‘This is Sparta’

Arguably one of early 2007’s most eagerly anticipated films is Zack Snyder’s “300.” An adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel of the same name, “300” is stylistically cut from the same cloth as the last film adapted from Miller’s work, 2005’s film noir throwback “Sin City.

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By Tyler Davidson

Gerard Butler stars in “300”. (Warner Bros. Pictures)

By Tyler Davidson

Arguably one of early 2007’s most eagerly anticipated films is Zack Snyder’s “300.” An adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel of the same name, “300” is stylistically cut from the same cloth as the last film adapted from Miller’s work, 2005’s film noir throwback “Sin City.”

“300” takes place around 480 B.C., and depicts the epic Battle of Thermopylae. At the battle, King Leonidas I, the powerful and heroic king of Sparta, allies 300 Spartans with several Greek city-states in fighting the invading Persian forces, led by the self-proclaimed “god-king,” King Xerxes. The army faces impossible odds and decides to block what’s called “the Hot Gates,” the only passage available to the Persian army.

“300” goes to great lengths to present (somewhat) an accurate portrayal of what the battle may have looked like, not only including the set design and special effects, but also the actors themselves. The men in the film, having to portray warriors at the height of physical fitness and preparation for battle, underwent rigorous training regiments in order to look the part.

One of “300’s” considerable strong points is its cast. While moviegoers will probably not have heard of the bulk of the actors in the film, most will know of the likes of Gerard Butler (Leonidas), who recently made waves in 2004’s big screen adaptation of “The Phantom of the Opera.” Butler’s on-screen foil, Rodrigo Santoro (Xerxes), a somewhat new face to American audiences, has only been seen on the big screen in “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle” and “Love Actually.” However, Santoro is quickly making a name for himself, as last year he joined the cast of “Lost” for its third season.

Joining Butler and Santoro on-screen will be Dominic West and David Wenham, playing a Spartan politician named Theron (a character that is notably absent in the graphic novel that the film was based on) and Dilios, a Spartan warrior who narrates the film, respectively. West may be remembered most notably as the original lead singer of Steel Dragon in 2001’s “Rock Star,” where Wenham garnered the most fame portraying Faramir in the second and third installments of the epic “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

“300” is an absolutely beautiful film from start to finish. Since it is narrated by Dilios, a storyteller, some liberties are taken with the less realistic aspects of the Battle, and as such, things are seen that can only be imagined. For instance, the Persian armies employ the use of giant mammoths to crush their opposition, and those who can not succeed on the battlefield are beheaded by a frightening creature with blades for arms, at the behest of King Xerxes. These incredible effects are flawlessly portrayed on the big screen, and should be magnified tenfold for the film’s IMAX counterpart.

Director Zack Snyder has admitted to changing around historical consistencies in order to make the picture more palatable to the general moviegoing public (due to the aforementioned point of view.) Elements such as the fighting styles employed by the warriors in “300,” most notably the Spartans, have been altered in order to, according to Snyder, “look cool,” and work more effectively to impress the audience.

An unexpected strong point of the picture is its soundtrack. It juxtaposes the haunting choruses befitting of the time period with modern musical elements like blaring electric guitars to create a unique effect not seen in many period pieces. The score, composed by Tyler Bates (“The Devil’s Rejects”; “Slither”), serves to pump up the audience during battle scenes, and draw on their emotions during the more somber situations.

“300” is Zack Snyder’s sophomore effort, his first being 2004’s horror remake, “Dawn of the Dead.” Snyder has succeeded on all fronts, and has crafted an incredible picture that will surely prove to be one of the best of this year.

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