Directed By: Frank Miller
Distributed By: Warner Bros. Pictures
Reviewed by Ismael Manzano
It’s probably no big secret to anyone who read my Sin City review, but I’m a big fan of Frank Miller. So it should come as no surprise to anyone that when I heard about his latest movie, an adaptation of his graphic novel 300, I was eager to see it. Only this movie was special and I wanted to wait until I could get into an IMAX theater so that I could truly enjoy the experience. For those of you who’ve never been to an IMAX theater, let me just say, it’s not the kind of place you’d waste on a crappy movie, so if you’re going to go, make sure it’s worth the extra money.
300, is a loosely historical account/remake/graphic novel adaptation, centering around the famous Battle of Thermopylae. Having never read the graphic novel, seen The 300 Spartans—the movie which presumably inspired the graphic novel—or lived 2500 hundred years ago, I can not comment on how accurate or true to the original the movie is, but only recount my experience with this incarnation of the story.
300 follows—from birth—the life of Leonidas (Gerald Butler - Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life, The Phantom of the Opera), King of Sparta. Through chillingly directed scenes and eerie narration, we learn the trials every Warrior of Sparta must endure in order to be deemed worthy. Leonidas was no exception. He survived the trials and emerged a fearless, imposing leader willing to die for his people and his honor. When Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro - Lost), leader of the Persian army, sets his sights on trampling over Greece with his massive forces, King Leonidas must decide whether to allow the Persians access to his land and his people or to stand and fight for the freedom his people.
After conferring with the oracles, who tell the King not to declare war, Leonidas takes a band of loyal soldiers—300, duh—along with the Arcadian army and goes to fend off the entire Persian army. Though the Spartans were well trained, fierce, battle-crazed warriors with aspirations of dying a good death, neither they nor Leonidas were insane. They choose to stand their ground at a pass between two mountains, where the path is so thin that the Persian’s numbers will mean little to true warriors.
Back in Sparta, Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey - The Brothers Grimm), faces her own war of sorts. Frightened for her husband’s life, she lobbies vehemently with the Senate and politicians to drum up support for the King. But without the backing of the oracles, the Senate feels that Leonidas has begun an illegal war and debates arresting him should he return rather than supplementing his 300 with the entire Spartan army.
The rest of the movie is pretty much a series of battles, pitting the Spartans—who are eventually abandoned by the Arcadians—and the Persians—who through the help of a traitor, have discovered a back route that will allow them to flank the Spartan army from both sides, thus eliminating their strategical advantage. Faced with the prospect of Xerxes’ wrath, will Leonidas bow down to the purported god-king or will he fight to the death, knowing that in doing so, Xerxes will demolish all of Sparta.
That’s the movie in a nutshell. So what did I think about the movie, one might ask? Of course, I absolutely loved it and not simply because of the phenomenal fighting scenes or tons of blood and gore—which was actually quite tame compared to what my imagination had anticipated. There was a real story to this movie. The story of a king, fighting for the rights of free men; the story of a queen fighting for love; the story of 300 men, fighting to stop tyranny; the story of brotherhood and unity; the story of standing firm in the face of overwhelming odds. The acting was great, especially from Butler, who managed to play Leonidas as the multidimensional character he deserved to be, shifting from intelligent, pensive leader to comically impudent rebel with ease. Headey played the role of the strong, but suffering Queen perfectly. And of course, the direction of the movie was just mind-blowing, utilizing film-speed techniques and coloring to really bring a living flow to the battle scenes.
Those of you who are looking for a nonstop bloodbath, will be slightly disappointed in this movie. There is a story here and you will have to put up with it before you get to the bloody parts. The point of the movie is not the blood, but it does make the movie visually fun. In short, it has something for everyone, and everyone should go out and watch it today. Preferably in an IMAX theater. You won’t be disappointed.