Prepare for glory!
By: Rianne Hill Soriano
Starring: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Dominic West, David Wenham, Vincent Regan
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Beyond words, this powerful film renders my supposed eloquence to pure silence…
‘300’ rips your heart with death but redeems it soon after with its glory. It is a must-see film.
With ‘300,’ every warrior who is ready to die for glory ‘would have some wild night.’ Every citizen who advocates freedom ‘would be engaged.’ For everyone else, ‘it would be a formative and uncompromising experience within the battlefield.’
Just like the 300 Spartans, the simple story of this film actually becomes a tour de force. It leaves the people with a feeling of power and valor. It uplifts the spirit in every aspect. Its engaging battle scenes make the audience share a part of the fight and bloodshed – as if every eye witnessing the battle is actually a part of it, as if the viewer is one of the bravest warriors in the middle of the battlefield. Indeed, it is a force to reckon with.
Based on the epic graphic novel by Frank Miller, ‘300’ is a fierce, ferocious, and formidable film adaptation. Director Zack Snyder recreates it with passion and creativity. A blink of an eye means a loss of a number of valuable frames. Even right before the start of the film, the first few seconds of the opening billboard will capture your soul with its audio-visual splendor. And every single shot that has been driven so faithfully from its source can make every viewer jaw-dropped. Its dialogues are as brilliant as its sound and visuals. Its characterization blends with the vividly stylized treatment. Indeed, ‘300’ becomes a visually arresting retelling of the ancient Battle of Thermopylae where King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and his 300 Spartan warriors fought to the death against King Xerxes and his massive Persian army. The story perfectly captures the type of emotions to draw the kind of inspiration these bravest men brought to all of Greece to unite against the Persian enemy and live up with freedom and democracy. It effectuates the desperate nature of heroism and self-sacrifice in one of history’s most inspiring accounts of fighting for freedom amidst the insurmountable odds of being vastly outnumbered. It justifies the story being one of the most famous last stands in history.
‘300’ takes a dash of the comic book style of Frank Miller’s other graphic novel turned into a cinematic opus ‘Sin City,’ and Snyder adds a new distinct cinematic color to this new offer. You can feel the presence of the comic book, while at the same time, you can feel its unique cinematic power without any pretention and without stooping down to either intentional or non-intentional puffery. The colors are stark and contrasting. The grains are antique and warriorly. The special effects are not trying hard. Its cinematic magic is heart-pounding and ultimately jaw-dropping that you will totally embrace every bit of what you see on screen. Other than a particular shot that I personally find the rock structure a little fake with King Leonidas climbing up to meet the priests and the oracle, everything else seems so real in cinematic terms. The film carefully uses slow motion, CGI, chroma, production design, cinematography, and acting prowess to impose its unyielding visionary style. It distinctly sets the mood it aims to share – all without overdoing its stylistic treatment.
The graphic battle sequences, the in-your-face bloody moments, the sexuality, and the nudity… all of them work without being trying hard and exploitative. From the sight of dead bodies nailed into the tree’s form, to the wall built with the pile of dead bodies used as a trap, to the splendid scene of the oracle dancing with ultimate grace, to the stylistic but completely impassioned love-making scenes of the king and the queen, every scene is well thought of and undoubtedly well made. The battle scenes are very impressive. They never drag. They never look fake. They are stylistically action-filled with the right doses of drama and comedy in between. Among the severed heads and limbs, the bare-chested, extremely muscular Spartan soldiers dressed in their bright red cloaks, warrior helmets, Greek shields, spears, and swords move with extreme grace, speed, agility, and uniformity. Battle after battle, they give grand-scale performances. Each of them renders so fairly on screen, while they keep up with their righteous king in their ultimate life and death battle for freedom.
