Thursday, March 22, 2007

300 Review

The 300 is the single most successful film at the box office this year thus far, hyped as a historical action epic depicting the stand of 300 Spartans against the entire Persian army. The actual historical event is one of legendary proportions, but once you get past the testosterone fueled hype of muscular men shouting and killing shit, how does the film really stand?

Well, as I watched it, I couldn't help but draw the analogy that 300 is the Gears of War for this year's cinema, boasting many of the same highlights and downfalls. Does this mean that 300 is a "destroyed beauty?" In my opinion yes. To sum it up, 300 is a visual spectacle with great effects and battle sequences set against a dramatic and detailed back story, but it fails to delivery the drama or tension of that story, leaving its characters generally hollow and unfulfilling.

300 deals with the Battle of Thermopylae, in which King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) of Sparta, forbidden against resisting the pending invasion of Xerxes' (Rodrigo Santoro) Persian army, leads a mere 300 of his men to defend the pass the invaders must cross. Over the next few days they fight valiantly against impossible odds while Leonidas' wife, Queen Gorgo (Leena Heady) attempts to convince the Senate to allow the full assembly of the Spartan army.

Like Gears of War, the film is visually spectacular, featuring an interesting subdued colour scheme and exaggerated characters (no doubt inspired by the graphic novel the film is based on) for the "evil" Persian army. So much so in fact that various characters look like Orcs straight out of The Lord of the Rings, or a twisted monster that would fit well in Doom 3. All in all 300 provides a rather interesting look to the typical historical epic, while retaining the exaggerated flare that makes any teenage boy drool over in action sequences.

Make no mistake, the battles themselves are some of the most unique I've seen in a historical film, featuring a great blend of effects, choreography, and over the top finesse combined with the unique visual style which really drives the prowess of the Spartans home.

The sound track is filled with a heavy musical score that punctuates the battles, a lot of heavy guitar riffs, which is again an interesting contrast from the traditionally composed scores of historical epics. The entire film is narrated by Dilios (David Wenham) one of the 300 Spartans who fought beside Leonidas which provides a nice hands-on approach to the traditional narrator.

Unfortunately despite all this flare, the characters themselves are very one dimensional, predictable, and as a result, disposable. There is no drama or tension, or even inner conflict that propelled the empathy of such epics like Braveheart or Gladiator, there is simply the spectacle of the action. And unlike Gears of War, which has you actually playing and thus participating to help overlook its story line's shortcomings, 300 has no such interactive grace.

The question of course is if 300 is worth both your time and money, and despite its shortcomings and overall lack of depth, I would say yes. 300 has enough going for it to keep you entertained as you're mesmerized by a hail of arrows that block out the sun, the grim march of a perfectly disciplined phalanx against charging cavalry, or the wanna-be Troll of Mumakil battles ripped from The Lord of the Rings.

While 300 will be overshadowed as the year goes on (Spider-Man 3), it's the best film to grace the silver screen in nearly a year, and for that reason is should not be missed.

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