Saturday, August 20, 2011

Spartans Almost Perfect!

History comes alive in this vibrant, true life-inspired Hollywood re-telling of the amazing battle of Thermopylae.

ARTH VADER (AV): 300 is far more than a story. It’s a legend, a timeless tale of a few standing against many. A handful of brave Greek souls defies slavery, tyranny and oppression in the face of overwhelming odds. The time of the great Greek city-states was brutal both in war and politics, a time when opponents met eye-to-eye on the battlefield. This is the setting for Frank Miller's epic Graphic Novel masterpiece, 300 and the movie does jaw-dropping justice to Miller's award-winning storytelling with an eerie re-interpretation of this infamous tale. Pontificator, I know you have some thoughts on this one.
THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): I do indeed Vader...if there’s one movie that’s been made as if it came straight out of the comic book and onto the silver screen...this one is it. Panel for panel and with all the dialogue, “300” stayed so true to the book that the only distinguishable difference between the movie and book were the seat I was sitting in when I viewed them.
Casting, Directing and Acting:
AV: While admittedly, some of the acting is a bit overdone (alright, more than a bit), I have to remind myself that 300 is an adaptation of an over-ambitious comic book. The movie is no different. I contest that the acting matches the epic storytelling. Director Zack Snyder’s vision engulfs the viewer in his over-the-top style and larger-than-life personalities. We connect immediately with the Gerard Butler’s cunning, bold and outspoken Warrior-King, Leonidas, along with his beautiful queen Grogo (Lena Heady) and the oddly enthralling narrative by Dilios (David "Faramir" Wenham) gives what would be an otherwise grim tale, life and substance. Somehow, the hammy, over-dramatic narration fits right in with the story’s pacing and personality. Really, Ponty, I found the casting to be first rate.
TP: Indeed Vaderman, the casting was superb. Gerard Butler was the perfect choice for King Leonidas and all the supporting characters fit comfortably around him as his performance carried this movie. The real story of excellence was in the directing. The unique style of directing is what brought the comic pages to life onscreen. From the purposeful use of shadow, to the slow motion... even in the constant narration, the direction of this film kept me engaged and on the edge.
Special Effects:
AV: Schwing! Anyone even vaguely familiar with Frank Miller's gothic, contrast-rich style of art and storytelling knows whose movie this is. There are extensive accounts (see 300 director's cut) of the comic frames acting as the movie's cinematic storyboards. Literally, panoramic and action shots were crafted to emulate Frank's storytelling. Folks, no movie has done this – ever. This is what makes 300 so spellbinding. The visual content is both overwhelming and spectacular, it masks any other potential flaws. The graphic depictions of violence make this movie all but downright wrong for anyone under 13. Heck, I wonder if anyone under 17 could even fully appreciate this movie. How say you, Pontificator?
TP: I say that we agree. The beauty of this film is that the special effects rested in the unique way it was filmed, directed and edited. The story itself didn’t call for huge explosions, dramatic crashes or over-the-top CGI. It was simple and very much to the...”point”...and all the special effects that were used enhanced what was already enthralling. Blood, decapitations and amputations reached a whole new level of shock with the clarity and attention to detail those scenes were given. Being a character driven movie, the effect that was most special was the performance.
Taking A Deeper Look
TP: I was an instant fan of the books when they hit the shelf some years ago and to see the books come to life in this movie was exhilarating for me. That said, I have to say that 300 carried a very dark tone to it that was barely scratched by the little bit of levity the movie had. It wasn’t a balanced movie by any means, but also couldn’t be if the goal was to bring the book to life.
AV: 300 is considered one of the best graphic novels of all time and rightly so. It rivals (if not eclipses) DC's The Dark Knight, another Miller masterpiece. The true brilliance of this movie lies in it's ability to completely transfix the viewer and believe things that, though based in historical fact, are wildly implausible. One particular scene shows a teenage Leonidas squaring off against an anatomically impossible black wolf-like abomination. It’s impossible size and glowing eyes are an on-screen travesty – and we don't care! It's Frank Miller's style and it's cool and that makes 300 transcend Hollywood convention. Why is there a giant hole in the ground (a well?) big enough to drive a truck into? Who cares! Small animals (like elephants!) falling to their death in bottomless pits are of no concern in the tragic world of Miller. It is detailed content like this that fuels the movie’s magic.
TP: This movie is what I call situational specific. That simply means the entirety of the film revolves around one particular kind of situation, even the scenes away from the battle are about the battle. Films like this are either going to be loved for what they are, or hated for what they're not. I happen to enjoy dark, gritty films laced with the gore of slow motion battle and superb fighting techniques. This film was very heavy in that department and delivered the intended effect.
Looking Ahead: Sequels
AV: The follow-up to 300 is the victory of the Greek City-States over the invading Persian Armies. 300 does NOT plug into the Hollywood sequel engine. It doesn't need to. Hey, if you really want to know what happened, Google "Battle of Thermopylae". I see Frank as a visionary entertainer/storyteller, on the order of Steven Speilberg. So while the story of 300 has been told, Miller has much more of his vision to share.
TP: Agreed Your Vaderness...there is no need to do a sequel. The story of “The 300” predates this movie and has been a self contained story of defiance in the name of freedom with the only sequel being the rest of history that follows. Is that history grounds for a continuation of “300”? I don’t think so. Some stories are best left to one movie...and this story certainly qualifies for that approach.

ARTH VADER rates 300:
Action, passionate love, standing for what’s right in the face of overwhelming odds, both at home and on the battlefield, this movie delivers in spades. 300 reminds us that the purpose of entertainment is to move us viscerally and emotionally. Whether you are Spartan, American or simply a fan of doing what’s right, you can find no better example than telling of the story of the 300. I give 300 a perfect 10 busted blocks – and in the immortal words of the great storyteller, Stan Lee, “Nuff’ said!”
THE PONTIFICATOR Rates 300: A perfect 10 Vader? Well, we agree that this movie was awesome. A great retelling of a very old story in a way that would make learning history much more exciting than it’s being taught now. Since giving it three hundred busted blocks would break the scale, I’ll have to settle for giving it eight blocks busted...out of ten.
300: 9/10 Busted Blocks

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