Saturday, March 17, 2007

Low Expectations Fulfilled

How much did I hate this movie???


"300" is all pretty pictures (and I admit there are many of them) and no substance---much like most things tainted by Frank Miller). However,in this instance, Frank Miller can be held mostly blameless. Instead let's put the blame where it belongs: in the empty void of candy cotton nothing that is director Zack Snyder.

There is much here that toys with the audience, giving glimpses of what could have been reworked into a solid film. For instance, the character of Leonides' wife and her political moves to convince Sparta to send the army to back the 300 warriors in their battle against the Persians. Here, is the potential for something compelling. However, "one-note" Zack and his poor choice of Lena Heady as Queen Gorgo crush that flower before it can blossom.

Another element that could have given this film the depth it desires is Gerald Butler and his portrayal of Leonides. Now Butler, who continues to fall short of a strong film presence in his career, falls even shorter being hamstrung by Snyder. Instead of anything resembling nuance or subtlety, we are given horrible close-ups that last far too long as Snyder forces Butler to glare inward and brood. I can just hear Snyder calling out: "Now look left, now right. Camera One, zoom in..more..more...I wanna see that pupil glisten!!!"

The visuals, many of which are in your face homoerotic, are amazing. Lot's of pec, oiled down abs, and mansweat. Truman Capote would have cried at such a dose of testosterone. That, or exploded.

However, as should have learned from Lucas, a film needs to be more. I should not have been watching the rhino charge and laughing out loud. The Persian horde is an absurity in this film. One wave of bizarre warriors after another attack the 300. Here comes the ninja boys, then the bomb hurling whatever they are, and behind them the snarky looking thingums with the twisted faces. I kept expecting Michael Beck and the Warriors from the 1970's cult film to make an appearance.

Sadly, behind this display of oddities the real drama and the real humanity that made Leionides stand such great drama is lost.

But don't worry, many critics out there, doubtless numbed by the poor quality of last year's offerings, have heaped praise on this outing. Or maybe many contemporary critics have lost their way. Or maybe they're getting payola.

And the fanboys will be thrilled. They'll clap their greasy little hands and their utterances of "cool" and "kick-ass" will be heard in bursts throughout the theater. But fanboys are a pathetic lot overall, losing perspective or taste when it comes to trying to be critical about their genre or favorite author (I'm guilty of that as well).

I know many people reading this will try and defend this film. They'll scoff: "You didn't get it" or "You just don't like Frank Miller. You didn't like Sin City, either". They'll find ways to justify kitsch. They always do.


SQT said...

Actually, I haven't seen many positive reviews yet. Mostly I hear people saying that it's kind of cool looking but without substance. I didn't care for Sin City, so I don't plan on watching this one.

Alex said...

No matter how much I know I'll hate this film, I am compelled to see it. No classics nerd can let pass a movie about the greatest battle of the ancient world.

Even if we know - we absolutely know - that a sex and violence whore like Frank Miller will fuck it up.

"What's that? The audience wants more disturbing images of gore, some people getting mangled? I know! Let's do a picture show about Thermopylae - people must have gotten hurt real good there!"

Sin Ciy had no story either; plot was just an excuse for violence.

Peter P said...

My review for 300: one word, three letters, HUH?

SolShine7 said...

This is what I wrote on my flixster page about 300...

"It's like Kenneth Branagh's Henry V on steroids. It's visually stunning but be prepared to be bathed in blood and the seven deadly sins."

avery said...

I enjoyed it. I'm sure it's one that will never seem as good as it did the first time around on the big screen with the surround sound and everything, but that's precisely why I saw it there. The plot isn't rocket science or earth-shattering social commentary, but it was a nice couple of hours.

Peter P said...

I liked Braveheart better.

Crunchy Carpets said...

"But fanboys are a pathetic lot overall, losing perspective or taste when it comes to trying to be critical about their genre or favorite author (I'm guilty of that as well)."

Oh well, I can't say anything then....being a 'fangirl.'

I think what people forget..specially people who were looking for a telling of the original spartan tale...this is NOT is a movie version of the graphic novel '300.'

It did a GREAT job transforming THAT into a movie.

Nothing to do with liking or not liking Miller...I go hot and cold with him.

But for turning a comic into a movie...this did a great job.

Comics ARE visual.
Comics ARE filled with one liners and usually NOT a lot of character development.

I thought it was fun and pretty to look at and did it's job.

Again...this is based on a comic book.

People need to remember this.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Crunchy..a comic book is a comic book for a reason. It is a two dimensional art form. When we attempt to transfer that work to another venue, we must do something different. We must infuse it with more. We suddenly have two hours to fill, and without some substance the excess of the graphic novel merely becomes ridiculous.

If someone is happy to watch a bunch of images across a screen, with no character development, little theme development, and only a bit of plot, then that person, fanboy or otherwise, must have been batshit thrilled. Anyone with any expectations above that...suffered.

One last point. "Road To Perdition" "A History of Violence" "Beyond Hell"...all graphic novels. All films with substance and great or acceptible performances. Of course all three have something else in common---none of them have Frank Miller.

Crunchy Carpets said...

well I liked it..and being that I am usually slamming everyone else's taste in movies and books.....I don't know what you can say about my expectations.

Neila said...

