“Come and take them!”
March 10, 2007
On Saturday, PotatoStew and I went to see 300, a movie based on the graphic novel from comic artist Frank Miller and directed by Zack Snyder. The film stylistically depicts the legendary Battle of Thermopylae that took place in 480 BC on the Greek Peloponnesus between a small army led by King Leonidas of Sparta and the massive forces of the Persian Empire commanded by Xerxes I. If you’re not up on Greek history or want to know more about the film’s plot, there are several summaries available.
I went into the film with next to no knowledge of the story, its background or history. All I knew was that it was supposed to be violent and based on a comic book by Frank Miller. Miller is perhaps best known for his work on graphic novels such as Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Sin City.
The film is visually stunning for its illustrative treatment of the characters, settings and costumes, but also for its graphical depiction of violence and blood lust. This is indeed a violent movie, but its treatment on the screen gives it a surreal quality that somehow makes it more palatable. Blood splatters, limbs are chopped and quite a few heads go flying, but it all seems somehow frozen in the panels of a comic book. Besides, cinematic violence can be beautiful when done purposefully and artfully (think Helms’ Deep on steroids) as it is in 300. There is a scene after the Persian’s initial failed attacks when Xerxes tries to bribe Leoniadas (played admirably by Gerard Butler) with Greece itself. All this and more can be his, if he’ll simply kneel before the god-king. We know Leonidas’ reply even before it comes. The audience seems to stand with the Spartans as he tells Xerxes that he will not kneel and that Xerxes’ blood will be spilled for even daring to set foot on Greek soil.
This being said, 300 isn’t for everyone. Some may think the character work is flat and that the 100% blue-screen generated environments diminish the ability of the actors to interact with each other in a meaningful way. To some extent this may be true, but 300 isn’t trying to something it’s not. Its trying to be a movie based on an incredibly visual and violent graphic novel. A popcorn movie of the highest order, and in that way, and many others, it succeeds brilliantly. Go see it.