Review No. 559
“Remember us…” Will do.
DISTRIBUTED BY WARNER BROS. PICTURES ON MARCH 9, 2007. PRODUCED IN ENGLISH BY THE UNITED STATES. RUNS 1 HOUR, 57 MINUTES. NOT FOR CHILDREN, DUE TO GRAPHIC VIOLENCE, NUDITY, AND SEXUAL SITUATIONS.
Director — Zack Snyder
Producers — Gianni Nunnari, Mark Canton, Bernie Goldmann & Jeffrey Silver
Screenplay — Mr. Snyder, Kurt Johnstad & Michael B. Jordon
Based on — 300 by Frank Miller
Gerard Butler — King Leonidas
David Wenham — Dilios
Lena Headey — Queen Gorgo
Dominic West — Theron
Vincent Regan — Captain Artemis
Rodrigo Santoro — King Xerxes
Michael Fassbender — Stelios
Narrated by Mr. Wenham.
Distributor — Warner Bros. Pictures
Release Date — March 9, 2007
Language — English
Country — USA
Running Time — 117 minutes
MPAA Rating — R
MPAA Description — graphic battle sequences throughout, some sexuality and nudity
300 WAS WATCHED ON AUGUST 4, 2013.
Zack Snyder is a genius. I’ve said it before, and I might say it again later on in this review, simply because perhaps repeating myself makes me sound a bit less crazy. There’s a saying that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Snyder’s sophomore picture 300 (following his debut, a remake of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead) suggests a converse to the maxim. Okay, maybe epics from Cecil B. DeMille and David Lean aren’t exactly “broke,” but if melodramas such as The Ten Commandments (all-time 6th at the box office) or Doctor Zhivago (all-time 8th) hit theaters today, as opposed to five to five and a half decades ago, I wouldn’t count on exceeding the budget. Yet this is essentially a “neo-epic.” It’ll take some time for an appreciation to develop around it, but when that does happen, I guarantee that this will be the founding father of several (long-delayed) “neo-epics.”
In case it’s not clear yet, what Zack Snyder has done is nothing that can be achieved by a severely average “action junkie” filmmaker. Sorry, critics! (Not to single myself out entirely, of course.) Michael Bay couldn’t make 300 even if it meant deceiving his audiences (he sure deceived them when he said Fargo was an inspiration for his most recent work). Although Roland Emmerich made The Patriot along the same lines, the outcome replaced style with soap opera. I dare say that even a romcom regular such as Gerard Butler makes the film interesting. He’s an unlikely hero, even resembling Leonidas–KIng Leonidas! The movie is all about storytelling, which is why the story is just where it needs to be. Narrator tells of epic hero’s journey. Specifically, King Leonidas leading the Spartans to war vs. the Athenians. Beauty, through simplicity.
Speaking of which: 300 is the much-appreciated followup to Sin City, released less than a year afterward. Frank Miller was so in love with his Sin City graphic novels that he co-directed, cameoed, and insisted that instead of a script, the 2005 film production rely on the books themselves. 300 is even better a cinematic representation of a comic book series than Sin City, and Miller got a simple “based on” credit. Even in the scenes that come closest to a the talkiness of Cecil B. DeMille–scenes with less action than others–the faith to lovable comic book cheese makes this feel like…well, a comic book. (Note that I mentioned Sin City as a series of graphic novels; for the sake of clarification, a graphic novel is a longer and much more serious approach to designing a comic book.) Hollywood has proven to us once more that cheese isn’t bad, as long as it’s met with a self-aware, fearless approach. The screenplay is memorable enough to offer some great one-liners. Three, I counted. “This is Sparta!” near the beginning; “Tonight, we dine in hell!” shouted during the climax; and at the end, an urging soliloquy that almost feels like a poem: “Remember Us”, by screenwriters Zack Snyder, Kurt Johnstad, and Michael B. Gordon. It’s a “guilty pleasure” without the guilt, if there’s any employment of the term.
What greater sets 300 apart from the previous Miller adaptation is that there’s harmony in the coexistence of style and substance. Even better reason why this is a “neo-epic,” not a purist’s epic or a PowerPoint for a history buff. Snyder’s lead pays careful attention to not letting the visuals go into video game territory. The results deliver the stunning, terrifically amped-up comic book look. It required a simple Google search for me to discover that this was not motion capture, the recent technique used by The Adventures of Tintin and Beowulf to combine live-action filming with CGI animation. It’s like watching the characters and setting in a comic book come to life. It makes you wonder whether or not Lynn Varley, who served as the colorist for 300 comics, touched up on the film herself to make everyone look like a comic book creation. I kept imagining everything in a comic book panel, more complete than this film (or any film) would construct. The editing of Larry Fong comes together with William Hoy’s cinematography to create the best moments. Even the selection of two death metal songs only heightens excitement as much as one of the traditional orchestrations. Even a climactic sequence full of jump cuts is much appreciated! Everything looks so beautiful; especially for a movie that doesn’t aim for story (moving the audience with a story) nearly as much as for storytelling (introducing the audience to a story), 300 has several scenes that feel beautiful. Something of an irony for a movie about Sparta.
STAY TUNED FOR MY “GLADIATOR” REVIEW @ 4:30