Starring: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Dominic West, David Wenham, Vincent Regan, Michael Fassbender, Tom Wisdom, Andrew Pleavin, Andrew Tiernan, Rodrigo Santoro
Directed by: Zack Snyder
How do you review a movie that does one thing exceptionally well, the thing it was designed to do, but doesn’t do anything else well at all? It’s tough, because you want to praise the exceptional, but can’t overlook the inferior.
I guess it all depends on how effective or impressive the one exceptional element is. In the case of Zack Snyder‘s 300, based on the Frank Miller graphic novel of the same name, the exceptional is the visuals. Snyder employs the same greenscreen CGI techniques as Miller’s last onscreen adaptation, Robert Rodriguez‘s Sin City, to fill the screen with eye-popping scenery that brings the art of Miller and colours of Lynn Varley to life. Which is cool, because the art is the best part of the original graphic novel.
Actually, the movie’s success at visuals over everything else makes it a pretty faithful representation of the original book. Miller’s book didn’t really do anything for me. The art was pretty good, the widescreen presentation was pretty cool, but the story was as thin as the paper it was printed on, and everything about it was more of the same ultra-macho, nihilistic, hyper-violent stuff that Miller has been doing since the first Sin City graphic novel in 1991.
True to the book, Snyder’s 300 looks great, with some truly unique visuals that might be worth the price of admission alone, especially when seen on an IMAX screen (which is how I caught it). But, other than the work of some talented computer graphics artists and the rabid workout routines of the actors, there really wasn’t anything else about this movie that impressed me. The dialogue was awful, the plotting mediocre, the performances perfunctory. The movie throws bloody battle scene after bloody battle scene at us for two hours, but never succeeds in making me give a damn about the proceedings. Part of it is due to the reality of the historical event, in that I know these are dead men walking, so it’s hard to get worked up over their survival. But better movies than this have made me care about the doomed, so the fault lies more with this movie. None of the characters mattered. None of their actions mattered. They were, by design, drones battling in an artificial setting against an exaggerated opponent, while the movie pounded us with militaristic overtones that are more than a little unsettling given the world we currently live in (i.e., it’s hard to get behind the idea of a movie that celebrates a militaristic culture over all else in the year 2007, positing the importance of sacrificing our personal freedoms for tighter security and faith in our leaders).
So despite all the flashy visuals, I was mostly indifferent through the whole thing. It certainly was a different movie experience, but in the end, it’s hard to get over the idea that Snyder simply used new technology to deliver the same old crap, albeit in a more polished form.