Sunday, September 19, 2010

Toga Party Massacre: 300 (2006) Review

One of the most disappointing things about the DVD release of 300 is that it doesn’t come with a coupon to order the Wenham Workout video. If I can briefly steal from the vernacular of Friday Night Football commentators, David Wenham is HUGE!, in 300. He’s so pumped up that I suspect if you were to stick a pressure gauge up his butt it would register well over 200 PSI.

But I well and truly digress.

When King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) learns that a Persian invasion of Sparta is imminent, as a matter of Spartan law, he seeks permission from the religious elders to deploy the Spartan army to fight the Persians and defend Sparta. The elder’s make the suicidal decision of declining his request (notch that up as another win for religion), so he instead hand picks 300 Spartan warriors and goes for a stroll to the Hot Gates, a narrow pass the Persians must traverse in order to concur Sparta. Here, the King and his brave, buff, toga party fend off wave after wave of Persian attacks, in between yelling quite a bit about glory and death.

Visually, 300 is simply stunning. I can’t honestly recall a film this visually striking. But it seems that so much effort has gone into making the film look good no one seemed terribly concerned about whether the story could sustain proceedings for 2 hours, and it really doesn’t.

The first battle is entertaining, but each subsequent attack by the Persians becomes less and less interesting. Seeing a man being impaled with a large spear in a shower of computer generated blood is fun once or twice but after the 57th slow-mo impaling it all becomes a bit monotonous. I guess I was expecting excitement and tension, the likes of which I experienced when I first saw the mother of all battle-against-the-odds movies Zulu. But 300 doesn’t really deliver in this regard. It’s more akin to watching someone else play a video game… with cool graphics!

Gerard Butler does a tremendous job delivering his lines with conviction and gusto. He plays a very straight bat, and you can almost believe that someone, at some point, may have actually acted and spoken this way, but the same can’t be said for David Wenham. The silly voice he puts on is at complete odds with his newly acquired physique, and an affirmation that he was completely the wrong actor for the role of the King’s messenger man Dilios.

For me 300 is a classic example of a 2.5 star film, it’s not a failure, but it’s not one I’d readily recommend.

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