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300 - Preview

Gerard Butler in Greek epic 300

Preview by Jack Foley

SWORDS and sandals epics tend to be hit-and-miss affairs. For every Gladiator or Troy, there’s an Alexander waiting in the wings.

However, having tasted box office success and failure with both, Warner Bros has decided to persevere with the epics for at least another movie yet – although the risk in terms of production costs is considerably smaller.

300 is a Greek epic based on Frank (Sin City) Miller’s graphic novel of the same name. It tells the story of the 480BC Battle of Thermopylae in which 300 Spartans held off an army of over 400,000 Persians for three days.

But rather than splashing out on a mega-budget, the distributor has entrusted the story to Zack Snyder, who has put it together for a budget in the region of $60 million (smaller by comparison with the likes of Troy, Superman Returns or Poseidon).

Snyder has therefore decided to create the sets digitally, using blue and green screens as backdrops for his actors and employing the same sort of filming techniques as Sin City and Sky Captain & The World of Tomorrow.

Hence, all of the key battle scenes have been shot against the green screens and then digitally crushed in order to try and create the distinctive gold-toned, dirt-spattered and blood-soaked look of the graphic novels.

Early footage of the film certainly looks impressive, while Snyder has been keeping fans updated throughout with a number of blogs and podcasts around the internet. Indeed, Warner Bros are so confident in his ability based on footage they’ve seen so far that they have already signed Snyder to direct the upcoming Watchmen.

And footage shown at this year’s Comic Con in San Diego drew a big thumbs up from audiences. Commenting on that reaction, the director told “I looked at it and I feel like… you know, I have sort of a 15-year-old’s aesthetics so when I look at it I’m like, “Oh, that’s cool. I hope other people think it’s cool.” I don’t know what else to do. It was what I hoped for, and I felt like they got it. Of course they got it. If anybody gets it, these guys do.”

The film has already attracted an R rating in America and is said to be extremely violent (much in the same way that Sin City was). But that’s not a problem for the Dawn of the Dead director, who said he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

The R rating is for R for the graphic battle sequences throughout, as well as some sexuality and nudity. But Snyder maintains he never intended to make 300 anything less. “That’s why they gave me the budget they gave me,” he added.

Gerard Butler heads the cast as King Leonidas, while Lena Headey is Queen Gorgo and Michael Fassbender plays Stelios. Dominic West, Andrew Pleavin, Rodrigo Santoro and David Wenham co-star.

Find out how 300 has broken US box office records or watch a clip