Thursday, May 6, 2010

Archive: "300" (2007)

Everything in "300" is big, loud, triumphant, and merciless. Once the rush is over, you definitely walk out of the theater feeling like you just witnessed something that was meant to be a huge deal. And I think that's exactly the kind of impact the people behind "300" wanted to have on its audience, so in that respect, the movie succeeds magnificently.

Zack Snyder's raw adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novel of the same name is stuff not to be messed with. It tells the story of the most important recorded moment in ancient Greek history: The Battle of Thermopylae. This was when a small band of 300 Spartan soldiers, under the command of King Leonidas, went up against the piercing-clad Persian "god-king" Xerxe and his massive fleet of Persian forces. Merely calling this a retelling of the story would be beyond a stupid understatement on my part. Snyder goes further than that, using a lavish and insanely imaginative dreamscape full of terrifying foes and larger-than-life action sequences to depict the battles fought, with all the spurting blood to go along with it. Everything about this movie is pumped-up to such an extreme that you can't help from smirking at its absurdity.

This is manly, manly stuff being dealt with here. The group of 300 warriors yell and shout and then yell and shout some more. King Leonidas never actually closes his mouth for a good portion of the movie as he, along with the rest of his army, is constantly screaming in a teeth-bearing exclamation of glory and victory. It's all really beefed-up stuff with the perfectly fit, bare-chested men running around with their rippled torsos destroying everything in their path as they leave a satisfying spray of blood flying across the screen at all times (not to mention an eventual wall of dead bodies). These are the kind of men that have nearly orgasmic reactions to the thought of slaying their enemy on the battlefield.

Snyder makes sure to take our breath away in every single shot as there is an unlimited amount of moments done in slow-motion. To give an idea of how heavily stylized the entire film really is, let's just say that if it were not for the number of stop-motion sequences, the movie could've been a whole lot shorter. Every single battle sequence is done with such glorified violence and grace so that every moment of blood-gushing ferocity is captured sufficiently. The entire movie is glossed-over in a golden tint only to emphasize the dark red blood further, along with the accent of the flowing red cloaks of the Spartans. Everything explodes with a stunning visual power and beauty that is even more so apparent than in Frank Miller's other comic-turned-film experience, "Sin City." The fact that nearly all of "300" is done with CGI is why this statement holds true; the possibilities become endless.

Fleets of enemies and even elephants fall off cliffs as if they were nothing, deformed creatures stomp around and get equally slaughtered just like everything else, and a sheet of arrows that, as promised by the Persians, blots out the sun completely. The cutting-edge special effects is what makes this movie what it is; honestly, it's pretty much the best video game you have ever witnessed without actually playing it (and I mean that as a good thing) because of the overheated and over-the-top style in which the fighting is presented. I mean, the respect in which the movie shows a man getting his head sliced clear off is done in the exact same poetic and glorified style as a steamy love scene or a slow-motion orgy with rhythmically pulsating bodies. It's all very robust, very masculine, very vigorous, and my God, it's all so wonderful to witness.

As for the acting and dialogue, the only thing that can be said about it is that thank goodness it doesn't get overly distracting. The narration, especially, is spoken in a stately and pretentious language that takes itself just a little too seriously. Going into this movie, though, people probably realize that it isn't at all about deep characterization, so the lack thereof becomes entirely forgivable. When the movie isn't focused on the battlefield, the extra bits involving the politics with moral messages on freedom, victory, and corruption are merely times for the audience to catch their breath and then anxiously wait to get back to the surprisingly substantive entertainment of gorgeous human slaughter.

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