Quint on the 300 panel! Best footage of Comic Con (after that Spidey one, of course)!!!
Published at: July 26, 2006, 7:51 p.m. CST by staff
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with some more coverage of the San Diego Comic Con, specifically Warner Bros. 300 panel, Zack Snyder's adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novel of the same name. The story is about The Spartans, real life Greek warriors who, while only 300, stood up against an army numbering in the hundreds of thousands.
At first I wasn't completely behind the project. I really liked the production diaries online, but I was worried that the freshness of SIN CITY was going to get stale by the time 300 hits, since Snyder seemed to be doing very similar things to bring Miller's work to life. I didn't want to see 300, the SIN CITY way, you know? And while I liked DAWN OF THE DEAD, I'm not the world's biggest fan of how the character work was pulled off in that movie. The zombie stuff and gore was great, but let's just say I wasn't 100% behind Snyder for this movie.
Then I saw the footage. I don't want to talk another movie down to hold a movie up, so I don't want you guys to think this is a diss. I love SIN CITY to death. But the footage of 300 I saw blew it away. Take effects work on the level of LORD OF THE RINGS and put it in a stylized Frank Miller type world. The colors jumped, the movie felt open and epic. SIN CITY still rocks out and is just as different from 300 as Frank Miller's original books are different from each other. I think Rodriguez and Miller masterfully made one of the coolest movies in the past decade. And I'm shocked that 300, outside of that circle of trust, seems to be as involved and as loyal to the source material.
They played the footage 3 times. Three times. The audience went ballistic for it and so did I.
The clip had many panels I recognized from Miller's book, but moving and so full of color that it was genuinely like a moving piece of art. The footage opened with a Spartan holding up a naked baby, he's inspecting him on a cliff-side. The voice over tells us this is Leonidas, who had to be inspected at birth like all Spartans. If he showed any sign of weakness, illness or abnormality he would have been tossed over the cliff-side to die. You can see the ground below and it's littered with baby skeletons and skulls.
The next bit had flashes of his training. As a young boy sparring with a grown man. The boy is maybe 7 or 8 and is obviously no match for the warrior training him. He gets a powerful backhand, spinning the child around, blood gushing out of his mouth. The voice over here talks about his training as we see the kid glaring at the camera in a super close up, one eye blackened severely. The next bit had the child on top of another, beating him in the face. Which each hit (in slow motion) the blood jumps up at camera.
For the next bit we see the teenage boy hunting in the snow, with nothing but a long spear. There's a giant fantastical wolf. It's obviously CGI, but not in a way that stood out negatively. The design of this fucker was brutal. It's snout was abnormally large and snarled up as it circled the boy, who showed now fear. Its fur was matted and gross. Its eyes were burning red. The next shot had the wolf's shadow on the rock wall behind the teenager and in the foreground he jabs forward with the spear, the shadow behind him showing the spear going through the wolf's mouth and up through it's brain. The next shot had this teenager being presented with his Spartan shield and cloth.
They had the sequence where the messenger comes to talk to King Leonidas (Gerard Butler). The messenger is standing near the precipice asd The warriors pull their weapons on the smiling messenger who was there to tell them that the armies of 3 nations were descending on them. The messenger says, "This is crazy!" Gerard Butler has his sword at the man's throat and screams, "This is Sparta!!!" before rearing back and sending one of his sandal-clad feet powerfully into the man's chest, sending him back into the pit. You see this in slow-motion and can see the thudding impact of the kick.
There was also a great line on the battlefield. It appears to be a meeting between two representatives of the fighting armies. The baddie says that their army has so many archers that if the Spartans choose to continue fighting that their arrows will be so many as to block out the sun. The response, "Then we shall battle in the shade." Then you actually see this volley of arrows go up in a nice wide shot and it does indeed send a shadow along the ground.
You get glimpses of Ephialtes, the mongoloid character that survived the "thinning out" process as a child and dreamed of becoming a Spartan while hiding from the society, knowing they will destroy him if they knew of him. He shows up to help our Spartan warriors, eager as a beaver. In the footage he looked very much like Sloth from GOONIES. I didn't see a full body shot of him, but he certainly was wearing the Spartan cape. There was another fucked up character I didn't recognize from the book... I'll have to go look through it again, but it was this fat dude, lumpy with mutation or cancer, who had two nasty looking blades for arms, starting at about the elbow. Looked like chainsaw blades... you know, when the chainsaw's not on. And there was the rhino charging through the battlefield, fucking a lot of warriors up. That was the most unfinished of the effects work, but it still looked really cool. If it ends up anywhere near as cool as the rest of the more finished footage then it'll be a stand-out sequence.
