The first true blockbuster of 2007 could end up being one of the year's best. 300, a graphically intense epic that works as a combination of Sin City and Braveheart, is exciting, spellbinding, moving and simply amazing.
The movie, based on Frank Miller's graphic novel, was, like Sin City, a hit-or-miss concept. The previews were excellent and offered a glimpse of the incredible, surreal special effects 300 had to offer. The movie looked action-packed and bloody, full of strange creations of the mind and plenty of warfare. It could be one of the coolest movies to ever grace the silver screen, or one of the dumbest. After all, there have been so many movies where the focus is on the visuals to the point where everything else is hardly given a second thought, where the result is a beautiful-looking disaster. And writer/director Zack Snyder had promise after delivering 2004's Dawn of the Dead, but there were no guarantees that he wouldn't be a one-hit wonder.
Thankfully, all my doubts were cast away within the first minute of the movie. I predicted that my roommate would love the movie and I wouldn't, and thankfully, I was wrong (well, not wrong, because I'm never wrong, but simply in disagreement with my earlier statements).
300 kicks some major ass, to say it plainly. Visually, the movie is absolutely stunning, and I will be shocked if there is any other movie this year that can compete with the special effects come Oscar time. The movie is all special effects, as almost everything is green screen. With exception of a rhinoceros, the graphics are seamless, breathtaking, surreal and realistic all at the same time. Computerized blood and guts fly everywhere, and Snyder gives all of us gore-loving guys plenty to chomp on without going overboard. Every set and scene is wonderfully established, and at times it's hard to imagine that all of it wasn't there when the actors were.
From an action standpoint, 300 has plenty of it. There are several great battle scenes, and once again Snyder perfectly walks the fine line between snazzy battle sequences and camera overkill. At times Snyder turns things into a slow-motion free-for-all, where you get to see every split-second of choreography and every ounce of bloodshed. At other times, he just lets the battle run loose. A bad director could easily make this movie look like a video game or TV commercial or music video (McG comes to mind), but Snyder does not fall into that trap. The slow motion effects enhance the movie, and not for a second did I feel he was going overboard in any way or form.
Surprisingly, the movie isn't all action though. Those looking for mindless bloodshed might be disappointed to find that there are some "long" sequences where there is no battle (I use "long" delicately as this movie still offers up more action than most other movies combined), but even from a dramatic viewpoint 300 is impressive. While it won't win any awards, the movie is seamless as it switches between action and political drama, and Snyder manages to pull the audience into the tension and emotion of the non-action sequences extremely well. While there are a couple parts where things drag for a second here or there, 300 offers an impressively deep screenplay, at least considering the subject matter. Political rivalries, sensual prophets, a powerful wife, sleazy senators, traitorous Spartans and more all play a part in the story.
If I were to say there was a fault in the movie, I would have to say it lies in the last fifteen minutes of the movie. The ending comes rather suddenly, which is probably more a result of the audience being so engaged in the story than anything else, but after all the battle and setup, the Spartan soldiers get picked off incredibly quickly at the end. While I assume this sticks to the graphic novel, I would have liked to have seen a few more minutes of action at the end. Nevertheless, the fault is small and the payoff of the climax is still quite good.
300 will undoubtedly be one of the most entertaining movies of 2007. Visually it is amazing, and the action and drama aren't far behind. Highly recommended for any action fan.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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