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Leif Erikson Says 300 Will Change Everything!!

Merrick here...
Wowzers. Just…wowzers. To the best of my memory, we’ve heard almost nothing negative about this movie – even from folks who weren’t predisposed towards embracing it. [Reviews HERE and HERE, for example]. Can it actually be this…friggin’…cool? Is this the kind of movie Peter Grave’s AIRPLANE Captain would spend some very special alone time with? Will Harry dump Yoko in a fever of homoerotic lust for sweaty, finely chiseled warrior studs in leather diapers? Oh wait…he already has that & they’re doing just fine. Here’s Leif Erikson, who was lucky enough to gaze upon an incomplete iteration of the film. Leif really liked it; it’s a safe bet the final version will be even better when it’s released in March. I can't wait.
Disclaimer: What I saw was not a finished film, but I believe that it is far enough along for compliments and criticisms to be dished out. For the reasons above, I’m going to try and keep my comments fairly broad. I think the cut is where they want it (for now), but some of the shots were not fully rendered and the sound design still needs a lot of attention. The cut that I saw had a temp score as well so I am anxious to hear where Tyler Bates decides to go with the actual score. Judging by the temp they are going more Gladiator than contemporary…which is a good move in my opinion. This review won’t be as entertaining as a Vern review, but it is an honest assessment of the film in its current state. Nevertheless, here is a breakdown of the elements of the film and my reactions: THE STORY: There will be some mild spoilers in this section, but nothing that is going to take anything away from the film. The movie starts out with a brief intro of what a Spartan is and how they are trained. Personally, I would have liked to see more of this. The questionably cast narrator (as a stand alone I think the narration is great, I’m just concerned his voice doesn’t work with the rest of the film) says that at the end of their training that they are “tossed into the wild, left to pit his wits and will against natures furry…he would return a Spartan, or not at all.” Not only is this one of the dozens of cream your shorts lines in the film, I think this could be a movie in and of itself. Unfortunately, it is just the first 5 minutes of this one. For the next 20 minutes there is a lot of political talk that sets up the story. The people of Sparta are happy with their lives and the peace that they live in, but the Persians are advancing. An elite group, called Spartans, decide to stop the advance themselves since the Spartan army can fight only if the politicians decide that it’s necessary. This leads to a very poignant moment between King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and his wife (Lena Headey) just before the Spartans go off to battle. This is a great scene and it makes the insanity of these 300 soldiers fighting 250,000+ Persian soldiers believable and justifiable…not to mention it gave this geek chills. From this point on the film is just one massive battle after another peppered with scenes of the goings on inside the Sparta government. The battles do get tiresome in time and the movie begins to lag a bit. The style of the film and the investment in the characters is what keeps it moving along. 300 is a very straightforward story but it is not my place to fill you in on where it goes so I am going to stop here. I would guess that those of you reading this know the general story of the film anyways. THE ACTING/THE WRITING: Let me start off by saying that Butler is absolutely perfect for this role…he really nails it. He even has some very cheesy dialog that he is able to completely pull off. The heavy-handed dialog proves too much for some of the actors though and it comes out corny and unassured. However, since the whole film plays like a meticulously crafted graphic novel, even the mis-spoken dialog is mostly forgivable and at times almost charming. The script is solid but more attention paid to the adolescent Spartan and slightly more to the epilogue instead of the 1hr+ of fighting would have been beneficial. THE PHOTOGRAPHY: Oddly, this is where both my biggest compliments and my biggest complaints lie. Let me start off by saying that this film is a monumental artistic achievement. At times I was so distracted by how beautiful the shots and compositions were that I actually stopped paying attention to what was being said in some of the scenes. The freedom of the green screen shoot allowed the artists to create an amazing world and, although it is based on our world, it is something we have never seen before. With that said, let me get to my biggest criticism. There are a lot of shots that seem “small”. A number of the shots seem like there need to be a lot more people in them (sometimes the 300 looks more like the 40). This is where the green screen can be a killer since the only depth in the shots comes from what can be created by the effects artists. I found on several occasions that this two-dimensionality took me out of the otherwise great film. Instead of paying attention to the story, I was more concerned with where the hell everyone else was. This problem goes beyond the number of people in the composition though and has more to do with the depth of field and just an overall feeling of space. Along those lines, I didn’t feel there were enough “scope” shots. Although it looked amazing I was reminded too often that this is a green screen movie. Since the film isn’t finished it is very possible that these issues will be fixed, but it was a major problem I had with the film. CONCLUSION: Overall, this is a great film that, along with Sin City and Sky Captain, will change everything. Despite what some thought, I think what Zack Snyder did with Dawn of the Dead was inspired. He really takes his game to a whole new level with this film. I can only imagine that the people that truly care about how this film turns out will be overjoyed to see the final product. When it’s all said and done, Snyder pulls it off…and I couldn’t be more excited to see what he does with The Watchmen.

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