Thank you for the review! I have a friend who has been trying to get me to see this, but I have been wavering. Now I have ammunition! :-)

Sarah said...

Must be a matter of taste. When my boyfriend was watching the trailer on TV last night (after having seen the movie on Thursday), he said that the movie was good for what it was-- very visual. "But seriously, isn't that the best trailer, though?" he asked.

I said, "Actually, I was just thinking that if there was ever a trailer that would make me run screaming away from a movie theater... that was it."

I did sort of like Sin City, however.

SQT said...

I think the trailer makes the movie look amazing, and it probably has incredible visuals; Stewart did mention that. But I have to admit, content wins out for me. Sin City had an interesting look, and that didn't put me off. I just didn't care for the story or the characters much. I need someone I can identify with before I can really be interested in a story.

ShadowFalcon said...

I know it will be awful but I still want to see it!

Stewart Sternberg said...

Four film moments from 300 that will make you want your money back:

1) The thundering rhinoceros charge. Beautifully visually, conceptually ridiculous. Ah, what one spear can do.

2) The homoerotic moment between the king of the Persians and Leonides. Where's that cigarette.

3) Leonides dispensing the emissary from Persia. Why is there an enormous pit to hell in the center of Sparta.

4)The entire three hundred being surprised by a single child and then turning as one to confront the kid (I actually laughed outloud at this moment)

and a bonus moment to make my point: The body tree. An entire village of dead people being somehow carved up and molded to a tree. Visually great...but don't you dare stop and consider the logic of it or its place in the film.

Archangeln said...

I guess I can be considered the fanboy here.

I liked it. I liked it though for what it was. I did not go into it expecting a movie on par with any film that has true character development.

I went in expecting a blood bath. And I got, although I did laugh at all the nudity, especially the scene between the king and wife...boy those Greeks invented some stuff...lmao

I did think they needed to go more into Leonides' character though, had good moments of where it could have been a character driven movie, only to get ripped away.

Same goes with the queen. However I will say I prefered the actress that played the queen over going with some young nubile fake actress. Her sense of age brought a small amount of belief to the character.

And for me it is entertainment. I did like the Persian army, except for the whole Dual Wielding Ninja come every army has some butt kicking martial artists before they really knew what martial arts were? Hollywood, it is a valid question.

And a single spear can bring down a Rhino, if you are extremely lucky, but no way he is gonna hit a Rhino running full speed, head going side to side, in the damn eyeball.....

I also laughed at them all reacting that way to the little boy. Best Military army in the world at that time? Jumping at a child.

The making Xeres 7 foot tall, the whole harem tent scene, all that was typical Miller. Meant to be a visual page turner.
Only they put it on a big screen.

In that aspect they succeeded.

Only reason I watched Sin City? Mickey Rourke.

Other than that I saw the movie and enjoyed it because I expected blood and gore, no substance, and a sound and light on screen comic book. I got it.

Old Knudsen said...

This film looks so ghey. I can't wait to see it. I love the battle of Thermopylae and think the 300 Scottish Spartans will be in a post soon.

avery said...

In the beginning I had some believability issues. But, after I found out who the narrator was, I took the unfolding of the movie as a subjective transformation of fact.

Were the elephants really that big? No. Did the rhino fall at one spear? Probably not. Was Xerxes really that depraved? Most likely not. Is there any public well on earth that deep? I'd like to see it. My point is, the narrator was a soldier relating the glorious death of his fellow soldiers to gain sympathy within the senate for an unpopular war. If that alone wasn't enough cause for elaboration of details, he was the sole eulogist of his friends -- the only one left to make sure they were well remembered. Anything he saw would be magnified by the trauma he endured, and any re-telling of his comrades heroic deeds and his foe's vileness would be compounded by his desire to fulfill his obligations.

Yes, things were grandiose and over-the-top, but I like to look at it as I spent two hours watching the transformation of narrative into myth.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Avery, I still hate the movie, but reading your last comment, let me just say this: You are a damned fine writer.

avery said...

Thank you, Stewart.

SQT said...

You know Avery, after reading your post yesterday, I actually thought there might be a reason to go see this movie. That's how good you are.

Crunchy Carpets said...

Who here liked Troy?
Who here liked Alexander? ....

ok snort, the last one wasn't serious...I mean really...did ANYONE like Alexander???

Carl V. said...

LOL, did you read my review? I LOVED this movie...loved Sin City as well.

In case you're interested (just so you can shake your head and wonder why I'm so deluded), here are the links:


and Sin City:

I think both shows are some of the most faithful graphic novel adaptations ever made. I also think both have their own unique depth. They are both beautiful movies in their own right and ones I can watch over and over again.

I can respect the opposite reaction of others, but I also don't feel I'm one of those people who cannot be objective about the genre I love. I have a pretty wide range of tastes. Some things work, some don't, but I really felt like these two films worked very well.

Anyway, just thought I'd throw my two cents in!

Bryan said...

I can't say I would ever like to meet you people in real life, because if I did, I would probably strangle you. 300 was not only visually stunning which at least one of you said, but it was also very artistically directed and produced. The story, however historically inaccurate, was still a refreshing change to the big-screen world of cheap hollywood blockbusters. I'm not sure if anyone on this blog has actually even seen this movie, but if you have, and you weren't blown away....then perhaps you should see a shrink. This movie is absolutely....OUTSTANDING.