**** (out of 5)
March 9, 2007
Gerard Butler as KING LEONIDAS
Lena Headey as QUEEN GORGO
Dominic West as THERON
David Wenham as DILIOS
Vincent Regan as CAPTAIN
Studio: Warner Bros.
Directed by: Zack Snyder
BY KEVIN CARR
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The hype surrounding the film “300” has been astounding. In fact, I can’t remember a film released in the early spring that caused this much hype. For that reason alone, I entered the film cautiously.
Having seen the trailers numerous times, I was cautious because I knew that great trailers didn’t always mean the film would be good. Plus, there have been several sword-and-sandal movies released in the past few years to utter disappointment – “Troy” and the wretched “Alexander” topping the list.
What concerned me was that while “300” looked like it would be visually stunning, I wasn’t sure how much story there would be. I know it’s based on a popular graphic novel by comic book legend Frank Miller, but I also know that ripping through a comic with all the imagery it has was far different than sitting on your butt for two hours in a movie theater.
I have to say that I was remarkably impressed by the final result of “300.” It has often been compared to “Sin City” for several reasons, primarily because it’s a Frank Miller original that used virtual sets and oodles of special effects. However, there are some notable differences, including the fact it takes place thousands of years ago, the story is much darker and less bizarre and the fact that Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino are nowhere to be seen.
“300” tells the story of a small contingent of Spartan warriors who face off against the million-strong Persian army on the eve of an invasion. It’s a true story, but highly stylized for both the comic book and the movie. King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) leads his team of 300 Spartans against mutants and bizarre creatures to make up the Persian army.
Like “Braveheart,” the themes of freedom and oppression are spread heavily throughout the film. Perhaps this is historically accurate, or maybe it just makes good cinema. Whatever the case, it puts the audience at ground zero of the battle, watching the legendary soldiers fight for their own freedom.
There were many places for “300” to falter, but I was pleasantly surprised that it managed to leap over all these hurdles. While the visual effects were incredible, they didn’t detract from the story. They offered a new take on action sequences, and because everything was so highly stylized, it was not out of place to have them.
The cast is filled with relative B-listers. Butler has had some success in the European market, but with the exception of “Phantom of the Opera,” his American slate is pretty slim. However, he makes an excellent Leonidas. Maybe it helps not having a face you immediately recognize that allowed him to exude the character better. Other lesser known actors include Lena Headey as the Queen and Dominic West as the treacherous Theron. Both Headey and West carry a sordid and tense side story to buffer the overabundance of action scenes.
“300” is rated R, and it deserves the rating. It’s easily the bloodiest and most violent movie of the year so far, but that’s to be expected for an ancient battlefield. Additionally, the creepy imagery taken from Frank Miller’s mind are put on the screen. The Persians are portrayed as mutant monsters, which may not be the most politically correct choice, but it looked cool as hell.
“300” is the very definition of an epic movie. It’s got loads of action, stunning visuals and more testosterone than fraternity row. It’s a spectacle to behold.