3.14.2007

Movie Of The Month

300 (Based On The Dark Horse Comics Graphic Novel by Frank Miller): In short, this movie kicks much ass. From start to finish, it had my attention as my wide-eyes absorbed all that was happening. It is one of the best comic adaptations, ever. It is extremely faithful to the original book, while not sacrificing flow or sheer entertainment for the sake of mirroring the source material. It captures perfectly the intended energy of the book and is a joy to take in. David Wenham's (Faramir from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy) regretful, yet hopeful narration is spot on and the depiction of Xerxes is perfect. He is portrayed as a creepy, but intriguing ruler. Both Xerxes and The Oracle are imbued with a perfect balance of otherworldly energy; enough to capture the imagination, but not so over the top that we dismiss it as outlandish caricature. 300 has some downright breathtaking "cinematography," a term which may seem out of place since the majority of this film was shot against blue screen for ultimate CG rendering. But visually it's beautiful and depicts a believable world, with realistic characters and landscapes, a true testament to the fact that the power of CG is in making us believe in a long-lost time and place, not in depicting as many battle droids and divergent planetary sets (sorry, George...) as possible. Overall response to the film has been extremely positive, with box office records (both IMAX and traditional) being shattered in the wake as both comic book fans and "civilians" flock to the multiplexes in their pre-summer quest for a decent movie. Some critics have attempted to deride the entire project by claiming it's not historically accurate. Well, of course it isn't. It never purported to be. Yes, there was a battle at Thermopylae. Yes, Spartans and Persians clashed. Yes, about 300 of them (aided by a couple hundred fellow Greek Arcadians) thwarted the attack of (best estimates indicate) 80,000 Persians by using their knowledge of the local landscape (proof that home field advantage can be a huge asset!). Yes, the Persians were led by Xerxes. Yes, Xerxes fashioned himself a God-King. And that's about the end of the direct match up between historical fact and what's depicted on screen. No, we don't know exactly what they said. No, we don't know to what extent the individual players affected the outcome. No, that's not *really* what the Spartans wore (even Frank Miller admits to this). And no, after much discussion of the Greek Phalanx battle tactic, it's seldom shown (assumably to showcase some spectacularly choreographed fight sequences instead). But, none of that is the point. Neither is the standard critical assault that this is an exercise in "style over substance." The best summation is that this is historically inspired, not historically accurate. And that's just fine. The intent of the movie is to capture the spirit of a warrior culture and what it means to live, fight, and die with honor and national pride. It's about your life and your actions transcending to something immeasurably meaningful for the sake of your fellow citizens, your children, and the ideals upon which civilization is structured. Those beats, the tone and meaning come across visually and through actions, not through the dialogue per se. This movie truly succeeds in capturing the spirit of a warrior culture defending a loose affiliation of city-states and delivers on its intent. Oh, and by the way. I am a Spartan. That's right. Alumnus of San Jose State University. School Mascot: Spartan. What's up, now? Grade A.

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