Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Gerard Butler, Lena Heady, Rodrigo Santoro
Kaboom Review Action Movie Rating: 95+
300 Spartans battle Xerxes’ Persian army at Thermopylae.
300 is one of the most compelling and visionary action movies I have ever seen. We enthusiastic grant it a Kaboom Review Gold Explosion Award, and place it as our first film in the pool of nominees for Best Action Film of All-Time!
I don’t like to have high expectations for a movie, but 300’s trailer was so fresh and artistic that it was hard not to look forward to the film. Usually I am disappointed with the end result: either the story will be a mess, or in some other way the preview masks glaring weaknesses in the movie’s construction or acting. 300, however, exceeds expectations in nearly every regard.
It may be paradoxical to call a film beautiful that contains so much brutal combat and bloodshed, but 300 is a feast for the eyes and visionary in its artistic impression. 1300 of the 1500 cuts in the movie have some sort of special effect applied to them, and the vast majority of these are creative, vibrant, and dynamic. The impact on the viewer is dramatic. There are dreamlike scenes set in a soft blue tone that give the film a timeless, ethereal edge. There are fantasy elements that embellish the tale and give the film a mythical edge. There are scenes set in a soft glow that draw out the emotional nature of the saga. But about half of the film is bloody, hand-to-hand combat, and this is where 300 shines.
The majority of the combat scenes are set in an earthy sepia tone that somehow manages to give the fighting both a mythical touch and an artistic grace in the midst of decapitations, spewing blood, and severed limbs. The action also alternates between full speed and slow motion in such a way as to allow the viewer to catch everything yet retain the ferocious nature of the combat. The music, the speed, the color all fit perfectly. The end result is an amazing visual treat. For the past day I’ve been struggling to come up with something to compare it to, and only today did I realize why I’ve been struggling: there is no other movie that I can think of that portrays combat in such a way. The best I can give you is that it feels like watching an ancient combat version of a National Football League highlight film combined with a MTV music video, spiced up with special effects and a touch of camera work from the Matrix.
With so much action, you’d think that the film would get repetitive, but 300 mixes up the types of combat to such a degree that it’s always entertaining. We’ve got clumsy war elephants, Xerxes’ elite Immortal guards with their fantastic golden masks, hordes of archers, charging war rhinos, and grotesque giants. It’s all spaced out perfectly, and no scene holds long enough that you feel like the movie is stalling.
In particular, the first combat scene, in which the Spartans meet the initial Persian wave, deserves special mention. This is one of those rare scenes that is so ferocious, so well shot, and so perfectly timed that it sucks you completely into the scene. For a moment, you are there—standing at Thermopylae—in the crush of the battle. The moment is short, perhaps a fleeting few seconds to a minute at most, but it qualifies this scene as a candidate for Best Action Scene of All-Time.
The excellent special effects also make the Spartans and their enemies larger than life. The Spartans appear chiseled out of stone, fight with three times the viciousness of their opponents, and bring the Hunk rating of the film sky high. Gerard Butler is particularly impressive in his role as Leonidas, the Spartan King, but the entire Spartan force deserves praise for their part in the action scenes. On the Persian side of the battlefield, Rodrigo Santoro is stunning as King Xerxes, and his various forces are visually magnificent. With the exception of some of the distance shots of the Persian army—which are of a lower quality—the villains in this movie are brilliantly portrayed.
My concerns coming in to the movie centered on everything that didn’t involve combat. I had a hunch that the story, the acting, and the sequencing of the movie might be sloppy. While these aspects of the movie are clearly of secondary quality to the violent action, they get the job done well enough. I’m happy to say that 300 is not simply a collection of fantastic combat scenes. We all know the basics of the story, and 300 doesn’t add much to it, but it does set the backdrop to the action well enough to give the film good structure. The acting and script were much better than I thought they would be, and the movie does a solid job of sticking to its premise. The sequencing of the story is excellent, and the tale is told with good pacing and a natural flow. There are places where things break down, however: the intrigue back at the Spartan capital is particularly weak, and the exaggerated emphasis on the visual element of the film does dumb down the story in places.
You might be thinking that the Babe rating of this film would be close to zero, but 300 deserves bonus points for some creative ways to get sexy women into a bloody combat movie. Bravo! The stunning Lena Heady, as the Spartan Queen Corgo, nails her role perfectly, and adds significant points to the score. There are two other erotic scenes of note; both are beautifully constructed and highly sensual. Kudos!
Outside of the marginal presentation of the intrigue in the capital, there are only minor negatives that I can come up with for the movie. The ending is the one place where I felt the film dragged a bit; it could have been shortened by a couple of minutes and had the same impact. Also, if you are expecting a historical representation of the Battle of Thermopylae, you will be sorely disappointed. The film spins the tale in a mythical and fantastic vein, and at every point emphasizes visual magnificence over combat tactics and historical accuracy.
On the whole, however, 300 is one of the most compelling and visionary action movies I have ever seen. We enthusiastic grant it a Kaboom Review Gold Explosion Award, and place it as our first film in the pool of nominees for Best Action Film of All-Time!
The film was shot in 60 days, but post-production took almost a year.
Consistent Premise: 85
Body Count: 98
Time to First Dead Body: Fast
Special Effects: 98
Overall: 95+ (Kaboom Review Gold Award Winner)