Originally Written on 6/25/2011
If you’ve been following my reviews with any frequency, you know how I feel about director Zach Snyder. I don’t like him, he doesn’t care and I prefer to keep it that way. My main issue with him is that his only motivation for filmmaking is to make things that look “cool”. If you don’t believe me, I recommend listening to the commentary of Watchmen. Why did you choose this shot? Because it looks cool. Why did a woman in pigtails backflip over a semi? Because that looked awesome. In fact, you’ll never hear him talk about character development, plot points or getting the audience emotionally involved in any way. So why does this review not only have a fresh rating but lives on the second level of my DVD shelf? Because, when all is said and done, it’s pretty damn cool.
300 is the story of King Leonidas, head ass kicker and king of the Spartan people. When a massive Persian army approaches to sack his republic, Leonidas goes against his countries laws and takes three hundred brave soldiers to the Hot Gates, a small valley where the Persian army will be sandwiched into bite size pieces for his men to destroy. There’s also a story of governmental corruption, greed and love sandwiched in there, but all audiences really are there to see is star Gerard Butler’s intimidating computer aided abdominals and people’s heads being lanced off in slow motion. Cornball story aside, Butler and company do an admirable job with the silly story and cliché riddled dialogue, looking as though they are generally enjoying the over the top nature of it all. The battles themselves unfold in video game fashion: first the easily beatable peons, then the archer stage, then the giant beasts, etc, etc. Luckily for us, the battles are generally enjoyable, especially on a big screen with a nice surround sound system. The fighting is all you really come here to see but it’s nice that Snyder allowed us a few moments to catch our breath, even if those moments are trite and mostly pointless.
300 is what it is, a fairly enjoyable popcorn flick that eschews historical accuracy for computer aided wizardry and pushes aside character development in favor of slow motion limb slicing. While he does make an attempt to create a world we care about, our only attachment to the people and places involved is an archetypical one. Every character in the film fits a precise mold: the Spartan represent freedom from oppression, the Persians represent slavery and Sparta itself is a place where people don’t back down. As a result, the film is easy to follow and easy to like, leaving us open to marvel at the carnage, even if a game of Solitaire would be more intellectually challenging. A pure, unapologetic popcorn movie, 300 succeeds at the meager task presented to it: just kick a whole bunch of ass, give us the barest of stories to latch onto and our imaginations will take care of the rest. While it’s not high cinema, it is campy, bloody fun. And yes, Mr. Snyder, I’ll concede. It’s pretty damn cool.
Score – 60%