Gerard Butler’s performance as King Leonidas catapults him as one of film history’s classic royalty in the making. King Leonidas is the best of the soldiers of Sparta. And he has been trained to become the nearly perfect warrior in an army of nearly perfect warriors. He renders a multi-dimensional king figure whose love for his country, his soldiers, his son, and his Queen, is his best weapon to live and die in the battlefield – with all the glory. Butler is the film’s ultimate driving force. He is able to give an impressively commanding and emotionally compelling performance that becomes even more and more commendable upon the thought that more than half of the film has been shot in chroma. His beloved Queen Gorgo portrayed by the equally delivering Lena Heady perfectly complements him as a completely equal partner. Personally, I can say that Heady’s character as Queen Gorgo is one of the best roles any actress can ever portray – to the point that a female viewer can actually see herself inspired by her struggle and her uncompromising female warrior heart.
The elite Spartan fighting force from David Wenham’s the storyteller Dilios, to Vincent Regan’s Captain, to Michael Fassbender’s Stelios, to the rest of the other characters of the film, all contribute to the success of this opus. They render valuable accounts and dimensions to bring the graphic novel into cinematic life. On the Persian side, just like most of his people and troops, Rodrigo Santoro’s Xerxes is heavily stylized. The characters are rendered to be completely exaggerated for creative licenses. And they work accordingly as an ensemble to live up with the director’s treatment.
The mainstream side of this film is brought up with such splendor as well that the uncompromising tastes of demanding viewers will still look up to its magnificence. Some of its aspects may be found quite reminiscent to other classics as ‘Lord of the Rings’ including the traitor Ephialtes, the Judas of Thermopylae, who looks like Gollum, the Persian guards looking similar to the orcs, King Leonidas and his captain talking like Legolas and Gimli while in the battlefield; but still, amidst such possible minor accusations, the distinct treatment for this film really marks its own glory.
The music and sound design effectively create a classic meets modern push with the conventional orchestral score combined with the electric energy of rock music. The sceneries, the ancient buildings, the costumes, the props, they all work together and they all come into terms with the special effects rendered on them – completing a magnum opus now to become immortalized in film history.
The violence and death in this film is not the kind that can make a person want to be sick at the sight of it. And the moral stands of the film are deeply and touchingly commendable. King Leonidas is just, honest, loving, and firm as any king should be. He values honor, respect, and fairness. He consults the equally wise Queen Gorgo as a wife and a queen. Personally, I can never be more struck by one of the lines of Queen Gorgo about her, just like any other women, having the right to say her convictions the way men can, wisely replying to an insulting remark of a Persian, with her justifying that women can speak like men and in front of men for only women can give birth to real Spartan men. Moreover, Queen Gorgo makes all the sacrifices on the home front, facing the biting realities of life just to fulfill her duty to serve her country. While all of the waves of battles are going on in the part of her husband, back home she wholeheartedly persuades a council of men to send the full army to support the King and save Sparta from tyranny. Indeed, the film presents how even the women can be equally strong and as struggling as the men in battle.
‘300’ is clearly a work of fiction inspired by history. It is not a historical lecture but a splendid cinematic masterpiece that has utilized its creative license to a near perfection.
Sparta is a home of soldiers. And the film effectively depicts their warrior hearts within their culture. And the lessons they mark in history brings great honor. And hopefully, after witnessing a completely enjoyable audio-visual journey, the film can be viewed in a perspective that will open the minds of the audience to the issues it presents, which particularly include how a wise king should live by his principles for the betterment of his people amidst the internal struggle of defying the law he has been born to defend. And the film tries to convey how the deeper thoughts of believing in yourself and going beyond the deceiving external forces should work well in the mind, heart, and soul of every person, and in this case, of a born leader and warrior.
‘300’ is a compelling film you can see over and over again. After watching the press screening, I am determined to watch it again come its regular release date.
‘300’ is the warriors’ film. It breathtakingly fires the soul with valor. After watching it, it leaves the audience with the aura of just coming out of the battlefield. It is the kind of film that a viewer shall leave his/her seat with a feeling of power – from having been a witness to something grand.
‘300’ is a true glory in filmmaking history.