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March 12, 2007 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2007-03-12

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Monday, March 12, 2007 - 5A

There will
be blood.
Come on. We couldn't run just one
review of '300.' Instead, we let
two stubborn film critics go at it.
They're still breathing - we think.

every single one of them. And how he
does this is the sole reason everyone
By PAUL TASSI paid to see this movie.
Daily Film Editor The Persian army he faces is a cross
between the Ores from "Lord of the
"300" is an action picture stripped Rings" and a three-ring circus troupe.
of things such as a complex plot, They are led by the god-king Xerxes
multi-layered characters and his- (Rodrigo Santoro, TV's "Lost"), a
torical accuracy. monstrous nine-foot-tall giant who
While that might looks like an gender-bending ver-
cripple most mov- 300 sion of Dhalsim from "Street Fighter"
ies, we find that in and roars orders of submission with
"300" such things At Quality16 a demonic, thunderous voice that
would only take and Showcase rivals Darth Vader. He throws every-
away from a film in Warner Bros. thing he has at the Spartans who
which the focus is dice through his army in exception-
on aesthetic value ally choreographed sequences where
alone. The film speaks to themes of everyone appears to be constantly
loyalty, honor and duty, but no one fighting in zero gravity.
bought a ticket to see "themes," they Not since "The Matrix" showed a
came to see a battle. And the fighting man dodging bullets has a film rede-
itself is so beautiful and well-orches- fined action in such a significant way.
trated it carries the movie. "300" is Each fight sequence is engineered to
a visual masterpiece, albeit it a not- give you chills as a hundred thousand
quite-cinematic one. arrows literally eclipse the sun or an
An adaptation of Frank Miller's entire legion of Persians is forced off
graphic novel, the movie tells of the a cliff by advancing Spartans. Slow-
Battle of Thermopylae, where 300 motion prevails through most of the
doomed yet fiercely patriotic Greek film, and coupled with haunting CGI
soldiers fightagainst a massive army landscapes, gives the film a gorgeous-
of Persians. Leading the Spartans is ly surreal, dreamlike property.
KingLeonidas (Gerard Butler, "Phan- The bloodless parallel plotlines
tom of the Opera"), a man without are surprisingly engaging as well.
fear, guilt or the ability to talk with- Dominic West (TV's "The
out yelling. Wire") as the slimy politi-
Butler's Leonidas may cian Theron swipes scenes
have far less dimensions as he shows the devilishly
'than, say, Mel Gibson's handsome face of betray-
William Wallace or Russell
Crowe's Maximus, but would
definitely kick their ass in a street
fight. With the unreal athleticism of
a gymnastic linebacker, King Leoni-
das barrels through thousands of
Persians with abody so rock solid he
doesn't even need armor. Unlike pre-
vious onscreen warriors, he suffers
from no moral conflicts or character
flaws. He has a problem - a millionNt
Persiansencroachingon his country's;
freedom - and he has a solution: kill

al, while Andrew Tiernan ("The
Pianist") as the disfigured Spartan,
Ephialtes, is a Judas whose appear-
ance more accurately reflects his
soul. The Queen (Lena Hadley, "The
Cave") brings a much-needed reason-
able voice to a movie dominated by
the hyper-masculine logic of impal-
ing all your problems with a spear,
although by the end of the film even
she resorts to such tactics.
Most of the dialogue in the film
is some rearranging of the words
"fight," "glory," "honor" and of course
"SPARTA!" but each line is delivered
with such fearsome conviction that
nearly all cheesiness is stripped away
by sheer blunt force. The constant
ing Spartan continually reminds the
audience they are indeed watching a
comic book come to life.
A movie like "300" is not going
to be embraced by some critics who
will dismiss it as a masochistic fan-
boy fantasy, but the audiences exit-
ing the theaters will surely disagree.
The movie is a two-hour extension of
its hypnotizing trailer, which is what
most people have in mind. It's the
kind of film that is made for the fans,
not the critics, and by putting every
carnal desire known to man on
display, it does not disappoint.
It may be unfair for a film to
use such massive overdoses
of adrenaline to arouse an
audience's emotions, but
"300" does it nonetheless
to great success.

In "300," life is good. The men
are as picturesque as their sur-
roundings, throwing their beefy
vigor into carrying on their blood-
line and annihilating people with
dark complexions. Their equally
long, wavy hair and real ly, really
hard nipples. Spartan women are
the only in the world who can
birth "real men," we're told, and
based on the scenery, there's not
much room for argument. These
are the people of Frank Miller's
Sparta: They eat, they sleep, they
fuck, they kill. The end.
This may sound appealing to
some viewers, but keep in mind
that we're spectators, not par-
ticipants. And that's the problem
with "300": It's a tease. I could
talk about how this isn't really
filmmaking. I could go on about
the movie's unabashed celebra-
tion of eugenics and bigotry and
violence. Frankly, I'd be fronting.
This world is so laughably simple
that those concerns slip away in
favor of a more urgent one: This
aggressive and exuberantly stu-
pid spectacle purports to get the
audience off, but it's all hot air.
There's no fire here, no heat, and
in the end the whole thing turns
into a frigid parade of limbs and
egos mutilated beyond repair.

In "300," falling over a cliff is a merciful death.

The film has some stunning
sights, and director Zack Sny-
der, who previously made the
rather good "Dawn of the Dead"
remake, does an epic slow-mo.
What I would have appreciated
is a few less deformed lesbians
and a little more about the intri-
cacies of these people's world.
The camera lingers aimlessly on
every last gold-plated, gemstone-
encrusted battle ensemble, but all
the film can offer from our hero
(Gerard Butler) is flippant self-
righteousness when anyone dares
challenge his FREEDOM! That
pundits have drawn comparisons
between the film and the Bush
administration in that vein is a
testament to how utterly banal it

is: It could apply to any era of U.S.
history. There's nothing to it.
"300" has elsewhere been lik-
ened to gay porn, but fortunately
for its commercial prospects, the
homoeroticism remains merely
suggested - although I suspect
the movie will have more longevi-
ty as hard-breathing camp than as
a battle epic. Whatever the case,
no one who goes to this movie
will be disappointed, exactly, just
conspicuously unmoved. For all
the body parts that go flying in
"300," the one from which the
film could most benefit, a heart,
is not in sight. Our dear Spartans
will be yelling until the end of
time, but before long there will be
no one left to listen.

We know you have an opinion of it. Give it to us at our blog at
michigandaily.com/thefilter Our critics will be there, too.

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