300 Review: Epic, Powerful, and Incredible!
by Alex Billington
March 7, 2007
Disclaimer: If you haven't seen 300 yet, then don't read this! See it first! By the time this was written, I had seen the film three times in total.
This needs no real introduction, as by now everyone is familiar with Frank Miller's 300, the graphic novel adaptation that glorifies the Spartan warriors at Thermopylae. The biggest question on everyone's mind is if it lives up to all the expectations and if it still delivers the excitement, the entertainment, and the intense action that's been promised. The answer in one word: yes!
This beautifully adapted and visually stunning film glorifies the story of King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and the Hot Gates at Thermopylae. In 480 BC, the Spartans are threatened by an invasion of a Persian army, led by a man who believes himself to be a god, Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro). Although denied by the corrupt Ephors the ability to take all of Sparta to war, Leonidas has set off with three hundred of his strongest and bravest men to confront the millions-strong Persian army in order to protect his land and his people. It is with these soldiers that King Leonidas battles off endless waves of Persian troops and mythical creatures from the dark. His soldiers have been trained from birth to be warriors and to fight for glory to the death on the battlefield, and they will stop at nothing to achieve victory.
To put it simply, to watch 300 is like watching three hundred clones of Maximus from Gladiator fight in perfect unison. Director Zack Snyder has created the most visually beautiful film I have ever seen, especially in converting the imagery from the graphic novel, and has pulled breathtaking battle scenes and a convincing story into one masterpiece of a comic book adaptation. Were Snyder granted the budget to show just a little more fighting, this film would have received a perfect score. Nevertheless, the battle scenes in 300 are as extraordinary as watching superheroes fight, a critical reason why 300 fits in perfectly with the world of comic book adaptations, turning the Spartans into superheroes themselves.
Just a few months ago we all reveled in the amazing cinematography of Children of Men that captured epic battle sequences without a single cut. In similar fashion, 300's cinematographer Larry Fong working closely with Zack Snyder also does an excellent job portraying half-naked Spartan soldiers killing hundreds of Persians with only a spear and sword. Although not as groundbreaking as Children of Men, these fight scenes will get your adrenaline going and leave you cheering for more - and you'll get nearly a full helping of fight scenes, with stronger enemies every time. The only trouble is that you'll never want it to end, and you want every fight scene and new enemy to be drawn out in the fullest extent. This is the only area where 300 falls ever so slightly short. When you've got a budget in the middle ground between mainstream and epic, you can only do so much.
If there is at all a point to complain about 300, it's that the ratio of story to battle sequences. My own expectations were incredibly high for 300, ever since I saw the first riveting trailer at Comic-Con in July of 2006, and have been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to watch the fights uncut. Now don't misunderstand, 300 still has some of the greatest fight scenes ever in film history, I just wanted more of them. I wanted them to keep going. There could have been a much more vastly epic set of battles, including more with the Rhino and fantasy monsters, but in the end Snyder had to stay within budget. And what was there was amazing, and that's enough to enjoy without complaints.
300 is a full two hours yet moves so swiftly through each of its great scenes that you'll hardly notice the time pass. I really love a film that's able to keep you interested, captivated, and excited for a length of time beyond today's typical movie. Gerard Butler's portrayal of Leonidas, Lena Headey's of Queen Gorgo, and especially Vincent Regan's of Captain are the most exemplary performances that help achieve this smooth progression through the two hours. There is never a moment of bad acting or boring scenes at all for any of the actors when it comes to the performances; the acting is as fantastic as the visuals, which is always a delight.
From the mind-warping visuals to the invigorating battle sequences, 300 almost delivers as highly as it was expected to. It's a fascinating and exciting experience itself, and will leave you fueled for even more by the end. The only reason it hasn't earned a perfect rating is that I was hoping for just a bit more fighting instead of story, but that doesn't mean what we were shown wasn't incredible. 300 is a film that will earn a definitive place in comic book adaptation rankings and still be remembered by many. As Leonidas would say - to victory!