I’ve been feeling a little guilty lately. While completely reflective of my opinions, I realize that my review of Watchmen kind of bashed Zack Snyder… a lot. While I’m not a fan of what he made watchmen into, he is actually one of my favorite directors. I really enjoyed Man of Steel, and I also believe that he did some good work on Batman Vs.Superman as well. I have a deep respect for a director that is able to convey a distinct vision on to the screen, even if that vision doesn’t always work out (or if the studio financing your movie decides to cut an entire 30 minutes of critical footage out of a film). Snyder’s visionary status has never been clearer than in 300.
300 is based on a graphic novel by Frank Miller, which in itself is inspired by the 1962 movie 300 Spartans, which drew its material from an account of the battle of Thermopylae. This is material that has been passed down for quite a while, but this is definitely its best iteration.
Leonidas and his motley band of 300 Spartans each with their own hard to pronounce — much less to remember — Greek names have recently denied the great Xerxes request to annex Sparta; specifically by kicking an ambassador down a well. Overkill? Not in this Greek province. Now they must face retaliation; the entire army of the Persian world coming down upon them, with the freedom of their dominion at stake.
This movie is a visual masterpiece, we see the movie from a very selective lens. Most everything, is sort of grayed out, and the important things, like the frequent splashes of blood stand out in saturated brightness. Snyder also warps time to highlight the movie’s epic action sequences. Speed followed by fluid slowness works exceptionally well in this case. It would be wrong to call 300’s combat influential, as nothing is really anything like it, but it is definitely unique. The clip below is a perfect example of this. The free-flowing death dealing that begins around the three minute mark is perfectly prepossessing.
300 also happens to one of the most quotable movies ever made. “This is Sparta” may be one of the most popular things to shout prior to doing something epic. I know I’ve bellowed it my share of times prior to entering a nerf battle. When told that the arrow’s of the persians will “blot out the sun”, Leonidas simply responds that the Spartans will “fight in the shade”. When the archers’ barrage eventually comes, the Spartans easily block them with their shields, laughing all the while. This isn’t a trying task for them, not even a struggle, not at the beginning. Its simply their way of life.
The plot of 300 is fairly simple; It is contained, following almost exclusively the 300 men repelling the persian assault, with some minor subplot’s involving Spartan politics mixed in. Its simplicity, while a fetter for any other movie, is one of this one’s greatest strengths. It doesn’t have much character development — the Spartans are more elemental than most movie characters — but, because of the film’s scaled down nature, it doesn’t suffer for the lack of it. Its straightforwardness allows it to succeed on uber inspirational dialogue, and grandly shot action sequences.
Frank Miller’s 1998 graphic novel, is certainly a wonderful read, but in this case, I must say that the movie is better. The comic is written to evoke motion and fluidity, which Snyder deftly adapts into a distinct visual style. The writing that narrates the book, is infused through voiceovers throughout. 300 is an extremely entertaining movie, that oozes masculinity. The only other place you can find this much testosterone at once, is one of those sketchy mail-order supplements from the infomercials. There isn’t much to be found here in the way of anything other than combat, and preparing for combat; but if that’s what you’re looking for, 300 is exactly what you need.