3.15.2007

REVIEW: 300 (Zack Snyder, 2007)

First off, a warning to those with the free tickets that came with copies of the Alexander Revisited DVD (that you bought if you're cool like me): Some theaters will just flat out reject them for no reason at all! When this happened to me I had to stop and think for a moment, but I ultimately decided I wanted to see 300 more than I didn't want to see it and I dropped the eight bucks.

What, can you already sense my lack of enthusiasm? Honestly, it's tough to formulate my thoughts on this movie because I so thoroughly loathed it. I'm not sure where to start - The whole thing was forced. It was claustrophobic, poorly composed, numb-skulled, oversaturated and featured acting worse than that of Attack of the Clones from some otherwise reputable actors (David Wenham, Dominic West).

From beginning to end the audience is bombarded with a piss-poor screenplay, whether it be in the form of narration that destroys the film's scarce opportunities for subtlety or terrible dialogue that sounds like it was torn from t-shirts people might have worn in the early 90's. When a character isn't delivering a cute phrase that you might also find in a Bon Jovi song, they're going to tedious lengths to set themselves up for one. The worst example of this is the lead himself, King Leonidas (A pointy-bearded Gerard Butler). It baffles me as to how I, as a moviegoer, am supposed to get behind this bull-headed patriot who has no dream beyond dying for his country. He, in fact, is the only character that recieves decent development but even that ends up as a mess of horrible cliches.

Basically, our three-hundred heroes are a bunch of narrow-minded hunks of muscle who only know battle. Sorry, but I'm not about to root for a blood-thirsty football team just because they oil up and stab people. The enemies make little sense at all as they march endlessly on the immobile Spartans, presenting monster after monster, none of which seem to have any place in the events. Sure, I can understand an artistic style that places weird beasts in ancient combat but when you throw in a blubbery behemoth with axes for hands whose only purpose in life seems to be executing Persian delinquents and you only have him there for a few seconds... that's just unnecessary. As for the Iranian uproar about the bad rap their ancestors are getting because of this skimpy piece of computerized garbage, well it makes about as little sense as the people who got angry about Jack Nicholson's character in The Departed allegedly honoring a real Boston mafioso.

The story begins without finesse and immediately gets both my eyes rolling and my ears tired of hearing the word "Sparta". What little story we do get between the overload of repetetive, sepia tone carnage runs out of gas at about the halfway mark and dwindles into a mere montage of brief scenes that are little more than extensions of the money shots we've already seen in the trailers - the very money shots that the movie seems to be built around, as if the filmmakers came up with them and thought, "Okay, those are awesome - now let's connect the dots".

The action has its share of cool shots but they only work as individual pieces. When lumped together amidst overly close close-ups akin to those in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, they lose their effect. The major misstep is that there is no drama whatsoever. Oh, there are attempts - very weak attempts that I'd expect from a Sci-Fi channel original starring Ron Perlman and Lou Diamond Phillips, but nothing like what we see in say, Kill Bill, that gives the action sequences that extra something that you can cheer for.

This is usually just a funny phrase, but I actually feel dumber for having seen 300. I went in with my only expectation being that I'd at least like it better than Sin City (which surprised me when I left the theater thinking, "Uh...") but the last thing I expected was a beefy, unfocused theme song for mindless muscleheads that's about as graceful as my vomit after a quintuple-stacked fast food cheeseburger with whipped cream and nougat (how you'd get the nougat in there I don't know, but I so rarely get a chance to use the word and it's just so fun!). I almost feel like watching Doom to remind myself that sometimes bad monster movies with annoying electric guitar power chords can be mildly fun... or better yet, Lord of the Rings so I can remind myself why I usually like David Wenham. That people are eating this up yet still pissing on Alexander is beyond me. I think it's safe to say that you won't find me in the cinematic audience of any more Frank Miller-based films.

2 comments:

  1. Recovered comment posted by FCSuper on April 8th, 2007:

    Have you ever even thumbed through a graphic novel? Anyway, the old tired "Hollywood" style movie that has had a stranglehold on movies since the 50's is finally giving way to movies that tell stories in different ways, such as letting the format of the movie itself drive the story (in place of contrieved plot deveopment and over developed characters). I'm gratified to finally see stylist movies back at the forefront of movie making. I see that a lot of movie critics still don't understand this, and still try to judge movies by the same old cookie-cutter style of traditional Hollywood. Sky Captain, Sin City, 300 and many other films are ahead of their time. Just opinion, of course. :)

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  2. Recovered comments posted by Tom Stoup on April 9th, 2007:

    As a kid I was a big fan of the Spiderman books and in relatively recent years I've read the likes of Road to Perdition and the bulk of the Sin City series. I agree with what you're saying about movies since the 50's (and I'd even take it as far back as the 20's when you're talking about American filmmaking) but while putting style ahead of everything else is perfectly fine, I would prefer if it wasn't at the expense of most other qualities. For me, when the cool-looking effects were on screen I was the opposite of impressed because there was nothing else motivating it.

    Oh - I forgot to say thanks for reading! I do greatly appreciate it despite our conflicting views. Overall I just feel like 300 is just as stuck in the mud of Hollywood convention as anything else.

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