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300 (DVD) (WS)
In this ferocious retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae based on the epic graphic novel by Sin City creator Frank Miller, King Xerxes of Persia (Rodrigo Santoro -- Lost) amasses an army of hundreds of thousands, drawn from Asia and Africa, to invade and conquer the tiny, divided nation of Greece in 481 B.C. But when the advancing Persian forces enter the treacherous mountain pass of Thermopylae, they encounter Spartan King Leonidas (Gerard Butler -- The Phantom of the Opera) and his royal guard of soldiers numbering just 300. According to legend, their valor and sacrifice inspired all of Greece to unite against the Persian foe, planting the seeds of democracy and ushering in the Golden Age of Greece.With nonstop action and awe-inspiring visual effects, director Zack Snyder creates a breathtaking vision of one of history's most legendary battles ... and an epic tale of sacrifice and heroism.]]>
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Enough of that. What about the movie itself. It certainly gave us a colorful, action filled, balletic vision of hand to hand combat. It didn't happen to be accurate but we have put that issue aside. My lack of satisfaction with it in purely cinemagraphic terms was the absence of the kind of tension, the constant uncertainty as to outcome, both individual and collective, that marks the best combat scenes on film. It was Superman (supermen) against a group of ferocious looking completely untrained equivalents of office clerks. It did not ring true (not true in the sense of what really went on in hand to hand combat, but true in the cinemagraphic sense-how can you be a HERO, if you are fighting the equivalent of the kids who had never held a gun whom Hitler sent to face the Russian Army as it approached Berlin). I liked the acrobatic techniques but never felt for a moment that these could be real people fighting a real battle.
What there was of non-combat related scenes were conventional and non-involving. One felt that, well, that give us a brief shot of the wife and brief shot of the nasty traitor; oh, and to be sure that we know how bad the guy was, he persuades the Queen to have sex with him to get his support in a vote. Not enough? we see the Persian gold pouring out his tunic (neat trick that) when she deals with him later.
What would I recommend: if you like choreographed, colorful display (by one party to hand to hand combat), and splashy camera work painting a portrait of war, this should suit you. If you are going to think about what you are seeing, you might want to look elsewhere.
Meanwhile Leonidas has his hands full at the Hot Gates. Xerxes throws everything he has at them, including The Immortals, his most powerful warriors. But the gates are so narrow, they cannot push past. A deformed traitor proves to be his undoing though, and shows Xerxes a way around the pass and behind Leonidas. It is interesting here that the very kind of deformed imperfect people the Spartans try to rid themselves of, causes their downfall.
The Spartans revere physical fitness above all and are said in battle to come home with their shields or upon them. The actors here in 300 are all very buff, especially having great abs. After watching the movie, I tried to achieve the same effect and failed miserably.
Director Larry Fong did an admirable job filming this great semi historical epic story. It's films like this that can bring history to a life never achieved or imagined from reading a dull dry history book. In fact, to some of the more intense viewers, it's like being there as a participant yourself. Nearly 2500 years have passed but what was done there that day is still remembered.
This is a movie to have in your library. For someone like me, head injured & a bad memory (hah but I really do) I tell everyone that I need to se it again. But this is one that you will want to watch more than once because you'll see different things now than they were then.