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March 25 2007

300

I finally got around to hitting the theater yesterday to see the new film 300

Sweet googily moogily what a mess.

Yes, I am fully aware it is based on a graphic novel, but honestly, I am tired of of comparing adaptations to their source material. Doesn’t the final product deserve to stand on it’s own merits? I think so. That being said, let’s look at just the film first, and then I will compare it to the source material.

For those unfamiliar with the story, 300 tells the true-ish tale of how 300 Spartans warriors, including their King, Leonidas, held off the Persian army of 2 million plus soldiers for a time at the Battle of Thermopylae. This much of the story is true, and they did hold them off in a spectacular fashion with their tactics being studied to this day.

What’s not so true is the big monsters. As in, grotesquely deformed man-creatures that appear for no rhyme or reason except to look cool?

If you want to tell a story based on historical fact, then tell a story based on historical fact. Don’t muddy the waters with seemingly out of place giant, deformed men!

But I digress, that is a very tiny quibble in the much larger problem in this movie; the politics. I have no clue what they were trying to do with the political drama back in Sparta, and quite frankly, I don’t think the co-writer & director, Zack Snyder, did either. It totally decimated the pacing of the film. You would build momentum with what was happening at The Hot Gates, you’d be engrossed, ready for more… let’s cut back to Sparta for a whispered conversation, held in private, about politics, okay now back to the other movie, the one with all the action. It was the equivalent of being in a car with a student driver who hasn’t learned the nuances of using the brake pedal yet. “Too much gas Johnny… whoa, too much brake Johnny…”. The entire end product was like this, over and over and over.

Visually, it was beautiful. Shots were nicely composed and the monochromatic look worked. What wasn’t so nice was the CGI violence. I think I may have finally hit a wall with the idea of CGI violence and mass killings. There’s no “consequence” left. At least with make-up effects, due to the length of time they take to do, their use was restrained, it was more surprising and shocking still to see an arm fly off, or see someone receive a brutal injury. With the introduction of CGI death, well, you can just kill as many people as you want, it almost becomes “white noise”… a constant, never-ending droning of the machine that is Hollywood, senselessly hacking and slashing their way through another pile of digitally created bodies. No worries, we’ll just make more!

Hence why I say “no consequence”. Why should I care if a 100% digitally created character dies? They are mass produced eye-candy that are not “real”, they have no soul. When a human actor dies in a scene, or even has a “wound” they can look down at, human emotion is going to come through. When a director yells “Ok, put the green glove on Bob so it looks like his lower arm is gone!”, the actor is going to have a hard time playing off that.

No matter how you look at this film, it’s horribly flawed, and the biggest culprit is the pacing. Half-way through the movie, I was ready to walk out due to sheer boredom, an that is highly unusual for me. I usually can stick anything out, but with this film, I just didn’t care, I was bored, I hadn’t connected with any characters, and the pacing was giving me whiplash. Skip it. The visuals aren’t even worth it.

Now, how does it stack up to the graphic novel? Gee… the graphic novel doesn’t have grotesque man-monsters or any of the political silliness. Imagine that. It tells a linear, building story with clear acts and character arcs. Thanks Hollywood!



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  • Roy

    Prepare for Glory!!

    I liked it. Troy+Return of the King+Matrix=300

  • If they had cut the political crap in Sparta, I probably would have, but the addition of that stuff just chopped up the pacing too damn much.

  • Roy

    I bet you’ll like it more when it comes out on DVD/Blu-ray and you can just skip the boring bits.

    You know, I don’t understand why this film has garnered so much criticism. It’s supposed to be a rather mindless bloodfest. The fact that it’s full of CG and “fake” looking is to make it more like the comic book and less “real” so the violence is nice to look at it and not make you sick.

    In a way, it is like a low-brow version of Kabuki where each movement is played out stilted because each pose is supposed to be like a painting to be admired for it’s visual aesthetics (versus western theatre which appeals more to the intellect, emphasizing dialogue). I really thought the slow-mo bits mixed in with the fast movements was an excellent way to capture this.

    Being a writer you might be more inclined to prefer intellectual stimulation versus visual when watching films. But then again you watch a lot of anime don’t you?

  • I probably WILL like it more on DVD.

    The thing is, I don’t HAVE to have anything necessarily “intellectual”, I mean heck, I admitted to loving “Escape From New York”, but I damn near got whiplash from the pacing changes in this movie. And I can appreciate pretty visuals too, I’m one of the few people I know who actually enjoyed “Sky Captain” I think *laugh*

    I don’t watch tons of anime, I’m actually fairly selective.

  • Roy

    I think I was a bit too old to appreciate “Escape from New York” when it came out. In fact, I found it to be just plain stupid. I mean he never runs out of bullets even though he not once reloads his machine gun. So silly…

    They should get Ashton Kutscher to play “Snake.” I would pay to see that. ;-)

  • I gave up counting bullets after my 2nd John Woo movie or any given episode of 24

    “They should get Ashton Kutscher to play “Snake.” I would pay to see that. ;-)”

    That sound you just heard was my head exploding.

  • I haven’t seen 300 but I have the DVD of The 300 Spartans (which is an old movie but about the same story). You might want to watch The 300 Spartans as I think that it does a better job with the underlying story.

    The way in which 300 was made reminds me of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. I can see where people would either appreciate it for what it is or not like it much at all. It doesn’t sound like my cup of tea, really, though I was curious about it based on having seen (and liked) The 300 Spartans.

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