When approached with the proper mindset, a movie involving nothing but action
and eye candy can be a satisfying experience.
This is the case in “300,” Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel about the Persian-Greco War.If Miller’s name sounds familiar, it should, as he is the creator of 2005’s visually stimulating “Sin City.”
This latest page-to-screen endeavor is a worthy exhibit, though it embodies a much emptier plot than that of its predecessor.
Centered on the mythic battle of Thermopylae, Spartan King Leonidas (played by a stirring Gerard Butler) leads 300 soldiers to defend their people from enslavement against a mass of more than a million fearsome Persians.
However, the Spartans are equally frightening. Their lightning-fast combat skills quickly cut down the enemy, their 10-pack abs pulsating with every blow.As leader of the Spartans, Butler must appear as the fiercest of them all. He obviously committed to the role physically, and it pays off.
His King Leonidas is arguably one of the strongest leaders the silver screen has ever seen. Yet somewhere between bench-pressing between takes (true story), Butler manages to squeeze a notable performance out of a two-dimensional character.
The script requires Butler to scream more lines than speaking them. His fierceness
and machismo is nothing short of amazing.
Just as King Leonidas commands his army, he commands the movie.
It’s a great improvement from his titular performance in the film version of “The Phantom of the Opera,” in which, despite a rather beautiful vocal performance, he came off dull and out of synch with the importance of his character.
Butler shows true growth in this film, and it’s not just physical.The power of costuming and makeup in “300” is astounding, considering their ability to drastically transform some of the actors.
Rodrigo Santoro (Laura Linney’s love interest in “Love Actually”) plays the slithering villain Xerxes, who not only considers himself a living god, but plays the role with eerily effeminate qualities.
It’s dumbfounding to watch the dashing
lad who appears opposite Nicole Kidman in the ubiquitous Chanel No. 5 commercial portrayed as an unrecognizable tyrant with hideous piercings and inhuman eyes. It’s good to know that not all of the visual
art in this film is computer generated.
Those, however, are truly stellar. The film looks like a moving painting. Story could almost slip into the background (which it does), and yet the audience would still be riveted by the elegantly shadowed images that flash before them.
Unfortunately, “300” lacks character development beyond Leonidas, so it’s impossible to care for characters slashed to pieces in battle. We have no reason to empathize over what happens to Sparta. But something tells me that’s not why we came to see this film.
Jesse North can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.