There were lots of little glimpses at stuff... there was a shot of an enemy's decapitated head spinning in slow motion, the mouth and eyes opened in shocked surprise. There was a shot of Gerard Butler having sex with a Sparta woman... beautiful woman with really nice lookin' boobs. Not as nice as Carla Gugino's in SIN CITY, but then again... what is as nice as Carla Gugino's boobies in SIN CITY? There was another tit shot of another woman dancing seductively, with silk flowing over her body. Much like this poster, but with nipples:
On the opposite end of the coin there was a shot of two women cheek to cheek. They turn towards camera and have some nasty scar tissue on their smiling faces. There was a shot that I loved of the enemy armies approaching the Spartans, but they are stopped by literally a wall of dead comrades. The wall of dead bodies is at least 8-10 feet tall and as they approach it a flood of dead bodies spills off the top of it, crashing down at the feet of the approaching warriors.
One of my favorite shots of the clip was of the enemy leader, Xerxes, turning towards camera and screaming in rage. Behind him is a gorgeous landscape. The background shows ships landing on the beach as well as fires on the cliffs surrounding the beach, sending up smoke as armies move around him. Great shot.
Tidbits from the panel (featuring David Wenham, Gerard Butler, Frank Miller and Zack Snyder):
- Zack Snyder was asked how closely he stuck to the original graphic novel and Snyder said pretty close. "I have no ideas of my own...". He got a laugh from that one. He said he just wanted to "Not fuck it up, Hollywood style."
- Did Frank Miller co-direct like he did with Robert Rodriguez on SIN CITY? Nope. "This is Zack's movie," said Miller.
- Gerard Butler trained hard and heavy for this movie. He ripped his hip flexers while shooting and said, "I came out of this movie pretty much a cripple."
- Butler was also talking about working in genre film. "I've done lots of stuff now... Dracula, Beowulf, Phantom..." And Frank Miller cuts him off going, "Would you rather be doing PARENTHOOD 3?" Butler responds, "I'm not complaining, Frank." There's a pause then Butler adds, "Let me say what an honor it was to work with the great Frank Miller!" And every laughs and applauds.
- How about working with the costumes, nothing but cod-pieces and capes. Butler said when he first put on the outfit he never felt more stupid in his entire life. When he first got into his cod-piece and cape, he had to walk around, past the grips and crew members, but after he had been in it for a couple days he got really used to it.
- David Wenham's reaction to the outfit? When he got the part he said he got Frank Miller's 300 graphic novel and his panic set in pretty quickly when he saw his character, Delios, first pops up butt-naked a few pages into the book. He said he "hit the panic button" and started making phone calls, inquiring as to how much he'd have to show for the camera...
- They shot the whole film in 60 days in Montreal, "The obvious choice for ancient Greece." hehe
- Capes were a problem during shooting. They'd always flap up and twist around the sword. Butler wondered how many soldiers have died on the battlefield because their capes held them up. Butler in particular had cape problems... He was talking about working 15 hours a day, the capes were very heavy and by the end of the day his arms would be really sore, like they were ready to fall off. Miller interrupts again and says, "Spoken like a true Spartan!" Butler responds immediately in a whiny voice, "It huuuurrrttt. Sometimes it'd give me a little scrape...." Wenham broke in this time and said, "I didn't feel the capes were difficult at all."
- Miller talked about visiting Greece and seeing the actual location of this battle. There's a plaque on a hillside where they were killed. He said if he hadn't visited Greece, seen the land and ridden over its waters he couldn't have possibly interpreted the story because the land and seas were the Greek's primary weapons.
- The music in the clip was a Nine Inch Nails track, but he said the final score will be a mix of electrical and classical. Snyder said, "I don't want it to be too rock & rolly, but it does rock!"
- Miller saw a rough assemblage of the film and gave it his approval. He said Zack's film is both "timeless and contemporary." I'm assuming the contemporary comes in Snyder's stylish work as a director.
- Frank Miller was asked about his comic work and what he'd like to work on. Miller said he loves the Marvel universe and hasn't played in there as much as he has with DC, but that he wants to focus more on his own stuff than any particular character.
- This made me love Gerard Butler. He was asked why he got into acting and he responded with his sarcastic comment first, then went into his real response. "Alcoholism." Lots of laughs. Then he said he wanted to be an actor at age 10 and that he would watch movies and see himself in them. He specifically mentioned KRULL, that he could see himself starring in that and went around as a young guy imaging himself in the movie. That rocks.
- Snyder's final word: "Graphic novels don't need to be fixed, they need to be filmed." I hope he bring that mantra into WATCHMEN with him.
Count me as 100% behind this film. It is easily in my top 5 most anticipated movies in the works and one of the best presentations of Comic-Con, hands down. Beautiful stuff.
Anyway, I'm back in Austin and busting my butt to finish up this coverage. The next week will see the other 14 one on one interviews I conducted at the Con as well as my wrap-up of panels. Some great stuff left, squirts, so keep yer eyes on the site!