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IN SHORT: Cool history beautifully adapting the graphic novel. [Rated R for graphic battle sequences throughout, some sexuality and nudity. 116 minutes]
Because it bears repeating every time the situation arises, our hardcover copy of Frank Miller and Lynn Varley's 300 sits on a bookshelf next to our hardcover copies of Miller's Sin City opus. In between are a couple of dozen boxes filled with comic books, many by the aforementioned Frank Miller who also created Elektra during his run on Marvel Comics' Daredevil. Yep, Cranky's an unrepentant fanboy and, that being said, we're going to file all that fannish attitude and try to address 300 as if we hadn't just reread the thing two days ago. We did but moreso to check on the Miller and Varley artwork which director Zack Snyder has managed to replicate onscreen. Seriously lovely.
Approximately two and a half millenia ago, circa 480 B.C., the independent city-states of the Grecian peninsula were just that. Independent. Athens was the center of intellectual activity held in contempt by the bred-for-war Spartans. Somewhere in the middle, fulfilling middle-class (for the times) occupations are Arcadians. Arcadians will fill out the middle of this film as well, but we'll come back to that. In Sparta, we learn at the start of 300, babies born too small or with discernible defects are discarded at birth, their families bearing the shame of producing progeny not fit to fill the capes of Spartan soldiers. By age seven, boys are ready for military training, if they've endured the physical punishment of years on through six. For one boy said training culminates in a one on one battle with a very hungry wolf. Said boy will become King Leonidas (Gerard Butler), ruler of Sparta who, when approached by messengers from King Xerxes of Persia (Rodrigo Santoro) demanding acquiescence, well, Leonidas doesn't take too kindly to the demand -- especially since he's already heard that the men-who-love-boys over in Athens have already given a big thumbs down to the proposal. Leonidas doesn't allow the messengers to make demands of other Greek city-states, and he begins preparations for war. War must be approved by the oracle of the Gods, who don't approve, but that never stopped a Spartan before. Leonidas and 300 of his best men "take a walk," heading for Thermopylae where geography gives 300 fighters an even chance to take on a million enemies.
You read those numbers correctly. Xerxes has an army a million strong, conscripted from a hundred conquered nations. Said battle at Thermopylae will be the catalyst for the creation of a united Greek state, which is something you should have learned in a history class along the way (or, given the demographics of this site, you already know the ending because you, too, own the book). What is added in Zack Snyder's production is a new subplot involving Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) and her political strategizing with, and against, a power-hungry politician called Theron (Dominic West) and fleshes out the story nicely, as does a subplot involving a soldier simply referred to as Captain (Vincent Regan), proud that his son firstborn Astinos (Tom Wisdom) will join him on the battlefield. More important is the discovery of a now grown "reject," Ephialtes (Andrew Tiernan), who begs Leonidas' leave to join the 300 and redeem his family's honor. Leonidas' decision will not prove to be wise.
Like last year's Mirror Mask, the combination of live actors and CGI
animated wrap around backgrounds locks the story in and doesn't allow for last
minute editing to fix any perceived problems. Unlike Mirror Mask, we had
no problems sitting through this film even as we watched 300 on a reg'lar
sized movie screen. Without any real care as to whether or not we felt like rootin'
for the hero, it was just an average sit. All the while, though, the fanboy inside
was screaming in our head -- "WHY DIDN'T YOU GO TO AN IMAX SCREENING???"
300 is so drenched in testosterone that the overkill of an oversized IMAX
screen is the only way to go see it.
. . . which means it's the guy's equivalent of "you made me sit through
[insert name of any chick flick here] so now you have to see one for me. Feel
free to grab on tight if any of the warrior stuff gets too intense [hee hee hee]."
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