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‘300’ Film Review: Prepare for Glory!

“300” rips your heart with death, then redeems it after with glory.

This warrior’s film breathtakingly fires the soul with valor. Every warrior ready to die for glory would have some wild night. Every citizen advocating freedom would be engaged. For everyone else, it would be an uncompromising experience in the battlefield.

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Based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller, “300” is a fierce and ferocious screen adaptation. Director Zack Snyder recreates it with passion and creativity for the clear purpose of blockbuster entertainment. Every single shot driven so faithfully from its source material turns out jaw-droppingly splendid with accompanying speaking lines complementing it. Characterizations blend with the vividly stylized treatment. Like the “300 Spartans” in history, this movie spectacle turns out as a tour de force. It uplifts the spirit with engaging battle scenes where the audience shares a part of the fight and bloodshed — as if every eye witnessing the battle is actually part of it, as if the viewer is one of those brave warriors in the middle of the battlefield. It becomes a visually arresting retelling of the ancient Battle of Thermopylae where King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and his 300 Spartan warriors fought to the death against King Xerxes and his massive Persian army. The story aptly captures the needed emotions to draw the kind of inspiration these bravest of men brought to all of Greece to unite them against the Persian enemy and live up to their freedom and democracy. It effectuates the desperate nature of heroism and self-sacrifice in one of history’s most inspiring accounts of fighting for freedom amidst the insurmountable odds of being vastly outnumbered. It justifies the story being one of the most famous last stands in human history.

“300” takes a dash of the comic book style of Frank Miller’s other graphic novel turned into memorable cinematic pieces including “Sin City,” while adding its own distinct cinematic color so the viewer experiences the motion picture with the presence of the comic book and still feeling its unique filmic charm without pretention and puffery. From the stark and contrasting colors to the antique grains of the visuals, the film carefully uses slow motion, CGI, chroma, production design, lighting, and acting prowess to impose an unyielding visionary style without overdoing its stylistic treatment. Its cinematic magic is heart-pounding that it’s quite easy to surrender to its charm and embrace what is seen on screen.

The graphic battle sequences, the in-your-face bloody moments, the sexuality, and the nudity — they all work without trying hard and turning out as exploitative. From the sight of dead bodies nailed into the tree’s form, to the wall built with the pile of dead bodies used as a trap, to the scene of the oracle dancing, to the stylistic but completely impassioned love-making scenes of the king and the queen, every scene turns out well thought of and undoubtedly well made. The battle scenes are very impressive. They never drag. They never look fake. They are stylistically action-filled with the right doses of drama and comedy in between. Among the severed heads and limbs, the bare-chested, extremely muscular Spartan soldiers dressed in their bright red cloaks, warrior helmets, Greek shields, spears, and swords move with extreme grace, speed, agility, and uniformity. Battle after battle, they give grand-scale performances. Each of them renders so fairly on screen, while keeping up with their righteous king in their ultimate life and death battle for freedom.

Gerard Butler’s performance as King Leonidas catapults him as one of film history’s iconic characters. King Leonidas is the best of the soldiers in Sparta. He was trained to become the nearly perfect warrior in an army of nearly perfect warriors. He renders a multi-dimensional king figure whose love for his country, his soldiers, his son, and his Queen, is his best weapon to gloriously live and die in the battlefield. Butler is a force to reckon with on screen, giving an impressively commanding and emotionally compelling performance that becomes even more commendable with the thought of more than half of the movie being shot inside a studio surrounded by chroma screen. His beloved Queen Gorgo portrayed by the equally delivering Lena Heady complements him as a completely equal partner. She renders a heartfelt performance with an uncompromising female warrior heart. The elite Spartan fighting force from David Wenham’s storyteller Dilios, to Vincent Regan’s Captain, to Michael Fassbender’s Stelios, to the rest of the other characters of the film, all render valuable accounts and dimensions to bring the graphic novel into cinematic life. On the Persian side, Rodrigo Santoro’s Xerxes and his diverse army of antagonistic divergents complete the ensemble.

At some point, some elements of this movie turn out quite reminiscent to other classics as ‘Lord of the Rings’ including the traitor Ephialtes, the Judas of Thermopylae, who looks like Gollum, the Persian guards looking similar to the orcs, King Leonidas and his captain talking like Legolas and Gimli while in the battlefield; but still, amidst such possible minor accusations, the distinct treatment for this film really marks its own glory.

The music and sound design effectively create a classic meets modern push with the conventional orchestral score combined with the electric energy of rock music. The sceneries, the ancient buildings, the costumes, the props, they all work together and they all come into terms with the special effects rendered on them – completing a magnum opus now to become immortalized in film history.

The violence and death in this film is not the kind that can one sick at the sight of it. The moral stands of the narrative are touchingly commendable. Leonidas is just, honest, loving, and firm as any king should be. He values honor, respect, and fairness. He consults the equally wise Gorgo as a wife and a queen. It is worth mentioning how she replies to an insulting remark of a Persian that women can speak like men and in front of men for only women can give birth to real Spartan men. She makes all the sacrifices on the home front, facing the biting realities of life just to fulfill her duty to serve her country. Amidst the waves of battles, back home she wholeheartedly persuades a council of men to send the full army to support the King and save Sparta from tyranny. Indeed, the film presents how even women can be equally strong and as struggling as the men in battle.

Sparta is a home of soldiers. And the film effectively depicts their warrior hearts within their culture. And the lessons they mark in history brings great honor. And hopefully, after witnessing a completely enjoyable audio-visual journey, the film can be viewed in a perspective that will open the minds of the audience to the issues it presents, which particularly include how a wise king should live by his principles for the betterment of his people amidst the internal struggle of defying the law he has been born to defend. And the film tries to convey how the deeper thoughts of believing in yourself and going beyond the deceiving external forces should work well in the mind, heart, and soul of every person, and in this case, of a born leader and warrior.

“300” is clearly a work of fiction inspired by history. It is not a historical lecture but a splendid cinematic masterpiece that has utilized its creative license towards a spectacle that leaves the audience with an aura of just coming out of the battlefield — feeling the power from having witnessed something grand. With how it showcases this much splendor of its kind, it leaves its target audience with a true glory in commercial filmmaking history.

‘300′ is a compelling warrior’s film I personally can see over and over again. 300′ is a true glory in filmmaking history.

Rianne Hill Soriano
Rianne is a director, writer, educator, and consultant in film and commercial productions. From mainstream essentials to independent flair, she knows the drill in making entertaining and well-meaning productions. She can lead a pack passionate about extreme action and technological edge; she can breathe an endearing and sentimental style for a team with a sweet disposition.

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