Another film from the Butt-Numb-A-Thon experience this past December was one that came as a surprise to few in attendance, Zack Snyder’s 300, based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller of SIN CITY fame. Obviously, the AICN crowd is the prime target for it (along with the “300 Spartans Re-Enactment” crowd) and they can often times be a little too kind to films like these that only mean anything to the target audience and few others. 300 is another one of those CGI-made films where actors stand in front of a green screen and then the sets and locations are later generated around them. While I usually have a real issue with these types of things, having seen the trailer to 300 and figuring out that this approach was seemingly the right one to take, I decided to give this one a fair shot. The CGI-ness of 300 is not really its problem, although it no doubt would have been a better movie without it, but, yes, it does help keep the film closer to its source. What really is the problem is that this is a film made for and by fans of the comics. If you’re not in the loop you’re not really going to care. It’s the old tale of the 300 Spartans told in monochrome colors with lotsa blood and male posturing and for what it is I suppose it’s OK, but you’ve seen it all done before and done better, frankly. I’m all for tired old clichés when they work, but there’s only so many times a person can hear a Spartan scream, “Tonight we dine in Hell!!!” without laughing for the wrong reason.
One of the BNAT audience members told Snyder at the Q&A afterwards that “there’s never been a movie like this before”, but what that really means is that they’ve never seen a movie like this before, although I’m sure they must have if they’ve seen GLADIATOR or SPARTACUS, BRAVEHEART, THE LORD OF THE RINGS, SIN CITY and I would toss in a little movie called THE 300 SPARTANS which just so happens to tell the exact same story. 300 doesn’t add anything new to either this story (except maybe a giant monster or two) or to this type of picture; like most of these things, it’s nothing more than a bunch of male posturing and talk about fighting and dying with honor and blah, blah, blah. But I’m not going to harp on 300 too much because it isn’t a complete washout. Some of the imagery is indeed pretty cool (and that is the desired effect, after all), the film is incredibly violent (maybe the most violent R-rated film ever) and Gerald Butler gives a solid lead performance that should probably get his career on track at last. I’ve never really warmed to Butler in the past (not like he’s ever had the best material to work with), but he’s just right here. A big, burly brute who is essentially one giant muscle and he’s perfect for the part; often times magnetic, he’ll probably pick up quite a few lady fans after this. And it’s always nice to see Stephen McHattie in any movie, so that’s also a plus. But anyone who does back flips over 300 had also better damn well acknowledge that there is absolutely nothing below the surface on this one, that it’s only spectacle and eye candy and only means so much in the grand scheme of things. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m all for senseless violence on the screen, but senseless violence just on its own is fun to look at, but nothing more. And 300 is whole lotta nothing more.