300 - 300%
| It seems that Frank Miller canít write something that isnít hypomacho, misogynist, xenophobic and homophobic. With 300 heís at it again but unlike with Sin City, film maker Zach Snyder seems to have been able to, if not overcome the source materialís limitations, at least transform it into something much more worth while.
In Millerís work, being ďdeformedĒ is a sign of being evil (much like in medieval literature), being a woman means you are sexual property, being a man means you are violent, being gay means you are weak and being a different colour or culture means you are infidel. His range really is that narrow.
300 doesnít stray from this pattern but Snyder does tend to tone those themes down and focus on the story he wants to tell, the allegory of the Spartan stand against Xerxes as freedom and reason standing against empire.
To do that he has created visual poetry, designed to inspire and move. 300 is gorgeous. Itís the kind of film that the audience revels in. You want to experience it in full, larger than life cinemascope. This is the kind of film to see on the biggest screen you can find. He has crafted a beautiful piece of work and it should be appreciated.
He has also managed to make his argument for freedom quite moving. He does this overcoming a script full of dialogue that is truly weak. This is not Henry V or even Return of the King, the dialogue is almost giggle worthy and most of the cast isnít up to rising above it. But Snyder saves it with his style. His visual poetry makes up for the lack of spoken poetry. He draws you in and makes you feel each blow, each death, each loss.
Fortunately, Gerard Butler is up to the task before him even if the rest of the cast is not. He imbues Leonidas with the larger than life persona he needs to pull off something like this. Narrator David Wehham sounds corny throughout but you believe it when Butler screams. You feel it.
One of the fun ironies of the film is that for a film that ends up being so hypermacho, it is also one of the most homoerotic films I have seen in a long time. The cast look more like gay porn stars than soldiers and each is covered in make up to make each muscle, each nipple stand out and be seen. The heroes prance around in g-strings and capes. The film is filled with images of contact between men and two of the younger, prettier of Leonidasí group spend the whole film flirting. I wonder how Miller feels about his work being turned into such a sexually charged gay film.
The other interesting element to 300 is how it speaks to our issues of today. Is this a warmongering film that justifies violence as a means to a noble end? Is this a film that purports western values need to be exalted over eastern? Does 300 make a plea for freedom for the occupied peoples of the world? Does it criticise religion interfering with the state? A big part of Snyderís success here is that these questions do not have easy answers. 300 asks these questions and itís our role to decipher the possible answers. In that it is far more a victory that Sin City ever was.
Overall, 300 is a success. It overcomes the weakness of its source and comes out with something better in the end. It has its flaws. It may be valid to say that Snyderís stylization goes too far on a plot that just doesnít support it enough. It is certain to say that the script is fairly trite. But itís also fair to say that 300 offers a great deal to audiences; a feast for the eyes and some food for thought.
I wanted to give this film 3 and a half reels but since that isnít possible I will give it the benefit of the doubt and bump it up to four. It is definitely worth seeing on the big screen. In fact, there may not be any reason to see it any other way.
The good news is that Snyder's next project is an adaptation of another graphic novel, Watchmen by Alan Moore (V For Vendetta). Moore's work is far superior to Millers so if 300 is any indication we should be in for an amazing film.