Director: Zack Snyder
Cast: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Dominic West, David Wenham, Michael Fassbender
Plot: When the Persian Empire hits Greece, the Spartans refuse to surrender to them. With only 300 men, they take on an entire army.
I remember the first time I saw 300 like it was yesterday. The DVD had come out and my Dad had been looking forward to it for a long time. He liked his Greek history and really wanted to see a historical account of this brave story. I am not entirely sure what me or my Dad were expecting, but it definitely wasn’t this.
300 could be one of those films that instantly becomes a classic, a true staple of the action genre. Its success comes from being like nothing else out there. Most of this film is done against a green screen and is not ashamed of it. We get slo-mo kills, CGI creatures of the deep and gravity-defying stunts. The end result is a pure adrenaline fix, non-stop action at its most basic. The story in itself is absurd. It may be based on a true story, but Frank Miller’s comic book stretches belief to breaking point. It is a take on the extreme poetic symbolism these heroes live for and the macho image that Greek heroes have always been pictured in. Therefore, most of this film features half-naked men, with more muscles than the cast of Predator, slashing at their enemies. As soon as the actual fight gets underway, you give up trying to salvage any form of logic from this story, and in many ways, that is the point where the film gets good. 300 is a film best watched, when you sink into, allowing the random and crazy moments win you over. One moment in particular will go down in cinematic history. The Spartans run at their enemies, Snyder speeding up the action. However, just as the sword swings into an enemy, he slows it right down, so we get to observe the brutal slashing and murder. The fight scene continues like that for a few enemies, showing the audience exactly how to use technology to squeeze every bit of awesome from a scene.
Of course, an argument could be made that Snyder gets too lost in the thrill of his own direction. Character development is non-existent. Sure, we get familiar faces in the Spartan unit, but none of the back stories ever really hit home. Gerard Butler’s Leonidas is about as memorable as they get and even he is little more than a caricature in a heavy metal video, all muscle and little depth. Even if we do take a liking to any of the characters, we must ask ourselves if we really felt the emotion hit us when any of them died. The answer is, more than likely, no. The closest we ever get to actually caring about any of the characters is the wife at home, Queen Gorgo, and even she could have done with a few extra scenes. At the very least, the casting of ‘hard-as-nails woman, Lena Headey’ means that some of the new viewers might be able to squint and pretend they are watching Cersei Lannister at work, dealing with the back-stabbing of Spartan politics. The only character we ever feel truly sorry for is Ephialtes, the deformed Spartan, never allowed to embrace the glory his culture demands of him. However, the story soon forgets about him in favour for some cool fight scenes, Snyder hinting at a point, but never truly embracing one.
But who came here for characters? Sure, we have had comic book movies a lot better (Sin City had the same awesome fights, yet had some surprisingly deep characters), Snyder’s later works springing to mind, but 300 is definitely worth a watch. Unashamedly jumping from brutal kills and macho shots, this movie enjoys how shallow it is, and, despite having all of the flaws explained above, still manages to produce a decent movie that is on any action junkie’s bucket list.
Final Verdict: Clinging to the mythological side of Spartan lore, Snyder weaves a skin-deep, yet brutally awesome, action that sticks in the memory, from sheer originality.
Good review. I too was thoroughly entertained by this flick. Though I will say it doesn’t stick in my memory. I remember very little about it.
Great review and I agree with many of your points. When I first saw this I definitely thought Snyder was too heavy handed with the violence although I loved the fight scenes. It almost felt boring as the action all blended together and I kept wondering what creatures the Spartans would fight next. But now whenever I watch this I am almost annoyed with the political scenes back in Sparta and I always want to get back to the fighting. I think the movie tries to do both and doesn’t find a good balance but it is extremely amenable to YouTube rewatching of the battles.
I loved it – can’t wait for the new one –
Leave your brain at the door and just go with it.
Yeah, it’s pretty dumb, but it’s also a total guys movie, made by guys, and for guys. Good review Luke.