March 26, 2007

Film Review: 300

Movie image
2 out of 5 stars

Another Sunday evening, another trip to the Skydome for the Third Floor Film Circle. This is the second recent adaptation of a Frank Miller graphic novel, following 2005’s Sin City. It already resides in the imdb top 250 films. It relates the story of the battle of Thermoplyae in 480BC, in which Spartan king Leonidas (Gerard Butler, Phantom of the Opera), and 300 of his men fight to the last man against the million-strong Persian army of Xerxes.

It’s beautifully shot, and very stylised. The slow motion battle cinematography is excellent and captures painfully gory battle-related moments very well. It can’t however mask the fact that this film is essentially one set-piece battle that would last 30 minutes in any other film, stretched to breaking point. The film is less than 2 hours long yet seemed far far longer than that. People were audibly bored in the audience.

It also falls between three stools; it can’t decide whether it wants to be Gladiator, Troy, or Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers. It echoes all three, yet doesn’t come near any of them (and given how appalling Troy was, that’s saying something). The central plot device of men backed into narrow chasm while hopelessly outnumbered is much better done as the battle of Helm’s Deep in LOTR:TT, and Zulu for that matter. And the build up to the battle itself is very poorly done. The use of dream-like sequences in wheat fields and political corruption in the senate is lifted straight from Gladiator. The wizened, leprous old priests at the beginning bear more than a passing resemblance to Emperor Palpatine in Star Wars. And the deformed Spartan ‘traitor’....Gollum anyone? And the giant “no-we-didn’t-steal-them-from-Mordor-honest-guv” elephants…

And then there’s the dialogue. Portentous, ominous, grandiose. David ‘Faramir’ Wenham, as the narrator is the principal culprit. However Leonidas is not innocent either. Either being verbose, or shouting lots. There’s a touch of the Flash Gordon in there somewhere, from the very camp Xerxes, to the Persian Immortal warriors; separated at birth from Flash Gordon’s Klytus. Xerxes might be very tall and have more bling than gangsta rapper. But scary? No.

One of our number says I’m being unduly harsh, that it’s not worth trying to over analyse and think about movies like this. But this is a film stretched far beyond the material available. It might be pretty to look at, but there’s not much there otherwise. Lots of the iconography of the film has been shamelessly stolen from done better elsewhere in better films. This was a bit of a let down. Top 250 films of all time? Pffft!

Verdict: big miss.

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