Film review: 300

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(15) Dir Zack Snyder US 2006.

As the leonine David St Hubbins of Spinal Tap once said, there’s a fine line between clever and stupid. In modern cinema, the line between films and computer games is also becoming almost indistinguishably fine and this film staggers between very clever and very stupid at regular turns.

As an adaptation of Frank ‘Sin City’ Miller’s 1998 graphic novel about the 480BC battle of Thermopylae, 300 tells the bloody tale of the 300 Spartan warriors who fought Xerxes’ vast Persian army. Like Sin City, this combines live action with digitally created backgrounds and visually it’s very clever, very stylish and, at times, looks like nothing you’ve ever seen before. But CGI wizardry only takes it so far: for a tale that sets out to depict valiant heroism, it never really feels stirring or passionate. It just feels like you’re watching your little cousin play a very smart computer game.

That might be a bit harsh on Gerard Butler who is solid as King Leonidas (despite playing the Greek hero in a Scottish accent) while Lena Headey is more than fine as his no-nonsense wife. After that, however, it’s just a lot of semi-naked men sticking their big swords into each other and stumbling through a plot as basic as that in an adult movie.

Gladiator and Braveheart meets Lord Of The Rings with Sin City graphics, was probably how it was pitched and on paper that sounds fantastic – and in Frank Miller’s graphic novel, it really was – but done like this it’s flat and emotionless. In years to come we suspect it will be considered a kitsch classic for its buff men in leather Speedos and red capes complementing each other on a ‘good thrust’, and the cross dressing Xerxes demanding people kneel before him, but right now it feels distinctly lacking.

For Time Out magazine – click here for original PDF – 300 Film review

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