Zach Snyder’s new film 300, based on a graphic novel by Frank Miller, is the ultimate movie for college students. It is an action packed, erotic, and visually stunning movie. And the movie has proven to be immensely popular: it grossed over $70 million in it’s first weekend. However, is the movie worthy of all the hype?
Following my initial viewing of the movie I thought so, but as I have thought about it I’m not so sure. True, visually it is unlike few movies to date, and it is an exciting portrayal of a story long overdue a telling in Hollywood, but it seems to achieve each of these at the cost of good film making.
300 chronicles the battle of Thermopylae, fought between a group of 300 Spartan soldiers and the massive Persian army. If you know your history no spoiler for the film’s ending should phase you: the 300 Spartans put up a fight for a while, in the name of freedom, until eventually they are defeated when one of their own betrays them. However, while the film is rather historically accurate, it fails to deal with its major themes in any sort of revealing, or even original light. It’s main theme, freedom, is approached with a shallow and even insulting lack of insight. Why is freedom worth having? Why is it worth dying? What about Spartan society, which even the movie portrays as ruthless, is so free anyway?
Further, the script, while more poetic then I predicted, dealt in useless cliché’s. At first I liked it, then I disliked it, then I liked it again, then I disliked it- never a good sign. By its poetry it claimed it had something to say but failed to actually say anything worth while. It is like the high school student who uses big words whose meaning he doesn’t know. Essentially, it was boring.
The character development was weak, outside of the main character, Spartan King Leonidas, played by Gerard Butler from Phantom of the Opera. The frantic pace of the film left little time for such necessities. But this was a mistake for if I am to care, to really care, who lives or dies, who wins or loses, I must care about the characters. When one of the main characters dies mid-way through the film, I barely was effected.
As much as I loved Snyder’s direction on the film and the impressive photography alongside the groundbreaking computer graphics, the movie dealt in excess, it looked far too much like a video game in certain parts to be considered worthy of cinematic sainthood, or even priesthood. From the unrealistically, over-buffed, spandex wearing Spartan warriors (in contrast with the under-buffed Persians) to the useless sex scenes which forget to push the plot or develop characters, instead existing simply to draw college age, over-sexed libidos to theaters, to the almost hilarious way in which limbs and heads fly through the air as if gravity didn’t exist in the Greek world, this is a film which overdoes it. Just like that last sentence.
All that being said, 300 was a considerable achievement of popular entertainment. The acting was decent, and as I said, the direction was adequate. I certainly won’t be recommending it to everyone, and I probably won’t be seeing it again anytime soon. Don’t expect good movie making from this film and don’t expect a realistic or even insightful look at mankind. But if you want a film which is a wild ride, which will be pure entertainment, complete with beautiful people (and some very ugly ones too), fantastic action sequences, and a pace like squirrels driving NASCAR, this is your movie.
Or, perhaps you should just go rent the game; it’s bound to come out soon.
300 gets a C rating from me.
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