300: Spartans, not stars
Last night I had the privilege of seeing this movie as a pre-screening on the local IMAX. I personally think that the IMAX can make any movie better. Thank goodness for that. I have plans to see this on Friday night with a relative. Unfortunately, I got these two free tickets for a time that my relative was not available to join me. The last time I was in this situation, it worked out for me better. That was Casino Royale. Anyway, let us get on with the review.
Frank Miller wrote the graphic novel on which this movie was based. He also wrote SinCity. I was hoping for something similar to his previous work. I am an avid reader of many movie news and gossip websites. According to www.the-numbers.com, he predicted that the total box office would be in the neighborhood of $45 million. I thought that was extremely low. I though that this would easily break $75 million. On Tuesday night before I went to bed, Rottentomatoes.com had 300 at 100% with only 9 reviews. When I awoke the next morning, it was at 60% with 15 reviews. Since then, it has wavered on the cusp of fresh and rotten. When I saw that, I became weary of the film. Last night, the screening was more than packed. So again, I thought the critics were harsh, the prediction was low, but then, I saw the film.
It opens with a Lion King-esque scene with a baby being decided on whether to keep or discard. Then the child grows up and we see the 8-year-old being taught how to fight. He is then dropped off in the middle of the winter with his loin cloth and his spear. He battles a wolf. The whole point of this opening scene, that has a voiceover that we soon discover is a Spartan telling the story to a crowd, was to show us that the child was raised to fight and not fear. The boy’s story is that of the king, Leonidas. Gerard Butler portrays the Leonidas and leads this cast of virtually no-names. So far, I am still with it.
Next we cut to “current” time in which the Leonidas is with his child, teaching him to fight. A Persian emissary shows up. This is where the story begins. The Persian asks for Sparta to give Earth and Water to Xerxes, the God-King of Persia.
Leonidas decides not to, and kills him. This brings the wrath of Xerxes upon him and Sparta. Leonidas then goes to confront the elders and the oracle to get their permission to go to war with Persia. After a display of gratuitous nudity, he is told no. We then see that a politician from Sparta paid the elders to deny Leonidas’s request. At this point, I am still with the story, but I see where it is going.Leonidas then decides that after talking to his wife, that he must go to war without the blessing needed by Spartan Law. Then, after more gratuitous nudity, and an oddly filmed sex scene, Leonidas and 300 of the best Spartan soldiers leave for a “walk.." They journey up north and put into motion the plan that the elders denied. On their journey, they meet a group of Arcadians that want to join them. There were a few great lines of dialog here.
At this point, the music is getting weird. It started out with a very Gladiator-Hans Zimmer feel. Then, it going to a heavy metal music feel. This is where I start to lose faith in this film.
The morning after a storm that wrecks many of the Persian ships, they meet a Spartan warrior’s offspring that was misshapen and would have been discarded as a child. He tells Leonidas that he wants to be allowed to fight with them to honor his father and bring pride back to family name. He tells Leonidas about an old goat path that the Persians could use to out flank them. Leonidas denies his request to join them. Again, more foreshadowing that was so obvious, it hurts.At this point in the film, the battle ensued and there was no shortage of blood, guts, gore, and severed limbs and heads. This was also where we get our first look at Xerxes. This was also where the script started to going seriously wrong. Jokes and humor that did not fit the times or the movie that, well, were delivered and it was just an awkward feeling.
So, this was the point that I started making jokes at how obvious this movie was becoming. It had a feel of Gladiator in the beginning, but the shifted to that of Alexander. When the movie reached its climax, it did not fail to entertain. As Crowe yelled in Gladiator,”Are you not entertained?” Well, that line of dialog from 2000 still sticks with to this day. I was entertained. I did enjoy myself, but I felt the movie struggled with itself. I feel that the prediction of $45 million is still low. I give it closer to $60 million. The problem is, the built-in fanboy audience is really all they are going to get. The other problem is that they have no big name actor or actress in this. In today’s society of movie goers, a name is needed to do well.
Verdict: It was definitely worth the viewing on the IMAX screen. If you are a fan of the Spartan era films, such as Gladiator, then you might be slightly disappointed. All in all, I would see this in theaters for the visual effects and sound. They will not be able to be reproduced at 100% in your house.