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As a huge fan of Frank Miller and a student of classical lit, I was kinda extremely excited to see the 'advanced screening' last night of Zach Snyder's adaptation 300, though my expectations had been lowered a bit by the largely lackluster reviews. The general consensus seemed to be that the film was visually arresting, but beyond that lacked any depth or... well, the usual things critics look for, I guess. Like plot. And character development. Maybe... underlying Meaning? Then there were a few reviews that tended towards the extreme- either the reviewer was a comic book fan and hailed the film as a cinematic masterpiece, or the reviewer had no knowledge of either graphic novels OR spartan culture and deemed the film a spectacle suitable for Hitler and the Nazis...

So, yeah, low expectations, but I harboured a secret hope that it would be fucking awesome, thus ensuring a night well spent, a sense of validation of my comic book loving self, and an easing of my intense anxiety in regards to the upcoming Watchmen adaptation- also directed by this Zach Snyder fellow.

It didn't suck. It didn't blow my mind with its brilliance either- didn't quite measure up to its predecessor, Sin City, though the sources of each film are so different it's not really a fair comparison... Rodriguez had tons of material to work with, whereas Snyder had few characters, sparse dialogue and a sparser storyline. I also noted the stark difference in genre, and the workable conventions of gritty, urban film noir versus epic battle tales. In the former, gruff voiceovers and internal narratives are a given, and they work; in the latter, as in 300, Dilios' constant narration just... didn't. It tended to fall flat, even after I realized who the narrator was- despite my love for LotRs' Faramir- I still wished they had come up with some other way of conveying the narration of the comic than Faramir piping up in my ear every few minutes.

On a more complimentary note, Gerard Butler=<3 ...he was perfect. I was kinda in awe of how well he suited the character of Leonidas- and not just physically, though that aspect was obviously well... honed. :P Kudos all around, but I couldn't help but wonder about the pronunciation of his name during the movie... is it leo NYE das or ley-ON-idas? I dunno...

I almost laughed when I saw how they'd rendered Ephialtes... just like in the comic, and just as ridiculous looking. Damn hunchback. Why couldn't you just stay in your belltower? However, you could sort of see the events surrounding Ephialtes- his betrayal and Leonidas' subsequent downfall- as a critique of the Spartan culture certain film critics found so distasteful in this story. They could have... maybe included Ephialtes in some way more glorious than clearing away corpses after the battle's over? Then he wouldn't have lurched over to Xerxes the Trannylike.

Or, I suppose, they could have just killed him, which is what I found myself wishing Leonidas would do... or allow the captain to do. Does that make me a bad person?

Overall, I was shocked by how exactly Snyder translated comic to movie. It was practically panel for panel the same. That's part of what made it so cool- it was what I imagined while reading the comic risen up from the page, brought to life, and infused with this vibrant colour. Throughout the movie, the use of colour almost made up for any flat dialogue or voiceovers, because the image onscreen looked like a classical painting. Undeniably gorgeous.

I'll admit to getting all adrenaline rushy when the badass modern music started playing to slow motion, uber violent action. I was probably grinning like a fool.

And I'm pretty sure it wasn't just Faramir's one-eyed presence, but I detected a distinct Peter Jacksony, LotRness in the proceedings... especially in the scenes showcasing the Persian army... weren't their battle-elephants and burka'ed soldiers exactly like the men of the south that march up to Mordor? Frodo and Sam spy on them...

Not to mention the closing scene, where Faramir/Dilios was doing his best Aragorn impression. It was a good effort.

Heyy, I just realized- that's both Faramir AND Boromir who went on to be Ancient Greek Guys... Sean Bean was Odysseus in that collision of shiny, skirted boys that was Troy!

Wow, this is long and utterly disjointed. Ah, well.

I've posted the first two issues of the comic here and here.

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June 2007
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