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Wednesday, March 14, 2007


When I first saw that a movie had been made called 300 I didn’t know whether to panic or get really angry. I figured someone had been guessing my weight again, and I can assure you that it is nowhere near that number now. Granted, there was a time when I was what Hairspray's Edna Turnblad would call a “Hefty Hideaway gal” but now I shop at the industrial strength section at your local Sears like most of the other locals, so I calmed myself with a bag of double-fudge Oreos and decided to shoehorn myself into my Mercedes and head on down to the Essex Cinemas and see what this 300 was all about.

Armed with my usual booty of popcorn, Skittles, and Pepsi (oh my!), I found myself ensconced in a theater that bore a decidedly male pheromone tingle to it, and with good reason.
300 is the anti-chick flick. There is more cock-fighting in this lollapalooza than goes on in Mexico in a decade and there’s not a single chicken on screen, if you get my drift, which is bigger than any of those Vermont has seen this winter so far. 300 is a manly man’s picture, a testosterone treat of blood and guts that makes Russell Crowe’s Gladiator
look like a wuss by comparison. I’m sorry, Russell, but it’s true.

300, Gerard Butler tosses off his mask (and most of his other clothes) from The Phantom of the Opera to play King Leonitas, the studly ruler of the Greek nation of Sparta. He is a well-liked and respected monarch, and so when his kingdom is threatened by the Persian King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro; tv’s Lost) and his armies of over 100 allied Persian states, together making up hundreds of thousands of soldiers, the Spartan Council is ready to bow down, but the King will not go gently. With or without their support, he gathers the best of his soldiers who are willing, and the
300 of them set off on an afternoon “walk” that just happens to place them in the direct path of the coming Persian forces. The only thing missing at this point is that referee that is in all the fight and wrestling movies that stands in the middle of the ring and yells “Get Ready to Rumble!”

What little plot leads up to the battle that ensues is only to introduce the overwhelmingly male audience to Queen Gorgo (Lena Headley; The Brothers Grimm), who is amazingly hot, coiffed and made-up like a Covergirl model. She is also not afraid of nudity or simulated sex, and so she and the king make the horizontal hula in a fairly graphic humpty dance before he goes off to war
just so we’ll know he’s got something worth fighting for back home. It also sets up her later interactions when we take infrequent breaks from the bloodletting of the Battle of Thermopylae (as the showdown came to be called historically) to see Gorgo do what she can to garner support for her husband by appealing to the Senate to send more troops to his aid. Okay, so here’s a spoiler: She gives up the goods to her hubby’s major war opponent, Theron (Dominic West; Hannibal Rising), to “buy” his vote for support. I found this kind of distracting, considering our current situation in Iraq and wondered if Laura Bush would offer a little hanky panky to Harry Reid if she thought it would help get the Dems to give George W a “thumbs-up” about his latest war plans? I doubt it, but if she did, I’m sure a placemat would be in order along with a 46-page “Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell” non-disclosure contract of some kind, not just a simple rendezvous in the dark behind an available column as Gorgo manages.

Meanwhile, the war itself is gloriously (or gory-iously) portrayed in the most gutsy and graphic fashion I’ve ever seen. Heads roll (literally), swords slice flesh and penetrate, arrows puncture muscle, and all in more close-up than we’ve ever experienced in this real-life war going on now. There’s more carnage here than in any movie ever. I think the
300 of the title is not in reference to the number of warriors from Sparta but to the per minute body count throughout.

Director Zack Snyder, who cut his teeth on the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead, shows that his experience there served him well. He has taken Frank Miller and Lynn Varney’s graphic novel and captured the gorgeous sense of the art by setting up scenes not as fluidly moving action pieces as
much as portraits within scenes that look like extended “talking” panels from a comic book or graphic novel. This allows for each conversation to be both a part of the story as well as its own work of art, and he succeeds better in this than I’ve ever seen done before. It’s not to say that 300 lacks big scale action. To the contrary, there is as much action here as in The Return of the King, for instance, but in individual sequences, the arrangement of actors with the landscape, with the other actors, or with lightness and dark forms dramatic tension that speaks volumes without using words. Snyder’s previous experience as a student of visual arts at the prestigious Heatherlies School in London has served him well. His decision to “shade” the film by altering the color process and making the entire movie in a grainier than usual texture plays with the reality of this Spartan universe and takes the viewers to another time and place of the imagination. Much like Sin City, 300 achieves a dream (or nightmarish) quality because as familiar as the characters may seem they don’t look or “feel” quite right.

Since I was out of the country the first weekend
300 opened I missed the hoopla that attended its premiere. I have heard that it sold out over the weekend at its shows at the Essex Cinemas and I can understand why. Besides its natural appeal to the core male audience it is aiming for, it is also a rare treat for people who want to experience a real event, something different and new in cinematography. I’m just relieved it wasn’t about my bathroom scales. And I’m sure you are too.

1 comment:

TheFlyingPig said...

The scene of opening weekend was insane! It felt like a summer action pack movie weekend at the theater where everyone are anticipating for the movie. PEOPLE were EVERYWHERE! This is such an awesome movie. The CGI technology is the next generation of making movie and it is kind of scary how movies can be made by blue screen. There are behinds the clips scene on zannel if you are interested. I have to say that after watching the movie, I was so motivated to go to the gym again after watching this...everyone was so hot and fit in the movie. sigh...