Written by Zack Snyder & Kurt Johnstad and Michael Gordon
Directed by Zack Snyder
Running Time: 1:57
for graphic battle sequences throughout,
some sexuality and nudity.
300 is so far easily the best film of 2007. And it's likely I'll be saying that at the end of the year as well.
300 is based on the true story of the Battle of Thermopylae in which King Leonidas and 300 Spartans fought against Xerxes and his million man Persian army. Leonidas believed in freedom and would never allow his land or his people to become slaves to Xerxes. Although they faced insurmountable odds, Leonidas believed that his small group of soldiers could take down whatever came their way. Back home, Theron, a member of the Spartan Counsel, was trying to bring Leonidas down so he could gain riches and power. Leonidas's wife, Queen Gorgo, tried desperately to get the Counsel to send more troops to help Leonidas. On the battlefront, Leonidas and his men braved the onslaught as much as they could and in doing so, earned their place in history.
The first and most obvious thing about 300 is the look of the movie. From the script notes I read this - "[Director Zach] Snyder had the idea of manipulating the color balance to create a process that was ultimately nicknamed “the crush.” “Zack developed a recipe where you’d crush the black content of the image and enhance the color saturation to change the contrast ratio of the film. Every image in this film went through a post-image processing. The crush is what gives this film its distinct look and feel.” I'm not sure I can really explain what all that means, except it made the movie look extremely cool. Considering the film was also based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller (who was also the creator of Sin City) it's no surprise that the filmmakers decided to make the film look like it was ripped from the pages of the comic book. Nothing looked like it could be real, but that made the movie feel more intense. It was like watching Gladiator on acid. Every action was enhanced and every movement measured to perfection.
The one thing about movies like this, where the visuals are so different and exciting, is that many filmmakers believe that the look of the movie will be enough to carry the movie, and so they forget about the story. Thankfully, the team of writers at 300 gave us a story that held my interest throughout. I don't go in expecting to see a history lesson, but I do go in expecting to be entertained. The movie started off a little slow, but that was likely due to the high level of anticipation I had. I really wanted to see some action right from the start. Instead, we're shown what life was like for the King and his people. But as the movie went along, it really picked up speed and by the time the 45 minute mark rolled along, it really kicked into high gear.
The other aspect of films that gets left behind when making such a visually compelling movie, is the acting. Again, I think most filmmakers believe that people will be so overwhelmed by how the movie looks, they'll forget everything else. In this case, the actors helped carry the film. And it was the lead, Gerard Butler, who gave the performance of his life. In the trailers you can hear the fury of his voice, but in the film you can see the power of his performance. Even though there are others who might be taller, others who might have more muscles, there is no doubt who the leader is. He carries himself with grace and extreme power so that you can understand why his men would follow him into a battle where they would all likely die. If you put a lesser actor into such an important role, the movie might still look good, but overall it would have never been as entertaining. Butler had to walk a fine line between being an overpowering King leading his troops into battle, and a husband and father who was fighting for his family's future.
And then there were the fight scenes. The movie is certainly violent, with heads and limbs being chopped off, people throwing spears at each other, and lots and lots of dead people. But in keeping with the graphic novel aspect of the film, the blood that appears was obviously computer generated, which looked cool but also kept the realism down. I'm not 100% sure I agree with that choice, and at times it was a little distracting. However the enormity of the battle sequences more than made up for that. Hundreds upon hundreds of warriors died in a number of ways, and it was all accentuated by pulse pounding music and visual effects that put this in the early lead in next year's Oscar race. In fact, were this movie released late in the year, I have no doubt it would be an Oscar contender in many different categories. As it is, it will likely have to settle for making a lot of money and becoming the fanboy choice for the year. I'm already looking forward to seeing it again.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I really enjoyed 300. With all the anticipation, I felt it started slowly, but once it got into gear, it blew me and the audience out of the water. Definitely a must-see film on the big screen.
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