This was a movie weekend, sort of. Friday night we rented Stranger Than Fiction. Very clever. It covers new ground in a fun and compelling way, and the characters are interesting. It was as interesting as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but without the creepy undertones. Will Farrel is not my favorite. He’s not even on my list. But, he wasn’t his over the top SNL self in this role, and he did a great job. His interaction with Dustin Hoffman was believable and really entertaining. At the end of the movie you just kind of feel better. I give it two thumbs up, this was a really fun movie.
Then, on Saturday afternoon a friend and I went to a matinée showing of 300. OH. MY. GOSH. Let me start by saying that if you didn’t like Gladiator, Braveheart or Saving Private Ryan, then you should skip this one. The goriness factor was close to that of The Evil Dead. There are several scenes where you see the insides of, well, you just see a bunch of stuff that you probably didn’t want to see. And while I’m focusing on the negative, you should also know that there are some, ahem, naughty scenes as well. Not many, but enough to warrant mentioning. So if you’re easily offended, this isn’t the movie for you.
If you’re still interested, then get ready. First, the story line. King Leonidas leads 300 Spartans into certain death to defend their people’s freedom against the imposed leadership of the Persian Emperor Xerxes, and his million man army. It isn’t quite good against evil, its more like bravery against evil. It is supposedly based on historical events, but I’ll let someone smarter than me discern that. All I’m saying is that I was a complete sucker for Leonidas’ show-no-fear-hero complex. Spartans were a people that bred themselves for battle and trained through fear, so when their king announces on the battlefield that “no Spartans will die today”, you just know there’s going to be a lot of Persian blood. Its totally escapist Hollywood film making, but I’m telling you, I thought it was great.
Next, cinematography. Visually the movie was fantastic. Riveting, actually. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the screen. It wasn’t quite real, and it wasn’t quite a cartoon. Parts of it were made to look two dimensional, and parts of it were made to look three dimensional. The color of the entire movie was ominous. The lighting was always dark, the sky was cloudy and most colors were muted. Red was not muted, so when you saw red it was significant. The characters and costumes were also great. The Spartans were all muscle, so you believed that they would do some damage in a fight. And when the Persian army came out, the warriors looked evil. Xerxes looked like a maligned, self-absorbed, hedonistic idiot on the screen. I wanted Leonidas to make him feel pain.
And then finally there’s the testosterone induced, take no prisoners attitude of the Spartan army. I was completely enthralled with the Spartan’s confidence in the face of death. At one point a soldier in an allied army said “The Persians will launch so many arrows that they’ll blot out the sun.” A Spartan soldier quickly quipped “Then we will fight in the shade” with his gritty voice. I almost started crying. But I DIDN’T!
Throughout the entire movie you knew that the Spartans were going to die, but that they were going to die gloriously. And they did. They punched and stabbed and decapitated and impaled and spun around to do it all again, through wave after wave of advancing Persians. They fought against foot soldiers, flying arrows, men on horses, and more. When they died… I won’t spoil it, but it was awesome. The fight scenes were just incredible. It was epic.
You should know that the buddy that went to see 300 with me did not like it. It was too much for him. We talked about it on the ride home, and he thought the whole production was overdone. From what I understand, it wasn’t any one thing in particular, but the sum of all the produced battle scenes with metal guitar riffs and never say die dialog was too much for him. He did like all of the other movies that I mentioned above, but 300 didn’t seem plausible to him so while I was thrilled in the battle scenes, he was wondering how much longer ’till the movie gets out.
The overproduction is what I loved about this movie. The visual effects were the selling point for me. I wouldn’t mind seeing it again, actually. If you liked Gladiator, Braveheart, Saving Private Ryan, then maybe you’ll like 300 also. I say thumbs up.