Monday, October 22, 2007

"300" the movie DVD Review

300 was was based on a five-issue comic book limited series by Frank Miller and Dark Horse Comics, the first issue published in May 1998. The issues were titled Honor, Duty, Glory, Combat and Victory. The series won three Eisner Awards in 1999: "Best Limited Series", "Best Writer/Artist" for Frank Miller and "Best Colorist" for Lynn Varley. The work was collected as a hardcover volume in 1999.

The comic was a very graphic depiction of the Greek/Persian Battle of Thermopylae in 480 b.c. This battle consisted of an alliance of Greek city-states who fought the invading Persian Empire at the pass of Thermopylae (Hot Gates) in central Greece. Vastly outnumbered, the Greeks held back the Persians for three days in one of history's most famous last stands. A small force led by King Leonidas of Sparta blocked the only road through which the massive army of Xerxes I of Persia (Xerxes the Great) could pass. After three days of battle, a local resident named Ephialtes is believed to have betrayed the Greeks by revealing a goat path that led behind the Greek lines.

The Greeks were represented by 300 hundred Spartan armed men who had had sons so their bloodline could be carried on. The Greek army also consisted of one thousand from Tegea and Mantinea, half from each place; one hundred and twenty from Orchomenus in Arcadia and one thousand from the rest of Arcadia; that many Arcadians, four hundred from Corinth, two hundred from Phlius, and eighty Mycenaeans. These were the Peloponnesians present; from Boeotia there were seven hundred Thespians and four hundred Thebans. In the final battle, when it became clear that the Persians were going to win, most of the Greek allies retreated but Leonidas and 300 Spartan soldiers stayed to fight. Though they "knew that they must die at the hands of , they displayed the greatest strength they had.

The comic was criticized by some as having some historical errors, but I'd chalk that up to a little poetic license. After all it was a comic book and not a history book.
Also the comic and the movie focused on the 300 Spartans (thus the title) and the rest of the battle was pushed aside a little.

The movie stars:
* Gerard Butler as King Leonidas: King of Sparta
* Lena Headey as Queen Gorgo: Leonidas' wife
* David Wenham as Dilios: Narrator and Spartan soldier
* Dominic West as Theron: A corrupt Spartan politician
* Michael Fassbender as Stelios: Young and spirited Spartan soldier
* Vincent Regan as Captain Artemis: Leonidas' loyal captain and friend
* Rodrigo Santoro as King Xerxes: King of Persia
* Andrew Tiernan as Ephialtes: Deformed Spartan outcast
* Andrew Pleavin as Daxos: Arcadian soldier
* Tom Wisdom as Astinos: Captain Artemis' eldest son
* Giovani Cimmino as Pleistarchos: Leonidas' son
* Stephen McHattie as The Loyalist: A loyal Spartan politician
* Peter Mensah as Persian messenger
* Kelly Craig as Oracle girl
* Tyler Neitzel as Young Leonidas
* Robert Maillet as Über Immortal (Giant)
(source IMDB)

One of the aspects of the movie I loved is that the cinematography kept to the comic book look. For those of you that read the books to Frank Miller's "Sin City" and saw the film you know that the surreal quality of the scenes was striking about that film. "300" is no exception, In fact many of the scenes were exact replicas of frames from the comic books. The filmed to be very yellow, everything was colored with a yellow hue. It really made the eye focus on several scenes, especially when in contrast to the red capes of the spartans.

I'm not sure what it is but when doing a Frank Miller book to movie staying with the look created by the comic book makes the film work. The process for this movie to keep that look to stay in the film meant that there was a lot of blue screen type filming done and lots of digitized effects. Knowing this somehow makes it so that I appreciate the acting just that much more.

The acting of course was superb, lots of fighting and action, but at the same time some world history involved. Many world history classes discuss the Battle of Thermopylae but seeing it in action really made the learning a little fun. Oops, I said learning. This is just supposed to be a movie. Well it can be that also.

So to sum up this film is a fun, dramatic, action, historical, artistic romp. A word of warning though, this is not for the kiddies. There are some nude scenes, and some gory battle scenes. At least the movie strayed some from the comic here, in that in the comic the Spartans were nude except for their helmets, shields, capes and swords, but for the movie they wore tunics.

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