Review by Jack Foley
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio Commentary by Director Zack Snyder, Writer Kurt Johnstad and Director of Photography Larry Fong; 300 Spartans – Fact or Fiction?: The Shocking Life of a Spartan Revealed; Additional Scenes of the Traitorous Hunchback and Never-Before-Seen Giant Warriors; Frank Miller’s Vision Realised on Film.
IN CINEMA terms, the success of Zack Snyder’s 300 is every bit as impressive as the exploits of his on-screen characters given how hard the director had to fight to realise his vision.
When he first came up with the idea of shaking up the swords and sandals epic by turning Frank Miller’s graphic novel into a mostly computer-generated experience, few were interested. Troy had yet to open and looked like a sure thing, while Oliver Stone was filming Alexander...
Snyder’s decision to film everything in a warehouse in Montreal against blue screens was also deemed unecessary, while his proposal to cast unknowns also took some persuading.
But look who’s laughing now. 300 broke records when it opened in America as the third-highest grossing R-rated movie of all-time and the best ever opening for a March release.
It’s three-day $70 million haul means that the film has already recouped its $60 million production costs. And the “unknown” cast are now being linked with upcoming film projects on an almost daily basis.
It’s no more than anyone of them deserves given the dedication and commitment that went into creating such a breathtaking experience.
300 rocks! Make no mistake. It’s a testosterone-driven, graphically violent spectacle that sweeps you along with its sheer bloody-minded determination to entertain.
It’s cheesy in places, borderline camp at others but there’s just no denying the epic sweep of the visuals or the spine-tingling nature of the heroics. It’s a blood and thunder epic capable of widespread appeal.
The story is simple and chronicles the 480BC Battle of Thermopylae in which 300 Spartans, led by the supremely arrogant King Leonidas (Gerard Butler), held off an army of over 300,000 Persians, led by Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) for three days.
There’s a brief build-up as David Wenham’s narrator, Dilios, explains what it means to become a Spartan from childhood and the odd look at the political arena in Sparta, where Leonidas’ wife, Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) must outwit those who would betray their ideals.
But for the majority of the time the focus is on the battle, where row upon row of Persian invaders perish at the end of a Spartan sword or spear.
Visually, death has seldom seemed so balletic this side of John Woo, while the speech-making is befitting a group of men who dress in nothing more than red capes and leather codpieces (“tonight we dine in hell”), complete with oversized beards and outrageous six packs.
It’s ridiculous at times, for sure; but no more so than some of the political criticisms surrounding it.
For while Iranian officials rant hysterically about tarnishing Persian heritage and waging “psychological warfare”, 300 is clearly more concerned with getting the look of Miller’s source material just right.
For fans of Sin City this is just as sumptuous a treat; a daring piece of cinematic bravado that unfolds on the grandest scale.
It’s a landmark piece of cinema that does exactly what Snyder set out to – reinvigorate a genre and deliver a wake-up call in the process.
American audiences have clearly responded to 300‘s cry and UK viewers are advised to follow in their footsteps.
It won’t win any prizes for subtlety but Snyder’s film marks a considerable victory for creative endeavour over playing things safe that’s every bit as inspirational as the battlefield efforts it depicts. The director deserves all the glory the film’s success brings…
Running time: 116mins
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