Saturday, March 10, 2007

Movie Review: 300

 300 Movie Poster
Movie Title: 300
Starring: Gerald Butler, Lena Headley, Dominic West, David Wenham, Vincent Regan, Michael Fassbender and Rodrigo Santoro
Directed by: Zack Synder
Genre: Action/War/Drama/History
My rating: 7.5/10

I've been somewhat looking forward to this movie merely because of the novelty illustrated in the previews. I loved Frank Miller's Sin City and enjoy historical epics. But again, 300 is based on Miller's graphic novels, a different depiction of the actual (or believed actual) story of 300 Spartans who alone took up the cause to battle the Persians and save their land, thus inspiring the rest of Sparta and Greece to fight as well.

Gerald Butler (Phantom of the Opera, Dracula 2000) stars as Spartan king Leonidas, an overly brave and good king who does not enslave his subjects. He also happens to be a good family man, who listens to his wife and takes her advice while making important decisions. Lena Headley, a good British actress usually ignored by Hollywood, excels as Queen Gorgo. She's a woman with balls, an equalist and a role model in many ways.

Greek kingdoms around 600 BC were not just ruled by kings, but politicians as well. Leonidas just happened to not be a tyrant, but the politicians had to be what they are best: corrupt, selfish, power-hungry and manipulative. Refusing to submit to the Persian king Xerxes' annexation and being let down by the politicians for military man-power, Leonidas takes his own 300 best soldiers, or bodyguards as he called them, to fight Xerxes' soldiers from crossing into Sparta.

And yes, Leonidas and his men fight, bravely and confidently. Some of the fight sequences are done in slow motion, with great expertise and appropriation. A Spartan will bulldoze towards a bunch of Persians, the screen will pause for a split second, Spartan will make his move - kill one or two, another split second pause, and another kill or few. If Matrix invented the bullet-time, 300 introduced pause-play fights. The first fight was great, second was woohoo! But the third and so on... man, it sort of killed the novelty there. In the Matrix, bullet-time was only deployed twice; but here the pause-play scenes were a bit overused. But that's just my opinion. A good and significant majority of the crowd will continue to be amazed by the fights, and rightfully so.

Gerald Butler lives up to the expectations of his casting as the protagonist king, in acting and fighting. It's probably his best role in Hollywood yet. Lena Headley, however, elegantly makes her mark (and a big one) as an actress - displayed amazing grace and exceptional artistry in her performance as the ballsy queen. Her standing posture (straight back) took me away! But that's just me.

In the supporting cast, Dominic West (Chicago, TV's The Wire) plays a wicked and corrupt senator - something I figured as soon as he was introduced on screen. No offense to the actor as a person, but he manages to fit into wickedy-whackedy shady roles. And that doesn't always have to be a bad thing. I can't see a Jack Nicholson playing a Pope the same way.

David Wenham (Lord of the Rings' Faramir) does a decent job as one of the main Spartan soldiers, so does Vincent Regan. German born Michael Fassbender did a great job as Stelios - one of the bravest and valorous of the 300. The worst actor award for this film would go to Brazilian actor Rodrigo Santoro, for portraying the Persian king Xerxes. Firstly, they make him a giant, about 8 to 9 feet tall. Secondly, super-feminine with piercings all over the face, including the cheeks. Persian kings were not like that, as far as any historical archive can prove. Besides the appearance, the acting was horrible as well. Plus, he was too feminine to have a deep voice.

Overall, this film would make for an entertaining evening. For those who know their basics of history will already anticipate how this movie ends. They do change some subplots during the movie, with comical causes for exaggerations. It is not directly based on the historical archives but on Frank Miller's graphic comic derived from those, so expect historical and cultural inaccuracies. If you don't give a damn about those, you may just love the movie.

Also, don't get a large drink if you bladder can't hold it throughout the movie. It's at least worth sitting through. My friend saw it in IMAX and enjoyed it thoroughly. I can only imagine the visual enhancements one would get there.

7.5/10 from me, but it could be 9 from you!

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