If you’ve read any of my previous reviews, you already know this, but I will re-confess anyway that I am a comic book geek. I’m not as rotund as The Simpson’s comic book guy, but I can be equally acerbic. I love all things comic books, be it the actual books, animated series (or cartoons as my wife calls them), and comic book movies both live action and animated.
Which brings me to 300, based on comic book creator Frank Miller’s graphic novel of the same name. Now Miller is one of my favorites, having been responsible for classic comic stories such as The Dark Knight Returns, Daredevil, and Sin City. So far, Miller’s stories have also done fairly well in Hollywood; he wrote and directed the fabulous screen adaptation Sin City, developed the screenplays for Robocops 2 and 3, and will be writing/directing Will Eisner’s The Spirit.
The story takes place in 480 B.C. at the Battle of Thermopylae, where Leonidas (Gerard Butler), the king of Sparta, led his army against the advancing Persians, led by Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro). The battle is said to have inspired all of Greece to band together against the Persians and help usher in the world's first democracy. This tale is told by the only surviving Spartan (played by David Wenham) and has some historical basis.
What really stands out about this film is that director Zack Snyder, who will next tackle Alan Moore’s Watchmen, didn’t just write a film version of the 300 story, he essentially did a shot for shot adaptation of the comic—which is never done.
I loved the movie. The CGI was seamlessly integrated with live action, and it’s visually stunning. Even if I had never read the comic, I would have felt like I did since that’s how good the adaptation is. 300 is a labor of love for Snyder, and it shows.
My only criticism (okay, rant) is not with the movie itself, but the DVD release. I know that studios are in this for the money, but I ask why there needs to be two versions: one a single disc release with director commentary the sole special feature; the other a two-disc special edition with commentary, cut scenes (which anyone who knows me or has read my past reviews are among my favorites of the extras) and more packed into over 90 minutes of special features.
C’mon studio people, be smart! Most people who buy the DVD are going to want the two-disc version. Leave the single disc for rental shops and don’t make it available for general consumer purchase. And don’t even get me started on the formats: standard, Blu-ray, and HD. Pick a format, studios! Don’t make the public have to choose and possibly back a losing format. Didn’t the Beta vs. VHS war teach us anything?
As a movie, 300 is really stunning and adds another winner to the list of Hollywood adaptations of comic books. Sure there are some stinkers out there (Batman & Robin, Catwoman, Superman IV), but 300 is among the greats (Spider-Man, Superman II, Batman Begins, and X-Men)
Grade: Movie A, DVD B-