‘300’ slashes, spears theaters

King Xerxes belts out a thunderous roar as the stubborn and unyielding group of 300 Spartans refused to surrender.By Oliver Joszt

Children exiled into the wilderness to fend for themselves, men who pride themselves on killing others, and a king who is fanatically obsessed with warfare – Welcome to Sparta!

In 480 B.C., 300 Spartans fought against thousands of Persians in the Battle of Thermopylae. 300 chronicles this historic event. King Leonidas, played by Gerald Butler (The Phantom of the Opera), leads 300 men into battle to try to protect his precious Sparta from Persian invaders because he does not want to see his men made into slaves.

Sparta’s oracles and politicians are not too pleased when King Leonidas goes to battle because the corrupted leaders are all but too happy to bow before the forces of Persian King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro). So, while King Leonidas is waging war, his wife, Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey), has to persuade the Senate to send the rest of the army in order to help her dear husband and his army of 300.

The film is based on Frank Miller’s (Sin City, Dark Knight) comic book 300, which explains the visually stunning computer-generated effects. Any viewer can appreciate the artistry of experimentation of adapting Miller’s comic onto the screen. Little details in the comic book, like a heightened sense of shadows, amazingly rich backgrounds and blood that bursts out onto the screen like rose petals come alive in the film.

The use of slow motion in 300 was employed flawlessly. Unlike most war movies where the battle scenes are scuttled and visually unclear, this film slows down the scenes so we can see all the action that is going on. In 300, the audience can clearly follow all the battle action from the arterial blood spraying to the freshly severed heads.

Some of the scenes in the film are excessively over-the-top even for a film based on a comic book. There is a Persian executioner who looks like Jabba the Hutt with knives for arms. Then there is an arbitrary goat person who appears in the Persians’ camp haphazardly. These awkward characters are more hilarious than menacing. They ruin the experience because they are something we cannot readily accept as real.

Nevertheless, the movie doesn’t leave any room for strong character development or a first-rate storyline. However, that isn’t what the audience wanted out of this movie. The film indulges in all the gore, blood and flesh that a person would expect out of a Miller comic. There are decapitations, nudity and bulging biceps that any fan of Miller’s work will appreciate.

The lack of dimension within the characters and the amazing visual style of the film creates a layer of distance between the film and the audience. It allows the filmmakers to remind us that what we are watching is a part of history and that we have no part in its shaping. The Spartans’ fate has already been written in stone and there is nothing we can do about it.

If you are looking for a movie with a lot of plot and detail, then this isn’t the movie for you. It is true that it may not offer masterful storytelling in a conventional sense, but it’s hard to beat as a spectacle. It is worthwhile viewing for all except for the most squeamish of audience members. Once the action gets started, there is barely time for viewers to catch their breath.

300 is superior and terribly harsher than recent war epics such as Alexander, Troy or Kingdom of Heaven. It may not be praised and awarded like Gladiator, but it’s a movie that will be lodged in the hearts, and possibly the stomachs, of fans for years to come.

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