Sunday, March 11, 2007

Movie Review: 300

Based on a popular graphic novel written by Frank Miller, the numerically titled “300” was the other movie that opened this past week in KL which had audiences talking about it. As I stood in line to collect my reserved tickets for the show at Sunway Pyramid TGV today, the two most often overheard conversations was that they were in line to watch either “300” or “Mukhsin” which made me wonder if any of the other films playing this weekend got any audiences. Since I’ve already watch “Mukhsin” yesterday, “300” was the next choice for me to spend my afternoon.

“300” recounts the story of King Leonidas who lead 300 of his Spartan warriors to the battle of Thermopylae against the hordes of invaders from Asia under the command of the Persian god-king Xerxes. Cut off from his supply lines and reinforcement by internal squabbles back home, King Leonidas had only himself and his band of warriors to delay the invader’s advance into his homeland of Sparta. After decimating wave after wave of the Persian army, the brave band of 300 Spartan warriors were summarily dispatched when a Spartan traitor revealed a weakness in the Spartan group’s position to Xerxes. With no reinforcement forthcoming, King Leonidas and his men faced their final hour with great honor and valor. His story and sacrifice would later mobilize the Greek nations to assemble an army that would eventually break Xerxes horde and push them back to Asia.

I have not read the original graphic novel that this film is based on but it does bear the mark of Frank Miller’s style of writing. Much like the approach of fully duplicating the comic panels into film frame of “Sin City”, “300” took the route of filming live actors on digitally created backgrounds. Unlike the earlier released “Sin City”, the color palate of “300” was vividly on display here for all to be amazed. From the first frames of the film, audiences are captivated by the visual feast of CGI magickry and innovation. There were several scenes that looked a little flat but overall the blend of live action with the digital environment was seamless.

While there is a story to follow in “300”, the bulk of the movie centered around the hyper-violent battlefield of Thermopylae where the Spartan army literally hacked the invaders to pieces. The onscreen battle most often were shown in slow motion which gave it a look that was nothing short of a ballet of flying appendages and splashes of blood choreographed to the strangely modern sounding soundtrack. After seeing the first few dismembered limbs fly off on screen, I found myself strangely numb to the battle scenes that followed. It was strange to note that the local censor still snipped out scenes that involved female implied nudity but yet left out at least 2 decapitations on screen. I guess if they had to cut all the scenes that they would usually cut in previous films, “300” would not really make much sense.

Overwhelmed by the visual spectacle, I didn’t really noticed the performance quality of the main actors. I did remember that Gerard Butler as Leonidas gave a sufficiently fair gravitas to the character as did Lena Headey who played his wife Queen Gorgo. Rodrigo Santoro who played Xerxes was made to look like a 8 foot tall version of a drag queen with more jewelry that she knows what to do with. While King Leonidas does state his disdain to Athenian “philosopher and boy-lovers”, it was hard not to read the homoerotic subtext inherent in the dialogue between the Spartan warriors regardless. It did not help the cause as well since the Spartan army was fully buffed up and dressed in as little as the rating would allow it.

While there can be something to be said about the relevancy of this movie to the current political and economical atmosphere between the West and Asia, this movie does not demand to be scrutinized as such. In fact the less that audiences try to fit how the Spartan’s represented the West i.e. America and the invaders represented the mess out there in the Middle East, the more sense the film will be. This is not a film to be used to draw parallels of what is happening now. Audience only need to appreciate the numerous decapitations and ignore any form of social comment that others try to put on it.

In the end, “300” was a eye popping visual feast that made the afternoon go faster. It didn’t really break new ground in terms of technology but it does show off the potential of what the technology can do. The hyper-violent scenes did came across as a little excessive but it should go well with the crowd that could use this as an outlet of channeling their own inner violent urges. With enough testosterone oozing on screen to make a bald woman grow hair, “300” should go well with the audience demographics that it was intended for. For the rest of us, it could be a novel way of spending an afternoon counting the number of times a body part flies off a character on screen.

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