Friday, March 30, 2007

The next level of epic cinema

Film: 300
Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Dominic West, Rodrigo Santoro

After the staggering success of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the biggest question in everybody’s mind was, if anyone could better that, as far as action-adventure epic movies are concerned. The answer was an emphatic no. That was the reason cited for the failure of heavy-duty films like Troy, Kingdom of Heaven and Alexander. The next inevitable question was, what’s next then?
300 could be your answer to that. This is an epic action-adventure film that does not even try to match up with LOTR, but moves to the next level. It’s a bit difficult to explain that. Let’s say, you shoot the film in blue screen with human actors, add loads of special effects, picturise each scene with minutest detail, and present the battle sequences with raw intensity, read, graphic violence (you must see each drop of blood pouring from the victim’s body), and round it up with a never-seen-before look (a cross between graphic novels and video games with a dash of film-noir.), and you’re at the next level.
Director Rudolph Maté made a film call The 300 Spartans based on the battle of Thermopylae, in 1962. Graphic artist Frank Miller was so inspired by the film that he created his own version of it in a graphic novel called 300. The present film is based on Miller’s comics. So you see, to use Greek philosopher Plato’s words, the origin of the whole drama is thrice removed from reality. Hence don't look for reality here.
A sword-and-sandal drama, a la Gladiator, the film does not show slightest respect to history and concentrates on the spectacle, an epic battle you’ve never seen before (the rain of arrows over the 300 Spartan soldiers is just marvellous.)!
However, this is a historic epic, based on the Battle of Thermopylae between 300 Spartan soldiers under their king Leonidas (Gerard Butler, of The Phantom of the Opera) and the vast army of Persian king Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro, of Lost, Love Actually), in 480 BC, before the Spartans perish and before the other Greek states join together against Xerxes in the Battle of Plataea. Here the history ends, though the battle remains.
Anyway, the film’s about the battle and director Zack Snyder (who made the violent zombie movie The Dawn of the Dead) has been successful in doing what he had set out to do. He even offers you an elaborate sub-plot about Spartan queen Gorgo (Lena Heady). But they are all lifted from Miller’s pages, not from history. Hence you see the Spartans as macho men fighting bare-chested without any armour, while a shaved-headed Xerxes is decked in jewellery and nothing else.
The film has already courted controversy regarding historical inaccuracy and instances of racism. That’s however, not the issue here. The issue is the battle itself, and how the film captures it extraordinarily, no, not realistically, but in an impressionistic sort of way. (Never mind, if the animals and monsters remind you of LOTR!)
Within this video game world of ancient Greece, only Butler looks convincing, as he shows off his physique, shouts, and preach patriotism.
No, it’s not Gladiator or The Lords of the Rings, but it’s worth a watch all the same. The future of cinema is here.

Rating: **1/2 (Good, well almost)

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