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Like Sin City before it, 300 brings Frank Miller and Lynn Varley's graphic novel vividly to life. Gerard Butler (Beowulf and Grendel, The Phantom of the Opera) radiates pure power and charisma as Leonidas, the Grecian king who leads 300 of his fellow Spartans (including David Wenham of The Lord of the Rings, Michael Fassbender, and Andrew Pleavin) into a battle against the overwhelming force of Persian invaders. Their only hope is to neutralize the numerical advantage by confronting the Persians, led by King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), at the narrow strait of Thermopylae. More engaging than Troy, the tepid and somewhat similar epic of ancient Greece, 300 is also comparable to Sin City in that the actors were shot on green screen, then added to digitally created backgrounds. The effort pays off in a strikingly stylized look and huge, sweeping battle scenes. However, it's not as to-the-letter faithful to Miller's source material as Sin City was. The plot is the same, and many of the book's images are represented just about perfectly. But some extra material has been added, including new villains (who would be considered "bosses" if this were a video game, and it often feels like one) and a political subplot involving new characters and a significantly expanded role for the Queen of Sparta (Lena Headey). While this subplot by director Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead) and his fellow co-writers does break up the violence, most fans would probably dismiss it as filler if it didn't involve the sexy Headey. Other viewers, of course, will be turned off by the waves of spurting blood, flying body parts, and surging testosterone. (The six-pack abs are also relentless, and the movie has more and less nudity--more female, less male--than the graphic novel.) Still, as a representation of Miller's work and as an ancient-themed action flick with a modern edge, 300 delivers. --David Horiuchi
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300, based on Frank Miller's graphic novel, is kind of ridiculous. It's completely over-the-top. It seems like an homage to masculinity. And yet, as much as I want to laugh at it and dismiss it as stupid fun (which is easily done with the sequel, Rise of an Empire), this is actually an excellent film with some amount of depth to it.
No, King Leonidas probably didn't fight a giant CGI wolf as a boy, but this film is extremely successful in conveying the mindset of the ancients--their perceptions of an enemy, their need for honor and glory, their dedication to their nations, their struggle to understand the world around them, and their devotion to camaraderie and brotherhood. As the film portrays, this ancient mindset was often forged in conjunction with death, battle, and sacrifice. The style used in this film helps, rather than hinders, the conveyance of an ancient Spartan worldview.
That the movie managed to convey these themes while being entertaining, quotable, heavily stylized, and overall cheesily awesome is what makes it a success.
Sure the history here is about as accurate as the science in Star Wars, but that's fine. We all know Xerxes was not 10' tall and probably did not have access to hand grenades. And it's kind of funny to hear the slave-owning Greeks going on (and on) about freedom. But that's fine, this is over-the-top music video cartoon of a movie.
I hesitated between 4 and 5 stars. I genuinely enjoyed it, and watched it along with its unnecessary sequel (1-star for that one) as well as the two Sin City films for a Frank Miller weekend. This is the best of the four.
Mature men loved it for the traditional "male" things of honor and glory and lets beat the bad guys.
Women loved it for Gerry and his extraordinary body and the true love he shows for his strong, smart wife.
Anyone, regardless of age or gender, can find something appealing in this unusual, interesting, completely different movie. Yes, the special effects are eye-popping, even today when we're inundated with effects. These are quieter and stranger. There is a surreal quality to them that works. Yes, the story (although not strictly historically accurate) is a classic tale of sacrifice and honor to which any thinking person will respond to with pride and sadness. Yes, Gerard is gorgeous and the perfect King for his time, but he is more: he is the personification of the noble warrior, the reluctant warrior, who would rather make love to his wife and raise his son than fight the invaders, but does what "a free man" has to do to stay free.
There is some gratuitous violence and grossness - I could have done without the leprosy-ridden priests and the malformed Persians. And, yes, there is no attempt at political correctness. Thank goodness. That was not a popular concept in ancient Sparta and would have been ridiculous if it had been inserted into this movie.
This is a film that grows on you. A film that is better at the 2nd viewing and will surprise you with things you missed at the 3rd viewing. It's not for everyone but, if your mind is open, you can enjoy it on whatever level works for you.