film translation from Frank Miller’s brilliant catalogue. The story is based on both historical accounts of the suicidal battle of Thermopylae but more specifically, the film The 300 Spartans. In 480 B.C., a small contingent of Greek warriors stood against Xerxes’ army of Persians, which lead the city-states of Greece to unite in order to defend their freedom and democracy.

Frank Miller brought us Sin City, a noir styled series of stories about redemption and love that was aptly adapted from the pages to the screen. Would 300, a period piece about honor, glory and freedom, achieve both the same fidelity to the source material and the stunning visuals?

With the exception of a handful of comic book movies, there have always been alterations of the material to better suit the screen, so if you are a fan of the comic, which was rather sparse in detail but glorious with the battle scenes or the previous film, which was based more on the political in-fighting between the city states - be warned, twists and turns ahead.

The film departs from the source material in two distinct ways (among a myriad of smaller adjustments), the introduction of the family life of the King Leonidas, played by Gerard Butler, and the addition of secondary plot line involving political corruption in the Spartan city council.

The family life side of the story was interesting because it was a new angle and it allowed for more character development. But many of these scenes dragged on, perhaps over-humanized the rugged Spartan lifestyle or just seemed out of place.

The city council subplot was utterly ridiculous and did not serve as plot advancement or character development. The only things that this subplot brought to the table were an non-consensual sex scene and a disemboweling. I guess these scenes were added because Lena Headey, who plays the Queen Gorgo of Sparta, was on the cast and she needed more screen time to show off all those tiny costumes. Furthermore, the resolution to this subplot was utter trash. Without giving it all away, if you were being bribed, would you carry around your payoff in a gigantic sack around your waist?

The last thing about the movie that was absurd was the amount of slow motion and high speed shots. It got to a point where any scene that was in regular speed was a relief, but oh, the irony, the majority of the scenes in regular speed were in the city council plot line.

The way that director Zack Snyder shot the film really captures the comic book’s style though it lacks the books hard edge when it came to the blood and gore, which was probably impossible to bring to the screen. The digital effects don’t break any new ground like Sky Captain or Sin City did, they work very well and most of the visual effects look spectacular, especially the scene where at the boats are being battered by the rough seas. Lastly, the monsters in the film are incredible: Ephialtes (the hunchback), the Giant and the Executioner are all awesome.

The dialog was where the film took direct cues from the comic book. Though the inclusion of two narrators was strange, but once you got to know each of the story teller’s styles it followed seamlessly. Accents were another small trouble for some of the actors including the veterans like Butler.

The acting was rather minimal, but the characters were successfully embodied by the cast. Dillios, the storyteller, was played excellently by David Wenham (Faramir from Lord of the Rings), Stellios, the brash youngster, played by Michael Fassbender and the Captain, played by Vincent Regan, are all stand outs from the cast.

In my case, being a fan of the comic and having seen the previous film, I left the theatre feeling a let down. I didn’t feel like this film lived up to its potential, though it was fairly entertaining. From all the problems with the slo-mo, the accents and the pointless city council scenes, this movie gets a 5/10 or two and a half out of five stars.


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