300 is a film adapted from Frank Miller’s graphic novel of the same name. Miller has had a few successful graphic novels, such as Sin City, Daredevil and the already mentioned 300. Miller’s comics, particularly Sin City and 300, are incredibly violent, gory and visually stunning. The films share these common traits. Unfortunately, one thing is missing from the film adaptation of 300, and that is in the characters.
Now, I’m not going to claim that the graphic novel had much better characters than the film does, as I haven’t read enough of the comic to know that for a fact. (Although, having read some of Miller’s other graphic novels, I would think this to be the case). However, in the film, there isn’t much characterization at all, and that’s the main problem.
There are times in which emotional scenes are taking place, but it is really hard to care about the characters involved, as they’ve been given no depth. In fact, almost the entire film could be taken at an emotional level. There are certainly enough scenes to make it one, but instead, the violence and incredible visuals overshadow the character development.
And yes, the film does look amazing. The landscape is impressive, the way that the live action and CGI are combined looks very nice, and the battles are bloody and fun to watch. It’s unique in a way, and this is the film’s biggest strength. It does come off as odd to begin with, but soon your eyes will adjust and become immersed in the visual direction the film takes–assuming you don’t become too bored with what is happening on-screen.
I say that, because for a lot of 300, I was kind of bored. It wasn’t a total boredom that made me think about turning the film off, but more of me questioning why I was watching it. For entertainment, certainly, but that seemed to be about it. I wasn’t emotionally invested in any of the characters or their situations, I wasn’t learning anything, and there wasn’t much of a point. 300 came off as more or less a brainless action film.
I’m not going to come out and say that brainless action films can’t be enjoyed or be great entertainment, because they most certainly can be. The thing is, when that’s all you have going for you, you have to really make the action scenes count. 300 doesn’t quite do this.
Yes, there are some fun action scenes in the film, and the blood and gore flying around can be entertaining. Unfortunately–and I think this is the main problem with the action scenes–slow motion technology is employed far too often. Showing 300 without any slow motion, and it might be 20-30 minutes shorter. I’m quite serious about that, although maybe with slight exaggeration. The slow motion used is…excessive, to put it lightly. This is one of the better examples that come to mind of the wrong way to use slow motion capture technology. Some of it works, but it bogs down the film as a whole, especially during those already overlong and over-stylized action sequences.
While the action scenes are still impressive, visually at least, the story is lackluster in comparison. Basically, the plot involves three hundred Spartans preparing for, and eventually partaking in, a battle against the Persians, who are much greater in number. They are led by Leonidas (Gerard Butler), who’s most memorable line “This is Sparta!”–something that has by now gone through the cycle of becoming an internet meme and disappearing–sounds good in a trailer, but doesn’t actually feel all that great when thrown into a semi-serious film. Or maybe the film isn’t supposed to be taken seriously at all, and instead should be taken lightly, despite all of the “mature” things happening on-screen.
I don’t believe this to be the case though. The actors seem to be taking it seriously, and so does whoever wrote the screenplay. Lines are rarely spoken, but they are shouted, often to dozens of other people. Characters don’t show any emotion other than anger, (okay, some of them do show emotion, but it comes off flat). The film also seems to want to be more mature that it really is, throwing in as much blood and gore as director Zack Snyder probably thought he could get away with. Yes, this is likely the case in the comic, and in fact, the comic is possibly filled with more gore, but sometimes things need to be altered when their medium is changed. This is one of them in my eyes.
Look, if you want a brainless action film set in the past, where shields, swords and spears were still used in a large capacity, 300 isn’t the worst film you can watch. I didn’t necessarily find it all that fun, as it wasn’t engaging enough to keep me interested, but I can see how some people would definitely find it enjoyable. The plot and characters ultimately don’t matter, as the film is all the visuals. Everything looks nice, and the action scenes are well-done, but the excessive use of slow motion really put me off. All in all, it’s a decent action film, and if that’s what you’re looking for, 300 won’t disappoint.