I saw this film yesterday, but I decided to “step away” from it for a day just to allow everything to settle.
Why? Because 300 is one assault of a movie—and I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way. Not only do the images and bled-out colors attack you, but so does the GLADIATOR-esque/rocker soundtrack. So does the He-Man dialogue. And so does the unrelenting battle action. But this is a movie about the glory of war; it’s a rendering that Achilles himself would put on his keeper shelf. It’s an orgy of violence that’s so effective and amazing to behold that it actually made me dizzy at times.
Now, if you don’t enjoy watching war movies, you might want to skip this one, even though that would be a pity because 300 pushes the visual envelope in so many frenzied and breathtaking ways that it’s an experience, not just a movie. Within the first two minutes, when the first shower of blood arcs up to the camera and freefalls back to the dust, you’ll know what’s in store for you. This is one of those “Oooooo” movies. You know what I mean. When you’re rather surprised or impressed by a character’s response—say a punch to the face or a sword thrust to the throat—there’s an instinctive “ooooo” that issues from deep in your gut. You can’t help it. You can’t restrain it. And throughout 300, there were plenty of “oooooo”s in the audience, plenty of “clapping moments.” At one point, I even found that my face was frozen in an anticipatory “ooooo”—my eyebrows raised, my eyes squinted while I waited for the next slow-motion attack to find its mark.
Speaking of slow motion, I’ve heard some talk about there being too much of it in this film. And, indeed, the effect is used quite a lot, especially during battle sequences. But I liked it. Not only does it give 300 a sort of signature style, it personalizes the violence. What I mean is this: the battle scenes we’ve seen in a hundred other movies always seem to fly by in a mish-mash of blood, cries, and sword clanks. That’s realistic, but it can also be confusing. What the slow motion does for 300 is isolate a single one-on-one confrontation; it raises the stakes of these moments in which the Spartan warriors are engaging in furious hand-to-hand combat. We hold our breath as a blade makes its elegant, time-warped way to its target, and that gives us time to care about the consequences.
There’s no doubt that the battle sequences are this film’s strong point. Actually, they’re more than a strong point—they’re fabulous, even (dare I say it?) beautiful. However, even though I could laugh with some of the characters (Yes, this film does have its comic relief.), I felt…bottled. Strange, but I’m trying to describe a certain aloofness and claustrophobic tension I felt while viewing 300. Maybe it was because of the green-screen usage: the mottled skies never felt real and open. Maybe it was because of the depressing color scheme, which was nevertheless appropriate. The characters are definitely pawns in a larger story, somewhat one-dimensional, although Gerard Butler is great in his iconic role as king of the Spartans.
And there are major bonuses to 300 if you’re a chick like me. Washboard abs. Seriously. The Spartans are a traveling six-pack convention.If you can stand the violence, see it. No matter what you think about the plot construction or characterization, you’ll be taken on a ride….