Stunning visuals lead the charge in ‘300’

Ally Melling


Credit: Jason Hall

Nearly two years after Sin City‘s theatrical release, Frank Miller’s latest blood-soaked, testosterone-filled, comic-geek wet dream is finally upon us, and like the novel it’s based on, 300 is truly a graphic delight.

And how could Zack Snyder, director of 2004’s Dawn of the Dead, resist another adaptation with so much gory potential?

Set in 480 BC Greece, the 300 graphic novel was Miller’s interpretation of the Battle of Thermopylae, an ill-fated but impressive conflict when thousands of Persians suffered massive loss at the hands of a mere 300 Spartan soldiers.


Starring Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Dominic West, David Wenham

Directed by Zack Snyder

Distributed by Warner Bros.

Rated R for graphic battle sequences throughout, some sexuality and nudity.

Stater rating (out of five): ????

In Snyder’s film, this famous last stand features Gerard Butler (The Phantom of the Opera) as the brave King Leonidas, leader of the warrior-based culture notorious for breeding soldiers from birth. Leonidas must defy his own country to protect it from Persian tyranny, leading a small number of Sparta’s finest, which includes actors such as David Wenham (Faramir from The Lord of the Rings).

Simply, the 300 movie is a visual masterpiece. Like Robert Rodriguez’s faithful rendering of Miller’s black-and-white Sin City comics, 300 was filmed mainly in front of blue and greenscreens and used multiple software for color and special effect modification. Beyond computer-generated beasts and legions of soldiers, the result is a uniquely filtered look. The film carries over the washed-out browns, dismal grays and bright, arterial reds graphic-novel colorist Lynn Varley won an Eisner Award for in 1999.

300‘s amazing rendition of color and CGI blend with slow motion to create some spectacular, violent battle scenes. Never before has skewering, decapitation and swordplay looked so beautiful on screen.

Also like Sin City, a majority of 300’s sequences and dialogue match the graphic novel word for word and panel for panel. From Leonidas dispensing with Persian messengers to the sensual writhing of the Oracle to the androgynous King Xerxes, many scenes are thankfully exact.

The added scenes that don’t match the graphic novel are the film’s major downfalls. The biggest difference is the expansion of Queen Gorgo’s character and the romance between her and Leonidas.

Why does Warner Brothers always feel the need to create an unnecessary love story for a film that doesn’t need it? V for Vendetta suffered the same fate.

One can only guess scriptwriters thought the audience needed an occasional break from 300‘s awesome war scenes. Their answer was to throw in a detracting subplot about the queen (The Cave‘s Lena Headey) cheating on Leonidas in order to gain council support for his fight against the Persians. In the end, her efforts amount to a-whole-lot-of-nothing and make Spartan women seem weak and tacky.

On a broader scale, many people are criticizing the film’s fictional depiction of Spartan fighting tactics, something both Miller and Snyder admitted they altered so the fighting scenes would look better. Sorry, history buffs.

The people who are criticizing 300 by drawing connections to the war in Iraq and comparing King Xerxes to President George W. Bush should also remember Miller published this graphic novel as a comic book series nearly a decade ago.

So, ignore the forced romantic plot and focus on the overwhelming amount of great elements, such as the intense acting, strategic costuming and harsh score. If you like faithful adaptations or merely action films with originality and style, 300 is fresh eye candy with a taste you’ll want to savor more than once.

Contact ALL correspondent Ally Melling at [email protected].