Monday, March 3, 2014

300 (2007) movie review

Overall verdict: 7/10

The Good: stylish comic book action, faithful to the source material, heartfelt tale of heroism against overwhelming odds, intense combat sequences

The Bad: light on character development, generic music, 

3D Readiness: not filmed in 3D. But slo-mo stylish action may lend well to conversion
IMax-ability: not filmed in IMAX. 

The tragic legend of 300 brave Spartans against the Persian legions is now retold in a gorgeous live action comic book form. Possibly the best example of being faithful to a source material, 300 adapts the titular graphic novel by the famous Frank Miller. And what an adaptation it is! The muddy browns, ancient bronze and stunning crimson are painstakingly replicated in the films colors, panels are recreated in full motion shot-for-shot. Perhaps the greatest thing about this film is how it adds additional layers to the characters that were not immediately apparent in the graphic novel.

Our story is a epic tale of standing up for freedom, facing incredible odds for the sake of your people, and giving ones life as a symbol of hope. As the Persian empire marches through Greece, the senate is bogged down in politics and backstabbing. Unwilling to accept inaction, king Leonidas leads his 300 strong spartan army to face down the Persian troops at Thermopylae. Outnumbered at least a hundred to one, the Spartans fight on. While on the home front, Spartan queen Gorgo has to deal with Greek politics while being weary of a traitor in their midst. 

As mentioned, 300 is every bit as visually stunning as it's source material. Director Zack Snyder, a self proclaimed comic book fan, brings a keen eye for action. The stylish way he alternates between fast cuts and extreme slow motion is a unique touch that mimics the experience of moving panel to panel in a comic book. Gory action, intense fights and awesome action is on full display, complemented by some fine acting from the great looking leads.

One really has to complement the actors for the tough training regime they went through to achieve the Spartans' chiseled muscular look. All of them bring their "A" game to the table, instilling their characters with passion and emotion. Of note is Gerald Butler, bellowing war cries as the Spartan King Leonidas. His performance not only elevates a rather one dimensionally written character but immortalised so many memorable lines which subsequently became internet memes.

Although the characters are not given much development, the softer moments in the script plays out a tragic story of a culture where formality and strength are law. Love, compassion, and one's emotions are suppressed in the Spartan culture as signs of weakness. Yet as we follow the Spartans, at first portrayed as misogynistic war loving maniacs, we see their tender side surface; A father who grows to respect his son as family rather than just comrade, rivals who bond in battle, and a king loves his queen much more than he shows. These softer moments as well, like the political intrigue involving queen Gorgo, adds a deeper element to the original plot; the graphic novel merely focused on the battle at Thermophylae.

This movie has received its fair share of criticism for its portrayal of the Persians. But since it is framed as a story told by a Spartan survivor, these creative liberties may just be the survivor sprinkling some exaggeration into the tale. Overall, it is a thoroughly enjoyable testosterone fueled action flick. Aside from Tyler Bates' generic soundtrack, the visuals and directing style alone is unique and breathtaking. The softer moments are intriguing and well woven into the narrative, adding layers to what could have been a shallow swords and sandals movie.

Prepare for Glory. And prepare for the sequel.

*****************************Review End***************************

Entertainment: A
Story: A-
Acting: A
Characters: A-
Music: C+
Replay value: A
"Brains": B-

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