Butler's Brutal Biceps
To fully appreciate and probably love "300" I am pretty sure you will need to have not only read Frank Miller's graphic novel which it is based upon but enjoyed it. I've not read Miller's novel and so watched "300" with a fresh pair of eyes and what I watched was, well it was entertaining, action packed, brutal in its graphic violence and to be honest well made. But "300" is something which I don't really care for and that is a movie which heavily relies on CGI to make it work and whilst I can appreciate the necessity to deliver something in a graphical style similar to what you expect from a graphic novel in some way it makes it a movie less about the story and acting and more about the visual experience. And as such I can understand why in an age where cinema goers seem to favour a visual experience over substance "300" is popular but for me, well it was a good movie and an interesting experience.
Having been raised to be a fighter and leader King Leonidas (Gerard Butler - Dear Frankie) is ready to take the battle to Persian "god-King" Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) who's preparing to invade his land. Going against the will of the politicians and leaders Leonidas leads 300 Spartans into battle, use their military training to fend off the advancing forces of Xerxes legions. At the same time Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) attempts to persuade the politicians to support her husband and send more troops into battle but finds herself facing the duplicitous Theron (Dominic West - Mona Lisa Smile) who tries to stop her.
The storyline to "300" takes it lead from the history books and the Battle of Thermopylae where 300 Spartans took on the imposing army of Persian "god-King" Xerxes. But "300" is not a historical movie in its purest form, it is a fictionalised retelling of the events turning them into a bloody action movie. As such we learn about King Leonidas, the leader of the Spartans, having been brought up to be a fighter and a leader who finds himself having to go against the authorities to protect his land from invasion.
Whilst all of this is interesting as we get a look at the young Leonidas learning his fighting skills and then later on having to deal with the politicians who try to block his way it really isn't what "300" is about or is the subsequent storyline of his wife trying to get more soldiers to him and her battle with the duplicitous Theron. Nope in reality "300" is for me simply an action movie with it predominantly focussing on the battles between Leonidas's 300 Spartans against Xerxes millions of soldiers.
As an action movie it has to be said that "300" is quite spectacular with various battles which really capture your eye. There is a brutalness to it all as we watch people die in various in your face manners such as being beheaded. But at the same time there is a cleverness to it as we watch Leonidas employ clever tactics to make his 300 men a greater threat than they should be. In fact it is highlighted by a narration which explains that the Spartans were born to fight and knew nothing else whilst another tribe who assist do it in a messy, unorganized manner.
But here is the thing in making "300" as authentic to a graphic novel as can be it is drenched in CGI. From the chroma key technique to give the whole thing an almost sepia look through to various animated battles it is all heavy on the CGI. And the annoyance is that it ends up becoming a visual movie where the stunning and clever effects which make up the action and look are meant to wow you more than the storyline or acting. For some this will be great, those who watch a movie to be entertained purely on a visual level but it left me wanting as it became all about the visuals rather than the story. And that is a shame as the actual story of Leonidas leading just 300 men against a mammoth army of not only men but creatures from elephants through to strange imaginary beings could be great.
Because everything is drenched in CGI it makes it hard to know how well acted "300" is and to be honest I found some of it a bit wrong. So Gerard Butler makes an imposing leader and quite believable as this red blooded man of honour who will fight to the death in a clever way. But that strong Scottish accident ended up feeling wrong at times it even felt a bit Sean Connery like especially as Butler delivers some great Charisma as Leonidas. And to be honest Butler is the most memorable performance from "300" with the likes of Lena Headey, Dominic West and Vincent Regan failing to stand up to his commanding performance.
What this all boils down to is that there is no denying that "300" is an impressive movie, a well made movie which if all you want it brutal, bloody action and great visuals will undoubtedly impress. But for me it was a movie which traded all on the visuals and lacked a really interesting storyline and performances which impressed without the dominant use of CGI.