Sunday, March 25, 2007

Movie Review: 300

Finally got around to seeing 300 this weekend - my first time seeing a movie out since Smokin' Aces. I am expecting a few more trips to an actual theater, with Grindhouse and Hot Fuzz coming up in the next few weeks.

I was expecting something a little different visually from 300, based on how the similar Sin City was done. But with few exceptions, the movie didn't really seem like a set of comic book (sorry, graphic novel) frames in the same way Sin City did. One exception was the scene where the Persian messenger is pushed down the pit - we see the figures tumbling down in a totally black frame - that seems like a Frank Miller-type panel. But most of the other scenes visually just seemed like reasonable combat-style scenes; the main stylistic touches being the extra splashes of red and the speed-ups/slow-downs (which wouldn't be present in a comic book anyway). There was one odd thing, though; many of the scenes looked as though they had extra grain added - I don't know if that was intentional and done digitally, or unintentional because of a bad print. It was noticable and distracting.

One thing that did really make the graphic novel origin apparent was the narration - they were short iconic phrases that I could easily imagine sitting in yellow rectangles at the top-left corner of the screen. And speaking of the narration, I liked the framing mechanism they set up for the main story - that is, the tale of the battle is being told by a general to his troops to prepare them for battle. This allows the story to be even more fantastic than it would have been, since the storyteller is going to exaggerate to motivate his army.

As to the people trying on both sides of the aisle to find analogies to the current War on Terror, I say the same thing I said for The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Both Rings and 300 were written and produced independently of the current struggles, and so any mapping of current events onto those movies says more about the viewer than it does about the movie.

Performance-wise, nobody really stood out for me as a wrong note - Butler managed to be blustery when required (often) and wry and humorous when required (occassionally). In particular, Rodrigo Santoro was extra-creepy as the "god-king" Xerxes, and pretty unrecognizable from his occasional appearance on Lost (which are due to get fleshed out a bit in the next couple of weeks, I believe).

I was a little worried during the first combat scene. The director had it framed very close, so the action was confusing to follow. However, later scenes opened up a bit without losing the overall notion of the Spartan battle tactics and were much better in my opinion. And of course, the extra eye candy in the form of Lena Headey's outfits were not unwelcome.

On the whole, a very enjoyable film - about what I was expecting plot-wise and acting-wise, and a little less stylistic visually than I was expecting (but that isn't a bad thing). Four stars for this one.

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