An adrenaline-charged rush of fantastically stylish visuals, colossal battles, and gratuitously fulfilling bloodshed, 300 manages to ground itself with enough genuine heart and solemn sincerity to propel itself into epic entertainment not confined only to audiences of masculine design. 300 is the first must-see film of 2007, a mature, visually arresting cinematic fantasy thrill-ride.
Based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel, 300 closely follows the writer’s often historically inaccurate, though unquestionably imaginative, retelling of the extraordinary Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. When messengers arrive in Sparta announcing the advance of the tyrannical Persian ruler Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) must choose whether to surrender or fight for the freedoms of Sparta. Determined to defy the deranged warlord and protect his homeland, but restricted by the inane traditions and corrupt politics halting supported action, Leonidas leads 300 of his finest Spartan soldiers into battle against the massive Persian army. Using cunning strategy, superior combat techniques, and the advantageous terrain of Greece herself, the dauntless Spartans fend off wave after wave of increasingly deadly Persian warriors. Meanwhile, Spartan Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) wages her own battle against traitorous politicians in an effort to send reinforcements to her valiant King and his vastly outnumbered soldiers.
While special effects are sometimes forced to drive a film short on story, such is not the case with 300. Miller’s story is as compelling as it is entertaining and the effects used to translate his artwork to the screen only enhance his tale of honor and bravery. Superbly adapted from Miller’s drawings and Lynn Varley’s coloring, the stunning imagery created perfectly captures each panel of art and realizes the unseen action in between. Little is left to the imagination, but few could dream up a more fantastical world. The hyper-stylistic melding of digital creatures, backgrounds, and effects with Miller’s characters and Snyder’s flair for storytelling create an experience unlike any else. Imagine the slick, kinetic visuals of Sin City combined with the exciting, epic battles in Lord of the Rings, then throw Gladiator-esque soldiers into the mix and you only begin to describe the sensory feast that comprises 300.
Masterfully drawing upon the artistic influences of Miller’s original graphic novel, the movie also creatively expands upon its premises by adding several characters and events. The subplot of Queen Gorgo’s plight against the senate, as well as her defiantly pronounced character to begin with, supplement the bloody bouts of warfare and boast the very reasons the 300 men risk their lives. Extra insanely crafted villains like the Uber-Immortal and Rhinoceros heighten the already incredible adversaries the Spartans faced, and the intensely vibrant visual style Snyder has created often outshines its source material.
With so much imagery filling every frame, one might assume character development would lose out to action, but the talented cast utilizes every scene to reveal their characters’ intentions and unspoken emotions with fervent vitality. Gerard Butler confidently portrays the noble Spartan King with measured reserve and a powerful, commanding presence; and with both brains and brawn on the battlefield a truly heroic figure is born. Lena Headey exudes an assured sexiness and an authoritative demeanor as the dignified Queen, and even the villainous Xerxes matches his exotically terrifying appearance with deceptively calm delivery and menacing poise.
As Frank Miller himself proclaimed, “There is no way to tell the story of 300 without being amazingly brutal.” And brutal it is. But with vicious crimsons spraying the battlefields while bronze clouds clutch the skies, the spectacular action scenes resemble art more than carnage – and well it should, for this is stylized violence at its finest, a necessity in conjuring the apprehension and admiration required to effectively recount this remarkable tale of bravery and survival in the face of insurmountable odds.
I give 300 a “10” not just because it so flawlessly realizes Miller’s vision and expands upon it, or that it so effortlessly entertains with wave after wave of ever intensifying visceral imagery, but because it so adequately lived up to my expectations of displaying in unrestrained glory, abundant slow-motion, and free flowing, gorgeously bloody art exactly what I wanted to see in an epic story recounting the valorous last stand of the world’s finest warriors — a feat few other films could hope to accomplish.
– Joel Massie, MoviePulse