Not even the magnificent visage of the countless half naked, buff Spartan men with their sculpted abs (well not really, apparently the abs are at least somewhat painted on) saves this flick from being a soulless, empty husk of an adaptation of Frank Miller’s gorgeous original graphic novel from 1998. Visually it looks pretty, even nine years later it’s got somewhat pleasing look to it without really being that dated, which is admirable considering how much effects there are, but that’s all the movie is worth. Looking pretty at a distance. It’s just superficial spendlor, male tittilation and bloody violence, with very little in terms of a compelling story. Usually I can quite enjoy that sort of thing when the mood strikes, but this is a really poor showing. The comic wasn’t even that particularly deep or anything, yet this flick feels so void of any real substance in comparison, it’s almost sad.
I never bothered to watch this in the cinema when it originally came out and became massively popular. Even back then I knew this was a generic, intellectually empty, dumb macho action flick with the visuals being its sole redeeming factor. I only ended up seeing it now because I just bought the comic and I was in the mood for something completely void of intelligence, something where I could just turn my brain off. I could have just as easily watched the Rob Zombie reboot of Halloween, to be quite honest. Well, you know what they say, be careful what you wish for. To put it bluntly, 300 is just as dumb as you think it will be, and it’s twice as long and dull to sit through.
While Zack Snyder manages to copy much of the visual look of the original comic perfectly, the movie completely fails to come together and form an entertaining event out of its testosterone filled ingredients. Even as a half-decent, mildly entertaining action schlock it ends up being a disappointing affair. Stretching what was mere 88 widescreen pages to a two hour long action movie was bound to prove difficult and Snyder really wasn’t able to come up with anything that would have mitigated the problems with the resulting lagging of pacing and general lack of story. Bless his soul, he does try to make something out of this mess, but to no avail anything of note ever emerges. I lost count how many times I found myself not caring one bit what was happening on screen, despite Snyder clearly having a good eye for action pieces. Initially I was counting that as one of the things Snyder managed to do right. But only initially. The repetitive wave of increasingly grotesque monsters and subsequent “it looks cool” school of thought use of slow-mo in the fight scenes eventually just grew entirely passé and I found myself increasingly inpatient, just wanting the movie to be over already. It just wore me out. I can’t stress enough how much the movie suffers from being too long. I know the battle against Xerxes’ army is kinda the whole point and the very meat of the story, but there are limits. The amount of violence is far too excessive, to a point where it stops being exciting and just becomes dull.
The casting also leaves a lot to be desired. The encompassing narrator is fairly terrible and does the pacing and storytelling no favors. I actually grew slightly annoyed of the narrator towards the end, his voice didn’t really manage to play up the epic spectacle of the 300 Spartans at all. I would even go as far as say it was poorly cast. How are you suppose to get excited by the story if the narration sounds so monotone and emotionless? And then we have Gerard Butler, as the main character, King Leonidas.You know, to this day, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him in anything where he’s been more than passable. Even in Coriolanus, which I would say is his best work to day, he was the weakest link of the entire production. Just seeing his name on the poster is usually enough to make me give the movie a pass, so as you might have already guessed, I’m not his biggest fan. Let’s just say he didn’t really win me over in 300 with his version of the King of Sparta. I swear, the man seems to have no charismatic bone in his body.
Looking back, I do find it baffling how 300 ever managed to strike such massive impact on pop culture when it came out as it did. Even the scenes from which all the famous memes, such as the famous “This. Is. Sparta!” quote, spun off of weren’t that great. If anything they were as bland as the rest of the movie. I actually had assumed those would be the only things with which I might walk away from this trainwreck but apparently not. They proved to be as emotionless and insipid as everything else about this millions of dollars making blockbuster. At least I still have the comic to turn to.