- Audio Commentary
- Additional Scenes
- Frank Miller’s Vision
- 300 Spartans: Fact or Fiction?
- Who Where The Spartans?
Frank Miller’s 300 was a sensational comic book. Zach Snyder is a sensational filmmaker. What happens when you blend the two?
Gerard Butler. Dominic West. Lena Headey. David Wenham. Vincent Regan. Michael Fassbender.
"Eve, do you think our story should be taught in schools?"
"Shut up and go interact with that Stegosaurus."
The legendary battle at the Hot Gates stands as one of the more unique and seemingly fantastical stories in history, a tale of few against many and a moral king against a seriously amoral one. Was it real or imagined? Is it a tale akin to today’s political climate? Modern allegory has been read into this film just as the semi-classic The 300 Spartans was analogous to The Cold War. Screw all that. This is war as filtered through the heightened and acute lens of Zach Snyder. A comic book movie turned experimental art film. Shut up and enjoy!
Devin reviewed this film quite wonderfully here and because he’s a real critic and I’m a guy who likes to crack Reb Brown jokes I’m going to call it as I see it without as much subtext. Seriously, read his review. It’s excellent. I’ve got a less intellectual take for this DVD so bear with me…
It’s very hard not to enter 300 with a skewed opinion before the first frame rolls by. Frank Miller is a cornerstone in comic book history, as much as nearly anyone before him. Though creators named Lee and Eisner and Kirby and Kane are pioneers, their impact faced serious threats as the world changed in the 1980’s. Comic books had endured swells when the medium became more marketable in the wake of the 70’s, but it never got the adult market like it deserved to [Eisner’s ‘Dropsie Ave.’ trilogy notwithstanding. If you have not read it, just buy it. Trust me]. Miller’s seminal work in the 80’s and early 90’s did a massive job towards adding credibility and maturity to the medium, most of his contributions true to the hype. That said, the man does polarize people, especially in how he’s approached the latter phase of his career whether in beating a dead horse [The Dark Knight Strikes Back, a couple too many Sin City stories] or segueing into film [the Sin City film arguments here at CHUD.com have been… interesting]. There’s considerable baggage once he enters the equation. After Sin City (my theatrical review, Devin’s theatrical review, regular DVD review, uncut DVD review)proved that his creations not only work on film but can be lucrative, 300 takes the idea many drastic steps forward. In fact, after 300 I find it harder to not only watch Sin City but be interested in it.
But that’s leading you astray. First, the basics…
Now I know why Dana Carvey’s been out of the public eye.
Gerard Butler is Leonidas, a Spartan warrior king trained from childhood to conquer. We learn this as we see the man crush his enemies and defeat a rather large CGI wolf. We also learn he is a loving husband and father [and how could you not be were your wife the lovely Lena Headey?] as well as a man’s man and a leader with true grit. He is also a Spartan, something not to be taken lightly. In the film’s first confrontation, a centerpiece to the film’s marketing, Leonidas deals with a Persian messenger by kicking him into an abyss. This lead to the modern catchphrase "Don’t Kick the Messenger Into An Abyss".
Leonidas is an amazing central character for a film, a hero who rushes to face his enemies. One who craves a good death. It’s extremely rich cinema, especially in a time where heroic icons in films both modern day and in retro epics tend to feel the need to deliver a cool line or do their work in a way more cool than functional. The really great send-off in 300, the "we’ll fight in the shade" line, doesn’t even come from Leonidas but rather a soldier who looks a little like David Lee Roth circa Women and Children First. Leonadas is a man of action, vividly displayed here in Snyder’s sequences which merge several cameras, several speeds, and several perspectives in a manner that truly works as muscular and exciting filmmaking.
Make no mistake, this is a showy film. Miller’s graphic novel and the events they’re based on are very singular. This is not Spartacus or Gladiator, both of which are action films masked by meaty and complex stories. This is a lean and mean action film that just happens to take place in acnient times. It’s the saving grace of 300, its willingness to be a jack of one trade and to do it very, VERY well.
"But you’re too big to be Kuatooooooooooooommmmppppppppph!"
The battles are quite breathtaking and the decision to shoot the film almost entirely against a greenscreen could have been distracting if the style and palette wasn’t confidently rendered. The film is a beast, a nice mix of big moments and wonderfully brief ones. Seeing hordes of Persians defeated effortlessly by crashing waves and rocks is a nice counterweight to the quick dispatching of the first wave at the mouth of the Hot Gates (Thermopylae), which dovetails perfectly into the moment where the soldiers deal with a sky-blocking assaultof arrows. It’s not drawn out and when the air clears there are some excellent character moments for all of the principals.
Where the film falters is in the moments where it feels familiar, whether it be the somewhat silly [but pivotal] hunchback Ephialtes, the treachery of the politicians back home, or the moments with the Oracle which lean Leonidas to his fateful decision. Additionally, the villains, though they may be cool, scary, and larger-than-life, are very much scaled back in their conception. Xerxes is a giant and odd creation and the Persians are mostly just fodder for the blade. The film doesn’t need to create much personality for the adversaries but I can see how some viewers may be disappointed in their lack of development.
There’s a definite sense of "been there, done that" at times, but 300 always gets back on course whenever Butler and his men are front and center.
Looks just like the comic. Sadly, that comic is not Ambush Bug #3.
This is a career defining role for Butler, one which elevates him from a great supporting character to a charismatic leading actor. His work, though less complex than Russell Crowe’s similarly effective work as Maximus, is just as memorable. With his steely eyes and jutting beard Butler’s Leonidas is someone you could believe 300 men or 3,000 would gladly follow to Hell’s flames. That’s the simplicity of this story and this film which is so wonderful. Less concerned with a message than telling a great story without fear of being too extreme in the presentation [there’s even a little rock music layered in there], Zach Snyder’s 300 is a film that not only announces a truly interesting filmmaking talent but also reminds you that you don’t have to re-invent the wheel if you have some really bitchin’ spinners on it.
Thank Xerxes we don’t have to crave a double-dip any time soon. The DVD features a truly terrific and informative commentary track starring the film’s auteur. The amount of work in creation here is astounding and though in a way it’s not dissimilar to the way George Lucas shot the Star Wars prequels it feels a lot more genuine here. Snyder has seemingly limitless energy, something which bodes well for his Watchman adaptation, because the mixture of Dawn of the Dead, 300, and Alan Moore’s amazing prose suggests a wonderfull cocktail.
Additionally, there’s a treasure trove of supplements on the second disc, mostof which are not only worth seeing but ones which actually enhance the experience. Though I personally find the film to be extremely heightened, it’s nice to see that the crew involved historians and made the effort to have the DVD be as informative as possible without losing the electricity and skull-smashing fun of the film.
This is definitely one for the shelves, and the art, especially with the cardboard slipcase, is seriously badass.
9.0 out of 10
Hollywood Secret #498 – Gerard Butler has Mel Gibson’s ass and Charles Durning’s shadow.