" What could have been one for the ages will pass into antiquity with a wimper. "
Title: 300 by Warner Bros.
Format: Epic War Movie
Reviewing Monkey: Mojo Jojo
The Hype: When the single most legendary military engagement in history met one of the most stylized and influential comic creators of all time, the results were a stellar, if not abstracted, depiction of the first great struggle for democracy. But with the history of funny-books to screen sketchy at best, will Hollywood get it right or fall on its own spear? Read on, my monkeys, and find out.
What This Monkey Thought...
For those who don't
know, 300 centers around the story of the Battle of Thermopylae, a conflict
in which a few hundred Spartans (sic) held off a few hundred thousand Persians
(also sic), along a mountain pass narrow enough to force the Persians to fight
the Greeks more-or-less one on one. Now, this story is legend on a number of
levels, but the most important parts can be distilled down to three key points.
First, it bought the Greeks as a whole enough time, and morale, to rally their
armies and halt the advance of the Persian Empire-which was positioned to be
the first global dictatorship the world would have ever seen. Second, it preserved
democracy, in its Greek form, so that future cultures could draw from it. Third,
it proved that, given the proper motivation and strategic advantage, the abilities
of a well-trained combat force could overcome a vastly numerically superior
Thanks to those three factors, Thermopylae has lived on as a parable in almost every major military organization, social movement, and political body that has come in the 1500 years hence. It has served to inspire troops, rally morale, encourage participation, justify tyranny, and promote ideals among millions of people in thousands of ways. Thus, it was no surprise when Frank Miller, one of the original 'mavericks' of the comic book scene, turned his artistic, if not abstractionist, eye on the story. The result, while not historically accurate by most standards, was fantastic, and garnered a remarkable amount of much-deserved critical and fan attention.
So it was hardly a surprise when, following the incredible success of Sin City--Miller's last to-screen adaptation--300 grabbed big screen attention and ended up in a theater near you. What was a surprise, however, was what an artistic abortion it would become.
Don't get me wrong, just like Sin City, visually 300 is a stunning piece of cinema worthy of dozens of collective 'Ooohs' and 'Aaahs' throughout. The graphic-novel-esque style, muchly inspired by the stark colors and minimalist atmosphere of the comics, is gorgeous. As is most of the considerable gratuitous nudity and violence paraded across the screen. It is, to use a moniker tossed around far too often, a feast for the eyes. But, unfortunately, stylistically is where the good eats 300 offers ends.
The problems start with the acting, which is populated by players so wooden and inconsistent that they seem to have been cast entirely from a junior-high drama class, who then compound matters by insisting on screaming and shouting lines apparently chosen at random.
Then the issues move on to the scripting, which tries as much as possible to take lines directly from Miller's graphic novel (as Sin City did), but often feels clunky and awkward as it lends quips meant to be delivered from static panels to long-running scenes.
Next comes the craptastic interpretation of the story itself. Drawn from Miller's abstractionist view of history, the base tale is very sparse and cut down…which isn't in-and-of itself a bad thing. Unfortunately, however, the writers evidently felt Miller's take was too lean to make a full movie out of, so they added several layers of sub-plot that are as painful as they are contrived, unnecessary, and insulting. Worst of all, the plot these half-wits managed to cobble together actually takes the place of things, both historical and written by Miller, that were much, much more interesting, and would have made for a much better movie.
But far and away most agitating is the combat. Envisioned and choreographed by people who apparently knew as little about historical combat as they did about irony, it all takes place as random pockets of battles in a huge, wide-open field. Gone is the notion of holding a narrow pass against a numerically superior foe (which should have been the crux of the whole thing), replaced by a string of ridiculous Hong Kong-esque daisy-chained fights that has the bad guys taking turns while standing around a hero who takes them all on one at a time. It makes what should've been the saving grace of this movie--the entertainment of massive amounts of smart, savvy violence--into an absolute farce.
Which is okay, I suppose, since it just keeps in tone with the rest of this pile of dung.
|What could have been one for the ages will pass into antiquity with a wimper. Poorly written, acted, directed, and choreographed, the only thing 300 has going for it is some very snazzy visuals.|
The Good: It's pretty.
The Bad: But pretty is all it is.
The Overall Ugly: As far as comic book movies go, I put this somewhere between X-Men 3 and Batman and Robin.
What it's Worth: Rent it when you've got nothing better to do…if you've got nothing better to do.