directed by Zack Snyder
(Warner Bros., 2006)

I went to this movie solely to see Gerard Butler, as I am a huge fan. If he wasn't in it, I definitely wouldn't have paid to see it at the theater, and chances are I wouldn't have worked real hard to see it on DVD, either. It is not at all the type of film I normally flock to or enjoy, but I was more than pleasantly surprised at how much I thoroughly liked this film.

This is probably one of the most visually appealing movies I have seen in a long time. It was like watching artwork come to life, a feast for the eyes. The acting was excellent; Butler was a strong and commanding lead as King Leonidas. He was a physically imposing warrior, leading his men to battle, yet there were surprisingly tender and human moments as well. Lena Headey managed to portray Queen Gorgo as a strong, powerful woman while maintaining extreme femininity. King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) was by far the most flamboyant of characters -- his costume was of multiple piercings and jewels, and he exuded arrogance and narcissism. A powerful man who referred to himself as God, he was made complete by his large size and deep voice.

I was expecting an overly violent blood bath of a film. Truth be told, I was surprised at its lack of violence. A lot of the violence is implied and then you see the flinging and spurting of blood. There were only a few scenes where I actually cringed or had to shut my eyes. There were even a handful of touching moments that made me weepy, another unexpected effect.

The music was another unforeseen enjoyment. It flowed seamlessly from hauntingly beautiful chant-like choruses to powerfully driven techno beats. I liked the music so much that I remained after the movie to watch the credits and find out who did the soundtrack.

Is this movie historically accurate? Will the History Channel be airing it as a documentary meant to educate the masses on the Spartans, the Persians and the battle of Thermopylae? Absolutely not. I went to see a movie based on a comic book, loosely based on history, and that's what I saw. 300 is a very entertaining movie and I will definitely be purchasing it on DVD.

by Cherise Everhard
24 November 2007

The defense of the narrow pass at Thermopylae by 300 Spartans (and assorted other Greeks) against a massive invading force of Persians led by the warrior-king Xerxes in 480 BC is a tale worthy of an epic film. Unfortunately, 300 -- directed by Zack Snyder and starring Gerard Butler -- is not that movie.

Far from appearing like a movie derived from a comic book, which it is -- and believe me, I have a great respect for films of that subgenre -- 300 looks like a movie made from a video game. Not a very deep or plot-driven game, either -- 300 is all about the style of hack and slash, the graceful dance of pivot and stab, the severed limb, the sundered head and the spray of blood.

While faithful in many ways to the graphic novel by Frank Miller (whose Sin City had been so marvelously adapted a few years before), 300 never rises to the challenge of being a film. Dialogue is often awkward and forced -- every conversation strives to be something Henry V or William Wallace would have been proud to say just before battle -- and the acting by and large is ham-fisted and so far over the top you can't even see the top. The actors aren't here to perform, they're just props to fill in the spaces between computer-generated effects. Even so, I wonder if the team of fight choreographers had any clue going in how to handle a sword.

Remember that scene in Excalibur when Mordred's army is warned of Arthur's approach by the distant sound of his soundtrack? Here, the metal score is so distracting that one poor Spartan warrior can't even hear the sound of a galloping horse over the music, and he gets his head chopped off because of it.

OK, so Gerard Butler (as King Leonidas) got to shout and growl and show off his abs and pointy beard. A bunch of (CGI-enhanced) buff men in flowing red capes and bikini briefs got to run around in the sand waving swords at monsters. Butler has a dizzying sex scene with the lovely Lena Headey (the regal Queen Gargo), mostly because someone must have thought that, with all this beefcake, a little cheesecake was in order. Special-effects wizards had a lot of fun showing decapitations and showers of blood. And through it all, I kept wondering if Zack Snyder directed the film with a game controller in his hand.

by Tom Knapp
24 October 2009


Buy it from Amazon.com.