Let me shout this from the very top of the review, as the doomed king Leonidas and his Spartans are so fond of doing: I DIDN'T ENJOY 300!
There, I've said it. I can hide my controversial opinion no longer. An army of fans - enough to put the fear of God in old Xerxes himself - is no doubt marching this way even as I write this. My review comes a little late to the party thanks to my location (why does the UK get everything last?), and it's easy to attack something that's met with success in order to court controversy, or do something different; but I can't help the fact that, for me, a large part of Zack Snyder's creation doesn't make for very entertaining cinema.
For the record: I'm a fan of the original graphic novel, and a fan of Frank Miller in general. I'm also a fan of Zack Snyder, given that he took on a terribly unpopular idea - remaking Dawn of the Dead - and produced a damn fine movie as a result. There are moments in Snyder's zombie apocalypse that throb with a visceral ferocity, and I had high hopes for 300. But that's always my curse: high hopes = low opinion.
A note to the reader: at this point things get a bit spoilery. I'm assuming that, by now, pretty much everyone's seen 300. If you've not, I'd recommend stopping at this point and coming back when you've been to your local multiplex and made your own mind up. And with that out of the way...
There are so many things wrong with 300; so many irritating elements that detract from what could have been a glorious whole. The ferocity that existed within Dawn is, despite all the violence, missing from 300. Limbs are severed, blood is spilled, and many a beefcake is pierced by a Persian arrow. The problem is: none of it seems real, none of it makes an impact. It's the overuse of CGI that's largely to blame: you can't make computer generated blood look the same way as real blood, it doesn't stain the clothes and skin, it doesn't splatter, it just sprays unenthusiastically, unsubstantially. It's the same with severed limbs; prosthetics give a real sense of ouch when blade meets flesh, but the lightweight CGI limb removal in 300 just doesn't hurt.
It seems that the battle sequences are supposed to evoke emotion and feel powerful simply because they're sped up and slowed down at will by Snyder. While the choreography is at times impressive - one particular sequence sees Leonidas dispatching numerous identikit Persian assailants in a single take - the insistence on messing with the speed robs these scenes of any power. Stylistically they do their job - show slow-mo Spartan violence like never before - but I found myself unable to be enthralled by it.