Wednesday, March 14, 2007

300: It was pretty good.

Historians and Iranian officials agree: Zack Snyder's 300, an adaption of Frank Miller's graphic novel (aka "comic book") by the same name, is not historically accurate. Aside from making headlines by restating obvious presumptions, I'll move onto the actual movie itself.

My expectations for this movie were probably the biggest problem. Upon seeing the trailer, I envisioned 2 hours of pointless battle and unbelievably badass characters. I got both, but my dream was interrupted with distracting, intermittently anachronistic dialogue and a still-born plot. In retrospect, I don't blame this on the director or actors, and here is the single most important piece of advice I can give you if you have yet to see this movie: it's a comic book. Comic books don't make boring, complex, subtle political distinctions wedge conflicting characters' motivations apart, they just pick two categories: good, evil; and let them go at it. it's beautifully simple.

So this format has some conditions.

I'll be the first (and not the last) to say that I hated Sin City (also Frank Miller--from Olney, MD no less). It's multiple plots had nothing to do with each other and some of them never came to climax or conclusion. I found the 1920's-noir dialogue forced and annoying, and the inclusion of bizarre supernatural characters downright stupid...though Tobey Maguire's "character" was pretty cool, especially for being Tobey Maguire. It seemed like the movie rode in back of its visuals, and that didn't work for me.

300 is better.

Each shot in 300 is prescribed and unapologetically overdramatic; villains and heroes pose in each shot as if each is a living statue of our 21st-century Romanticised vision of ancient civilization; the sky is in endless tumult; and violence is quick and simple, a pleasure for those involved.

300 had similar characteristics, yes, but I guess the setting of the plot--ancient Sparta--was far more supportive of this style. The fabled magic and creatures of the time period, such as oracles, etc, were stylized, but it made the scenes that much cooler. The movie existed more in the realm of fantasy than of history (one reason why its historical criticisms are fucking retarded), which is obviously more welcoming of artistic license. One issue, however, was the dialogue. It would switch between time-period appropriate fancy-talk and Die Hard tough-guy speak. It was a little distracting, and kinda made the whole movie less enjoyable. But again, thinking back to all those comic books I read, their dialogue was all cliched. If you're going to make a comic book movie and be accurate to the source, that's how it's going to turn out.

By far, and obviously, the most entertaining scenes were the battle scenes. Aside from the fact that the Spartans all had badass beards and throaty Scottish accents (for warriors, a far better choice than that cheeky British accent), battle scenes would pit the Spartans against escalating numbers of gay Persians that, with each wave got more evil, more fanciful, more powerful, and more cunning. It reminded me a lot of a video game actually. I found these scenes to be by far the coolest. I also didn't mind the instances with bare boobs, either; those were welcome additions.

I think the most satisfying part of the movie was that everyone who had it coming to him got it with no questions asked. There is little doubt revenge has been exacted when a sword gets plunged into someone's stomach and turned a few times.

As for the plot, whatever, I have mixed feelings. Less plot would have made room for more battles, and more plot would've been fruitless considering the dialogue and battle-focused basis of the whole story. So I guess it's about right. When it comes to pure action movies (see Blade), plot is the last thing on my mind.

All in all, after thinking about it for a few days, I definitely enjoyed the movie and would enjoy seeing it again. I think its stylization and boiled-down, no-nonsense entree is going to be very popular in the future. With a little refinement, this genre could be groundbreaking.


F.J. Delgado said...

The most important question, however, is: was there any good female nudity?

F.J. Delgado said...

ah, I see I initially missed your bare boobs observation.

Assuming the bare boobs were not manboobs, can you offer a follow-up analysis of the boobs, as well as any other gratuitous nudity.

Eric said...

I got tired of reading your post. Sort of like I got tired of watching 300. I don't think the movie should be let off the hook for poor dialog. You know what other movies were made from comic books, Batman and X-Men. While there isn't Sorkin-esque banter in either of those movies, it isn't painful to listen to the actors speak either. The dialog in those movies actually advances the plot. In 300, it retards it.

I may just be bitter because I hoped for more given that the visuals could have made this a great movie. You can't say it's good based on the visual effects alone.

Anonymous said...

Tobey Maguire wasn't in Sin City.

Brice Lord said...

To FJD: I wouldn't classify the nudity as gratuitous, and it definitely wasn't sit at home by yourself late at night erotic, either. There were some good shots, and everyone who you'd want to see naked you got to see naked.

To eric: Those other movies, Batman and X-Men, are bad examples, if you're going to defend making movies out of comic books. The first Batman was great, yeah, but how about the next 3 or 4? Batman Begins was great but it had nothing to do with the comic book, which is probably why it was good. If you can tell me that either watching or listening to Batman & Robin isn't painful with a straight face then I'll gladly rest my case. The only X-Men movie that was any good was the second one. The difference between this and 300 is that 300 tries to make the movie look like a comic book rather than just use it as source material for your run-of-the-mill movie.

I also hoped for better, and it could've been a better movie, but I think the visuals, bare bones plot, and cool battle scenes count for something.

To anonymous: sorry dude, you're right, it was Elijah Wood, that other short, fair-skinned, soft-voiced, elfish looking guy. My bad.