300 Revisted

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Continuing my series of Zack Snyder reviews we reached perhaps his most famous film, “300”. One could argue that “Man of Steel” is Snyder’s most well known film but I think if we think pure Snyder we think “300”.  “Man of Steel” has a bit of a Christopher Nolan influence that takes a little bit away from Snyder’s signature style. Whatever the case may be, this is really the film that put him on the map as a filmmaker. As I’ve stated in my “Dawn of the Dead” review, many forget that it’s a Zack Snyder film (not to mention a James Gunn script).  “300” introduced the world to his flair for visual filmmaking.

Some of you might point out that I’ve already done a review for this film.  When the follow up film, “300: Rise of An Empire“, was being released I wrote a review and that’s very true I did. But, however if I’m doing a series of Zack Snyder reviews I can’t very well skip “300”.  So, this review will revisit the film and see if I’ve updated my thoughts on the movie or have a change of opinion on certain things.

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Looking at my previous review of the film I called “300” both a modern classic but also a film that is weak in characters and narrative.  I gave the movie eight stars but I don’t think my review clearly explains why it deserved such a high score for a feature that is weak in characters and narrative.  Watching “300” again I felt a similar way. The characters may be memorable but there is nothing about them that is particular deep.  The pacing in the beginning is a bit problematic and the movie doesn’t have the greatest narrative either.   We all know the action works but what is it about this film that makes me, and countless others, come back to it? Why doesn’t it bother me so much that the characters aren’t fleshed out?

I couldn’t put my figure on it the first time I watched it and neither could I the second time I watched it.  In my original review I said the movie had, “a sit around the camp fire feel to it”. Reading that, then watching the movie again and viewing some of the behind the scenes documentary on the Blu-Ray, I think I finally figured out what it is about this movie that makes you overlook the weak characters and narrative.

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The movie is both narrated as if you ‘re being told the legend of the event . This isn’t a historical piece.  It feels like I’m watching someone tell me the legend of Hercules or any of the other Greek heroes. We know those stories about the heroic deeds are exaggerated.  “300” is done in that fashion. Everything is exaggerated and our main hero King Leonidas is shown in a larger than life fashion with incredible and flawless body and extraordinary abilities. Our villain, Xerxes, is 10 feet tall and the rest of the bad guys are really evil looking.  This feels like the story people of this time period would tell of the 300 Spartan warriors orally. Even the real life statue of Leonidas is shown in a similar fashion.  It is large, exaggerated in a stance of glory with a flawless body.  In this regard the movie works in the exact story it’s trying to tell. The characters don’t need to have the depth because that’s not the type of story we’re being told.  The movie’s story is about experience not intricate character.

Zack Snyder also choosing to make this movie emulate the comic book, written and drawn by Frank Millar, helps with its story telling. It feels like a comic book on screen.  Every shot is a visual marvel to be had.  The panels serve as a lot of the inspiration for the movie. This moves us further into the legend angle of storytelling because it removes us further from reality of the historical events. Although now the style of 300 has been copied to death this is still ground-breaking and a visual masterpiece. Between this film, “Sin City” and “Star Wars: Attack of the Clones”, the digital media was able to be pushed forward in unexpected ways.  This type of slow motion high octane action scenes, that “300” is famous for adopting, haven’t looked this good since the advent of the first “Matrix”.

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Watching this movie its clear it’s not perfect but even with the flaws it has I stand by my eight star rating. This movie works on many different if not untraditional levels. If a movie can’t deliver entirely on its story it can still deliver a great experience.  And I think that’s what “300” works best at;  an old fashion oral tale that is delivered in this unique experience that is incredibly entertaining to watch.  No film trying to replicate this style of filmmaking has been able to replicate or improve upon it.  And, I think that says a lot about Snyder’s direction and execution with this film.

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