Today I'll be dissecting the 2007 battle epic 300, directed by Zack Snyder and based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller. 300 recounts The Battle of Thermopylae, where the Spartan King Leonidas, along with 299 of his ruthlessly tough soldiers, stood against a massive Persian army led by King Xerxes. And, well, that's it. That's the entire plot of the film really. In flashback we learn that, like all male Spartan children, Leonidas experienced a childhood of intentionally-inflicted cruelty designed to harden him, that he might one day be a great king and soldier. There are also subplots involving a corrupt religious cult called the Ephors, who order Leonidas not to move against the Persians, plus one of the Spartan Council is revealed to be in Xerxes' back pocket. Other than that though it's basically an extended two-hour battle sequence.
So what are the pros and cons of this Frank Miller-inspired film? Let's take a look, because.....THIS! IS! ENUFFA!!! See what I did there?
Like Robert Rodriguez did with Sin City, Zack Snyder took Frank Miller's stunning comic book panels and recreated them for the screen, assembling an almost shot-for-shot adaptation that looks absolutely gorgeous. The colors are almost exactly like the graphic novel, the characters have been brought to life in painstaking detail, and the action is stylized to reflect the over-the-top movements depicted in the book. The film adaptations of both Sin City and 300 proved to be very influential in creating these impossible comic book worlds. If you're going to make a CG-heavy film, this is how you do it.
|Whatever the movie's flaws, this is a gorgeous shot.|
As I said above, the combat is heavily stylized to echo Miller's drawings and give the characters and events a sort of mythic quality. The blood and gore are turned way up as well, mimicking Miller's explicit visual approach. It's a good thing the battle sequences work so well, because this film has a lot of them. A LOT.
Snyder has literally translated Miller's artwork in the costume department as well. All the characters are dressed exactly like their two-dimensional counterparts, and they look great.
Effects & Makeup
There's a theme going on here - when it comes to the visual aspects of the film, everything is first-rate. The special effects and makeup are no different. Snyder uses CGI not as a substitute for reality, but as a way to heighten and distort reality. The backgrounds are murky and flat, bathed in yellows and browns, just as Miller drew them. The Spartans all have CG-enhanced six-pack builds and brandish perfect bronze shields. But when practical effects were called for, Snyder used traditional prosthetics as well. The Ephors are wart-covered and repulsive, the deformed Ephialtes is a grotesque hunchback, the Executioner is an enormous, clawed being resembling the Cenobites from Hellraiser. The makeup and effects perfectly capture Miller's bizarrely-rendered characters.
|Give that man a Baby Ruth!|