Now that I’ve had some time to decompress and process what was witnessed (and in some cases smelled, unfortunately) at this year’s San Diego Comic Con, it’s time to share.
I’d been moderately curious about 300, the adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel by Dawn of the Dead redirector Zack Snyder. The story is a vividly brutal dramatization of the legendary Battle of Thermopylae, where 300 Greek soldiers fought the entire Persian army to a near-standstill at a mountain pass. Snyder shot the actors in front of bluescreen on
Snyder, Miller and stars Gerard Butler and David Wenham (who later fielded audience questions with plenty of humor, discussing the difficulties of working with heavy capes and the disadvantages of loincloths) were in attendance to present a near-finished clip from the film, which they showed to the crowd… three times, each to raucous applause. My own interest in the film has now increased a hundredfold. For each viewing. Just to make an even 300.
“Tonight we dine in hell!”
The clip begins with voiceover from Wenham’s storyteller, discussing how the ancient Spartans would dispose of babies who were born sickly or deformed. Leonidas however would grow strong through harsh training until ultimately becoming king and rejecting the demands of Xerxes and his army (by diplomatically booting the Persian messenger into a bottomless pit).
A flurry of dark, gorgeous and visceral images set to a Nine Inch Nails track both orchestral and blistering: Persian ships dashed against rocks by raging waves, phalanx shield formations and thrusting weaponry, countless spear impalements, astonishingly ferocious violence, a slo-mo beheading and a thousand arrows sailing through the sky — when one Spartan warrior is warned by a fallen Persian “Our arrows will blot out the sun!”, he smirks and evenly replies “Then we’ll fight in the shade.”
Much like Miller’s graphic novel, the film appears to an extrapolation of actual events that dispenses with historical accuracy (and physics) for the sake of pure visual satisfaction – a wolf with glowing red eyes, a distended guy with knives for arms, the wispy oracle, the monstrous hunchback wannabe-warrior Ephialtes, charging armored beasts, a literal wall of corpses. Several characters even have some kind of post-production vocal distortion to give the film additional superreality, and the footage also contained a gratuitous amount of mid-scene speed changes.
I can’t say if it’s a slavish cinematic duplication of Miller’s source material as was Sin City (I haven’t looked at the book in years), but after the jaw-dropping clip, Snyder’s vision and technical capabilities are certainly not in question. Like Snyder’s version of Dawn of the Dead, 300 almost appears to be an extremely adult-oriented action-horror movie – I honestly have no idea what kind of commercial appeal the finished product will hold, but I’ll be there opening weekend.