R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Zack Snyder
scr Zack Snyder, Kurt Johnstad, Michael B Gordon
with Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, David Wenham, Dominic West, Rodrigo Santoro, Vincent Regan, Tom Wisdom, Michael Fassbender, Andrew Tiernan, Andrew Pleavin, Robert Maillet, Greg Kramer
release US 9.Mar.07, UK 23.Mar.07
07/US Warner 1h57
Go tell them: Butler and the Spartan army

headey wenham west
See also:
300: Rise of an Empire (2014)

300 Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead) invests loads of visual style into this adaptation of Frank Miller's now-classic graphic novel about one of the most astonishing battles in human history. But there's not much going on underneath the gorgeous surface.

Sparta's King Leonidas (Butler) rejects a treaty with the Persian King Xerxes (Santoro), which would essentially make the Spartans slaves. But his political opponent Theron (West) undermines his efforts to take on the million-man Persian army, so Leonidas must face them at the cliffs of Thermopylae with only 300 of his fiercest warriors. Meanwhile, his wife Gorgo (Headey) tries to take on Theron back home. And Leonidas' loyal soldier Dilios (Wenham) returns with news from the front.

The full-bodied story is powerful, with an epic scope and strongly relevant subtext. Each character is a bundle of complexity and contradictions; the heroes are just as vicious as the villains when it comes to violent carnage. And the political plotting and counterplotting is fascinating. Alas, all of this is completely overwhelmed by the high-octane filmmaking style, jingoistic dialog and over-the-top characterisations.

While very good, Butler plays every scene full-power, bellowing his dialog and flexing his oiled muscles manfully while brandishing an enormous sword (the men wear capes and briefs, and not much else). With a slight whiff of irony or wit, the film would have rather delicious camp value. But it's so deeply serious that we're worn out within the first 15 minutes. Other characters fare better, most notably Wenham's ardent warrior and the fearless young men played by Wisdom and Fassbender. On the other hand, Headey's role seems like a feeble attempt to wedge in a female angle.

Fans of videogame sensibilities will love this movie, which progresses through a series of increasingly hellish challenges with some of the most eye-popping imagery ever put on screen. Like Kerry Conran's underrated Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Snyder filmed completely in front of green screens. The result is visually amazing, packed with outrageous battles and whizzy camera effects (lots of speeding up, slowing down and freezing frames). But while the script attempts to be deep and meaningful, it's actually thoroughly superficial.

cert 15 themes, strong violence, sexuality 15.Feb.07

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... 300 Erka, Ilinois: 3.5/5 "I've been trying to articulate my hot and cold feelings towards 300 with not much luck. Rich Cline's review summarizes my feelings exactly. Thank you! I loved the visuals and fight scenes, but beyond much of the surface, substance doesn't seem to exist." (13.Mar.07)

cj, canada: 5/5 "an awsome movie that is really really good" (13.Mar.07)

© 2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall