Eye For Film >> Movies >> 300 (2006) Film Review
Reviewed by: Max Crawford
Team Sparta: Greece Police is the latest result of Hollywood's burning compulsion for translating comic books into big screen fodder. It's not so much a film as a slideshow of gorgeous desktop wallpapers. It is, however, huge amounts of fun.
The eponymous comic, of which the film is (for the most part) a faithful scene-by-scene translation, is itself extremely loosely based on the battle of Thermopylae, in which a small Greek contingent faced off against the might of the Persian Empire in 480 BC. The group comprised some 300 Spartans, plus a few thousand assorted Greek soldiers of lesser calibre, and estimates of the invading forces arrayed against them range from 100,000 to over five million. Despite these overwhelming odds, thanks to martial superiority and clever use of terrain the Greeks managed to hold up the entire Persian advance for a period of several days, and inflicted a grossly disproportionate number of casualties.
While the magnitude of the Persian forces may be hotly disputed, all sources from the period agree that they were composed of plain old regular human soldiers. It's a well-known fact, however, that history is boring, and Frank Miller spared nary a second thought to throwing in as many mutant whores and hunchbacks as his heart desired. In this re-imagined history, one of the key figures in the battle turns out to be Lord Humongous from Mad Max 2, and the elite bodyguard of Great King Xerxes, the Persian Immortals, are unmasked as none other than the fighting Uruk-Hai. It's pretty much a live-action Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny--good guys, bad guys and explosions as far as the eye can see--and it has to be said, it's pretty awesome.
All of this is narrated by a Spartan soldier named Dilios, who was dispatched from the battle by the Spartan King Leonidas in order that the story of the Spartans' sacrifice might be known. With this neat device the film excuses much of Frank Miller's hilariously overblown descriptive prose, and the constant reminders of how hard and strong and awesome the Spartans are don't grate as much as they otherwise might.
Central to the tale is King Leonidas, here portrayed as a man pragmatic and patriotic enough to do what he must to defend his home, in defiance of the Gods if need be. We see him consult the Oracle at Delphi, but as "consulting the Oracle" sounds about as exciting as "looking it up on Teletext", here we see Leonidas scaling a crumbling cliff face, in the dark, to show how mighty and Spartan he is. Once he's been ushered into the temple (by none other than Emperor Palpatine), the Oracle transpires to be a device for getting some tits into the story.
Tits or no tits, Leonidas is not to be deterred by priestly naysaying and prophecies of doom. Another brief shot of tits (this time belonging to Leonidas' wife, Gorgo) and it's off to war we go. "Spartan!" Gorgo calls after her departing husband "Come back with your shield, or on it!". Finally, we get to the meat of the story and things get interesting.
Where 300 excels is in plucking bold, iconic imagery from the pages of the comic book and rendering it spectacularly. Jaw-dropping set pieces and well-edited close-quarters fighting make up the bulk of the eye candy, but even the more mundane incidental backgrounds are terribly impressive. The sun does somehow manage to be everywhere in the sky at once, as a blatant excuse for light bloom effects, but this is easily forgivable. Each and every frame is absolutely beautiful, with some immaculate colour work providing the only real measure of restraint in the film. Shiny.
The only letdowns are a couple of completely unnecessary scenes of Gladiator-style waving cornfields with sub-Enya demented yodeling in the background. Forget these. Forget the hilarious CGI battle-rhinoceros. What you'll remember is the forty or so minutes of huge guys with swords knocking chunks out of each other in the most spectacular ways imaginable. And isn't that what it's really all about?Reviewed on: 23 Mar 2007