Friday, May 29, 2009

300 (2007)

Starring Gerard Butler, Lena Hedley, et al
Rated R, 117 minutes

King Leonidas of Sparta was brought up in the Spartan tradition. Young men were made warriors from birth. When King Xerxes of the Persians demands surrender from Sparta, Leonidas decides the best course of action is killing their messenger and going to war. The elders deny him permission, but he soldiers on anyway with only 300 men.

I’ll start off by saying I don’t have a hard-on for history. You can’t just throw me into a situation from the past and have me intrigued. “300” sort of started that way. I’ve taken two courses worth of world history. I’m not totally in the dark – I knew this was the Battle of Thermopylae. But as a movie, as a story, I need a reason to take sides. We start with one king being threatened by another king and not standing for it. He steps around the rules and takes a small force out to battle. Even with the narrative about his upbringing, until Sparta had some shred of victory, I felt no active reason to root for them. They were just men from the past with militaristic bluster, and that was it.

This movie’s based on a graphic novel, and it shows beautifully. The visuals are bold. The shots on screen wonderfully recreate the frames on paper. The action starts off very gritty, very real, and very intriguing. As they battle on, the Spartans become more superhuman. Gone are brutal spear jobs from up close, replaced by the choreographed block-and-kill we’re used to from other action movies. Overall, “300” felt more like a showcase for the visuals mixed in with some historic chronicle, rather than a fluid piece of storytelling.

This is evident in the scenes off the battlefield with the queen and the council. They appear with no real rhythm, feeling like interruptions. It may be a tired device to ramp up the tension both on and off the war path and cut between the two. But doing that would’ve made the political scenes more interesting.

***½

Battle is not my thing. I’ll admit that. But I feel like more could have been done for me to love this movie, rather than just like it.

1 comment:

NoneUponThars said...

Dear Jason,

Since when do Americans need a good reason to fight?

See: Wolverines vs. Spartans

Love,
Katie