DIRECTOR: Zack Snyder

It was March 2006. It was date night. What to see… How about a über violent, war porn, epic Frank Miller comic book adaptation, 300? Not your first choice but with the bronzed bodies, women seemed to be happy  and there was plenty of macho violence to please the men, to grossly generalise of course.

300, based on the believed to be somewhat true story of Battle of Thermopylae, where 300 Spartans led by King Leonidas, who defied his senate to defend Sparta from the Persian horde under the auspicious eye of Xerxes, takes a different tack to that of earlier adoptions, particularly the 1962 film, 300 Spartans.

This is fantasy, and takes several nods from The Lord Of the Rings Trilogy in its take, though certainly not its tone. Frank Miller’s vision has been a part of mainstream cinema since 1989, when Tim Burton took his graphic novel’s vision of the Dark Knight and Batman was reborn for a new generation, a legacy that still lives on today. But Snyder’s take on that novel isn’t strictly accurate, notably with the Spartan uniforms, or lack there of. Even the source novel dressed its warriors with more than a cape and loin cloth, but accurate or not, it’s certainly distinctive.

This is a post Matrix film as well, if ever there was one, with some amazing sequences, allowing a director to truly direct his film, with strong imagery and tones. Xerxes is larger than life, literally, and his army in made of creatures rather than soldiers for the most part, each based on their names, such The Immortals for the royal guard, who prove not be as immortal as they claim. The use of exotic creatures such as fantastical variants of Rhinos and Elephants is interesting but it also adds a feel of the exotic, the heightened sense of how these creatures, the real ones that is, may have appeared to a race who had never seen them before.

There is also a lot of heart for a film with so much violence. The relationship between Leonidas and his queen, Spartan and hard though she is, never comes across as cold. There’s a sense of the British stiff upper lip, but beneath this burns real emotion and passion for each other and their respective causes. This is helped as well, by Tyler Bates’ excellent score.

The film is overdone in the sense that a true story has been told in a fantastical manner, with little realism besides the characters names and some actions but once you get past that, you’re looking at macho war film, were you can share in the satisfaction of defending your homeland, the kill and the comradely of men at arms.

The film was shot almost entirely on Green Screen leaving the story to play out in CGI with no effort to cover this up, in fact, Snyder embraces this. It looks like a live action comic in a similar way to Sin City, another Miller penned novel, only he had a hand at directing that. Sin City though, was more extreme in its comic book look, but 300 has a gorgeous appearance, literally looking like a work of art.

This is not to everybody’s taste. History buffs will generally take a grievance against it for obvious reasons, but those who like war, action, oiled torsos, mythical melodrama and a film that has been crafted from the opening frame with tender loving care, then this is for you. Otherwise, watch Troy, which isn’t even half the film that this is…


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