Saturday, March 10, 2007

FILM: 300 Review

300 is a film you could watch on mute and still enjoy. In fact, you'd probably appreciate it a bit more if you did.

300 is a balls-to-the-wall action movie. There is no commanding dialogue, no developing characters, and nothing to stir thought in the audience. It's a bland story that isn't acted or directed very well and at times it takes itself too seriously. It's a movie that is cliche, simple even to the most retarded of children, and is completely awesome.

As a big fan of Frank Miller's graphic novel, 300, I wasn't sure what to expect with this film. I was hoping that, like Sin City, the book would be converted directly to the screen without any unnecessary changes to the script. Although, with Sin City there was enough material to fit into a two hour film, 300 didn't have as deep of a story. To fill this void and thicken the storyline director Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead) and newbie writers Kurt Johnstad and Michael Gordon were forced to add in a few sub-plots to draw out the adventure. I knew this wasn't a good decision and I had a strong feeling that they would stir the pot away from the original subject matter just a bit too much.

Well, they did. There is a ton of substance in the flick that isn't found in the original graphic novel, including large story-arc featuring Queen Gorgo. These scenes that stray from Frank Miller's book fit fairly well with the film but I think they could have been stronger. They borderline on the cliche side of things and I felt as if not much thought was put into them. Then again, dialogue and plot are the Achilles' heel of 300.

The performances given by most of the cast is fairly bland as well. Everything is over-acted and seems forced down the audience's throat. Gerard Butler (The Phantom of the Opera, Beowulf & Grendel) gives a decent but exaggerated performance that works as he's an extreme figure of power but lets a small tease of his sensitive side shine through. On the other hand, David Wenahm, Vincent Regan, and Dominic West all do a terrible job and are occasionally laughable. Lena Headey gives a fairly good performance as the commanding Queen Gorgo but she too shows all of her character on the surface, refusing to take the Queen any deeper.

As I've said earlier though, 300 isn't about the acting, dialogue, or plot. It's a beautiful action movie that's piece of art a pleasure on the eyes to look at. Whether it's the Laconian plain surrounding Sparta or a severed head falling to the ground in slow motion, everything in the film is stylized and astounding. Some of the CGI is easily noticeable and distracting, as ten differently visual effects companies worked on the film, but most of it is right on the money. Easily my favourite effect is the blood in the film. Instead of the usual approach to the red liquid 300 handles blood as a 2D element. For example, a limb will be removed and blood will erupt from the wound as flat as paper. The effect is a lot different than what's been done in the past, and will no doubt annoy many, but I felt that it helped the film feel like a comic book and keep the violence in hand.

One fairly minor complaint I have about the effects in 300 though is the use of slow-motion. It seemed as if every third shot in the film had some sort of time manipulation and most of the segments slowed down weren't significant enough to warrant slow-motion. Then again, this isn't a very major complaint, I just think the effect was a bit overdone.

300 isn't a historically-correct epic, nor is it a smart film that provokes thought in the audience. It's a simple and straight-forward action flick that is dumbed down to accommodate the slowest of viewers but remains a fun ride. It's violent, it's gritty, and it's to-the-point. If you know this going in then you'll most likely have a great time, just don't expect too much out of this title, otherwise you're bound to be disappointed.

One Sentence Review: Beautiful and stylized film that is all violence, all the time.


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Sonya said...

My reaction pretty much exactly - except expressed better.

Although, I didn't mind the acting so much - but I did mind the narration. Didn't it seem like a nature documentary at times? Or just plain old redundant? "The wolf circles the boy, baring his massive fangs..."

By the way, Boh3m3 (a very very popular YouTube celebrity) is starting a Zine. You'd get way better scope with it, and you could contribute to both it and this blog.

Carmen said...

Yeah. I got what I expected, so it was all good.

What? No mention of Rodrigo Santoro as Xerxes? That was the best part.

Larry_Chimp_Man said...

Hey Sonya and Carmen,

I agree that the narration was a bit annoying at times, especially during the climax of the film when they insist on describing why Leonidas takes off his helmet. It wasn't necessary, but they wanted to keep the flavour of the book intact. Meh.

As for Rodrigo Santoro, I thought he was alright. He wasn't as bad as some of the Spartans but he wasn't excellent either.


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