The past few years have brought about a renaissance in the movie industry, a transformation if you will, from shooting with film to shooting digitally. Such movies as Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Sin City have taken the industry one step further by not only shooting digitally but using relatively no sets (just green or blue screens) and plugging in the CGI later in post-production. Not only does this make things very sharp, but it also allows the director to have an even wider palette to “paint” his or her world.
Unfortunately, this method of filmmaking is not without its drawbacks. The aforementioned movies are plagued by bad acting (a result of no physical sets) and at times flat, cartoon like, two-dimensional CGI. The later is definitely problematic; since, CGI is at the heart of those productions.
This brings me to director Zack Snyder’s 300. Based on Frank Miller’s 1999 graphic novel about the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C., the movie not only does justice to the source material but is for the first time in history a flawless digital incarnation.
Not for the faint of heart, 300 is a testosterone-filled bloodfest; I’ve never seen so many dead bodies and decapitations. It is highly stylized, which makes it easier to stomach but not by much.
The Spartan men are bred for war, and at the age of 7 they’re sent out in the wilderness to fend for themselves. If they come back alive they are men. One such man?Leonidas (Butler)?is King of Sparta. When a Persian messenger comes asking for earth and water as a token of submission to Xerxes (Santoro), Emperor of Persia, Leonidas proclaims, “This is Sparta!” and kicks the messenger into a water well.
The Persians are ferocious mongrels with superior strength, lots of piercings and a fondness for all things kinky. Xerxes himself is effeminate, not unlike the Sun God Ra in Stargate.
The battle is set. It’s Sparta versus Persia.
Despite there not being any Romans in 300, the Spartans will be compared to them. And, as such, comparisons to Gladiator or Troy are understandable. How does 300 hold up against those two films? Exceptionally well. Troy is easily forgettable; it’s pure garbage. The story, acting and costumes are weak. Gladiator on the other hand is an epic film. While 300 may not have the breadth that it has, it makes up for it with pure adrenaline. Think of the best battles in Gladiator, multiply them by ten, and then have them last for 117 minutes. That may give some inclination as to the experience of 300.
The acting is pitch perfect. These actors are not stars, which is a good thing. They have no egos and they’re all hungry for roles that they not only can sink their teeth into but that can further the success of their careers. They are uninhibited and willing to take risks. It shows.
While at times the heavy rock music may seem best suited for working out, it fits the violent tone of the film. There’s also African and operatic music to fit the region and historical setting.
Those looking for pure, raw action won’t be disappointed. This is a CGI world at its best.