Thursday, March 08, 2007
Frank Miller's 300
THE GLORIOUS IMMORTALITY OF THE 300
By Reymundo Salao
300 is a film adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novel of the same title which recounts and immortalizes one of the greatest battles in history, the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C., in which 300 Spartans, led by its King Leonidas fought against invading Persian King Xerxes and his massive army of one million soldiers.
300’s epic tale has already been renowned, but Frank Miller intended the graphic novel to make this moment history greater, more immortal, and indeed the film does the same as it brings to life the world of how Frank Miller honors the valiance of the Spartans. Grounded on realism, tweaked by a sense of drama and modern action-film sensibilities, and faithful to Miller's ideas. The movie may not necessarily be historically accurate, but definitely faithful to the graphic novel. Miller was first inspired by the Spartans when he saw the film “300 Spartans” as a kid. By the time he gained his royal status in the comicbook industry by revolutionizing and rewriting the reputation of such characters like Batman, Daredevil, and Wolverine with such a mature and dark approach, he went on to do his research on the Spartans, even traveling to Greece itself to recreate the battle that boasted the reputation of the Spartans. Fast forward to the present, he is the executive producer who is now taking the recounts of history and creating an immortal mythology out of it.
The movie has a distinct cinematographic look and feel that takes you into the world of Frank Miller's 300. Everything has an accurate resemblance to the graphic novel, even done more artfully, as if the pages of the graphic novel itself translated into life reality. There are scenes that look like masterful paintings on canvass come to life. So much so that one can only embrace its full-blown beauty when one watches it in the movie theaters (It would certainly be a waste to watch it on a blurry pirated copy). The world of the 300 movie does not try to take you to an actual academically accurate take on this historical battle, no, it takes you into Miller's version of the Battle instead.
The director Zack Snyder employs basically a familiar style to how Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino approached the adaptation of Frank Miller's other creation, "SIN CITY" which is an outright direct interpretation of the source material, right up from the pages of the comic book and unto film, and we're talking scene-by-scene, color-by-color, tone-by-tone, dialogue-by-dialogue. But Snyder enhances the adaptation by adding relevant details that spice up the movie, from fighting sequence details, to additional villains, to complexities and depth of the storyline. Snyder also co-wrote the screenplay of this movie along with Kurt Johnstad, a screenplay that made the story more meaningful and more poetic. The narrative prose the movie has makes it more classic and timeless.
Zack Snyder may not have pioneered a unique style in this movie. He cannot claim his name on pioneering the visual "cinematographic comic book art-on-film" aspect of it and the employment of slow-motion and fast-motion action scenes, but he certainly uses all these styles with his own disciplined and flawlessly masterful use of such styles.
Gerard Butler's performance as Leonidas was suitable for a man who has the gutsy, unnatural courage, yet true to the virtues of love for country and for freedom. The impact of his powerful acting was suitable to portray such a heroic warrior-king. David Wenham, who's gained popularity as Faramir from Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy, played the role of Dilios, a Spartan warrior and poet by heart, who was also the narrator of this tale. His narration provided a vehicle for such rich prose that this storyline has. Lena Headey's portrayal of Queen Gorgo clearly mirrored Leonidas' courage. While Leonidas fights on the battlefield, Gorgo fights on the arena of politics, a subplot not included in the original graphic novel.
Purists would sometimes complain and argue how comic/graphic novel film adaptations can be so mellowed-down for a generally "pop" crowd, and would tend to deviate from the source material just to conform to popular standards of non-violence and a relatively general patronage. This adaptation of Frank Miller's "300" was not only faithful; it was intensified with a deeper sense of maturity and darkness. It never shied away from the graphic violence of the comics; it even gave the violence gorier detail, making it closer to x-rated violence. Like many war epics, this one is indeed bloody violent. But because of its distinct cinematography, it sometimes blurs the violence into something surreal. Keen observers may, for instance, take note that many of the blood splatter scenes looks as if intentionally looked less realistic and more closer to how the blood splatters in the artworks of the graphic novel from which this movie is based on. This movie is more daring, and that's even an understatement, as it gives a darker storyline in terms of the ones that involve the character of Queen Gorgo, Leonidas' wife. Recaffeinated, a vivid espresso version of the original, this film adaptation is Madness (in a good way), but as the line from the movie goes. "Madness? ...This IS SPARTA!"
There is no conservative inhibitive filtering of the sexual content either, yet it was done in a tasteful artful manner, without the hint of a sense of pornographic malice. There are minor scenes of nudity and sexual content that isn’t in the source material to begin with, but it felt right to include those scenes in a full feature-length film adaptation.
300 has this Nietzsche-ish ubermensch atmosphere, similar to watching movies like “Conan the Barbarian” and “Rambo”. Heroes fearlessly facing insurmountable odds and laughing at it with a confidence that could sometimes be a kind of arrogance, because one is fighting for what is good and honorable. A war epic with a boombastic inspirational strength and bound to be an immortal classic, 300 is looking to become the year’s biggest motion picture event.
The man himself, Frank Miller, on the set of 300