It's not every week a jaw-dropping action movie hits theaters. Let's face it — action movies of late have been drowning in monotony and rarely do we see any originality on the big screen. Frank Miller's graphic novel, "300," recently went to film, and, while it's not entirely original, it's the closest moviegoers can get today.
"300" is the tale about the Battle of Thermopylae, where 300 Spartans fended off thousands of Persian warriors during the Greco-Persian War. King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) leads his best troops into battle, going against the wishes of Sparta's councilmen and oracle. While Leonidas is away, his wife, Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey), does her best to persuade the council into sending the rest of Sparta’s army to aid in the fight.
And, without spoiling the goods, just know everything in between and thereafter is non-stop action. Not meaningless action, but head-rolling, gut-checking and comic book-approved action, as waves of Xerxes I the Great’s (Rodrigo Santoro) troops get cut down (or thrown off cliffs) as they attempt to make their way into Sparta. The only problem is, the only road large enough for the Persian army is being conveniently blocked by Leonidas' men.
What has worked for large-scale war movies in the past works for "300" — computer graphics, slow-mo action shots, in-your-face intensity, and strong music and sound effects. The scenery and hordes of soldiers look great, even if it is all computer-generated. The movie looks astounding and has its own unique atmosphere, much like Miller’s comics do (just like "Sin City"). The film's score is appealing, and the clanging of swords and shields sounds like it's happening around you.
Another great aspect of the film is the fact it was adapted from a graphic novel, so the subtle differences and additions only add to the story's already-established flair. Introduced are intimidating and frightening villains like an executioner with blades for arms and a Frankenstein-like monster who has to be brought chained into battle, for his captors' safety. Throw-ins like that make the movie more enjoyable because it makes it different.
The film's historical accuracy is pretty good. Of course, Miller took liberties with the story to make it graphic novel-appropriate, but the core of the story is there. It's kind of difficult, though, to be inaccurate when 90 minutes of the film is non-stop battle. There are some slight differences to the story — they left out the fact nearly 700 Thespian and 6,000 other Greek-allied troops helped the Spartans, though those numbers sank to 1,000 after the third day of battle.
A neat aspect of the film is the historical quotes used throughout. When Queen Gorgo is watching Leonidas march off to battle, she tells him "On it or with it," referring to his shield, which is something Spartan mothers would tell their sons when they went off to become warriors at the age of seven. Another memorable quote is when, in the film, the Spartan Stelios says "Then we will fight in the shade," in response to a Persian telling him Persian arrows will block out the sun. Although the line was really spoken by Dienekes, the impact it has had in history, and the fact that is paid regards to in the film, is estimable.
Overall, Miller's on-screen version of the Battle of Thermopylae is an exciting one, despite one drawback — Director Zack Snyder's overuse of slowed down action shots, the kind "The Matrix" made famous. While good in moderation, the nausea-inducing art direction became boring after the first 30 minutes of battle, but, thankfully, didn't completely distract from the action itself.
What might seem trite and boring to some will be fresh and exciting to others. "300" is worth checking out, even if you think the whole large-scale war idea is played out.Rating: