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March 2007

LIFE SUPPORT

By Wilson Morales

300

Distributor: Warner Bros.
Director: Zack Snyder
Producers: Gianni Nunnari, Mark Canton, Bernie Goldman, Jeffrey Silver
Screenwriter: Zack Snyder, Kurt Johnstad, Michael Gordon, based on novel by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley
Cinematography: Larry Fong
Visual Effects Superviso: Chris Watts
Composer: Tyler Bates
Cast: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Rodrigo Santoro, Dominic West, David Wenham, Vincent Regan, Michael Fassbender, Tom Wisdom, Andrew Pleavin, Andrew Tiernan, Giovani Cimmino, Kelly Craig

 

   





As is often the case with ancient war films, the plot gets lost amidst the fighting and bloodshed. When it was announced that Frank Miller’s graphic novel, 300, would be brought to the big screen, just the words, “graphic novel” is the thing that stood out. No one cared about what the plot was or who would star in it. It’s about the visuals and the body count. Having gone to San Diego Comic Con last year, where the first trailer was shown for the fans, there was no buzz prior to the unveiling of it. Once it was shown, not only where the fans shocked with amazement, they showed the trailer a record three times. It was the best trailer shown at the fan fest. Months have gone by and anticipation has build up to epic proportions. Directed by Zack Synder, who’s last film was “Dawn of the Dead”, “300” delivers on every level, from what you are expecting to see. It’s a high octane, breathtaking, and gory film, yet powerful and well executed on a visual level never seen before.

Almost in the same vein as “Custer’s last stand”, “300” is about King Leonidas of Sparta (Butler) who leads a fleet of his 300 best men to the Hot Gates of Thermopylae to protect his city and thousands of advancing Persian soldiers, led by King Xerxes (Santoro) to destroy Sparta. Standing by side at home to care for his son is Leonidas’s beuitiful wife, Queen Gorgo (Headey), who seeks help from the council to send in more men to aid her husband’s battle, much to the dismay of councilman, Theron (West), who has his own agenda. As they battle through the days and nights, Leonidas provides the confidence in his men in that death is part of victory if meant to be.

With names hard to pronounce, it really doesn’t matter how you say it because “300” is all about the battles, the bloodshed, and the visuals, and that alone is what makes the film excel. It’s also a credit that Snyder has faithfully adapted the film from the graphic novel and incorporated the lines that many enjoyed from the book such as when the Persian Emissary tells King Leonidas, “This is madness!” and King Leonidas looks at his wife, who gives him the nod, and he says to the emissary, “Madness? This is Sparta”, before kicking him and his men in a big black hole. With mostly unknown actors playing the parts of the soldiers and baring nothing but their abs and fighting skills, the visuals is what sets the film apart from notable similar films like “Braveheart” and “Gladiator” and “Spartacus”. Butler, last seen as the Masked Man in “Phantom of the Opera” injects a commanding force as King Leonidas. Although her character in the novel didn’t have much to do, in the film Headey as Gorgo is just as brilliant as Butler. She’s the probably the strongest female character created for the big screen in terms of these ancient, epic war films. Queen Gorgo is more than the average dutiful and supporting wife one would expect. She brings passion and guidance to her husband, and when she gives him the nod to extract action, it speaks “volumes” and Headey plays it magnificently. If there’s a flaw, it’s that most of the other characters are one-note. It’s all one mind with a kill or be killed attitude. It’s war from the start and no looking back, no morals, just fight and live to fight another day. Snyder has done well in recreating the tone that Frank Miller established in the book. In working against the blue screen and 3-D drawings, he’s managed to put together a film where the words are quotable and battle scenes are ferocious and engaging. The score by Tyler Bates adds a haunting and orchestral element to the film. One doesn’t go into this film looking for a moral dilemma. This is not “Gladiator” or the “Spartacus” where you get dialogues of blah, blah, and blah. One doesn’t go into a horror film looking for something special. You look for body count and heroism. If you are seeing “300”, you see it because you want to see action, action, and more action, but on another level!