The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Spartans battle might be futile but ‘300’ roars to victory

War, the economy, terrorism – these are complicated times we’re living in. But on the bright side, at least you didn’t wake up this morning marked for death with only one option to escape it: surrender. This, however, is exactly where the population of Sparta finds itself in the film adaptation of “300,”a graphic novel by “Sin City” creator Frank Miller.

“300” opens up like a grenade with the pin already pulled and wastes no time in getting to its gritty, beautiful and gloriously violent depictions of a people whose lives are consumed by war. In Sparta, the ethics of “surivival of the fittest” aren’t just a philosophy, they’re a reality. Children are either born as perfectly sculpted killing machines destined to join the army or they are simply thrown off a cliff (Darwin would be proud). Adult warriors pound surviving children into submission through gruesome and bloody fights.

This is their classroom.

It’s a formula that doesn’t just transform boys into men; it turns King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) into the epic leader of a nation of unapologetic, pride-swollen testosterone junkies.

After audiences are brought up to speed with the ethics behind your everyday Spartan, a story about much more than war is masterfully woven when King Leonidas is approached by a messenger of Persian emperor King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro). The messenger offers Sparta a simple ultimatum: either bow to King Xerxes and give over control of Sparta or die. In true Spartan fashion, Leonidas looks back for the approval of his queen (Lena Heade) and without hesitation shouts that Sparta will bow to no one and kills the messenger. This, of course, ensures war will soon occur.

Immediately sending the country into chaos, political elders remind Leonidas he needs their and the gods’ approval to go to war. To appease them, he visits the city’s religious epicenter, the oracle. When Leonidas is told not to go to war by his religious superiors and by those in the city’s government, he does what any Spartan in his position would do: he goes to war.

Director Zach Snyder (“Dawn of the Dead”) superbly adapts Miller’s now-classic graphic novel with jaw-dropping fight sequences that will leave you breathless. “300” is one of the most visually stunning films of the past decade; cinematography performs an operatic explosion of vivid color and gore. Some might write off the glossy, wonderfully original production value as a cheap trick to disguise a film with a seeming perversion for misogynistic carnage. Others might draw false political parallels from the fact that “300” finds westerners (Sparta) fighting the “mysterious” easterners (Persia), but neither could be further from the truth.

It would’ve been incredibly easy to just let movie fall into the shallow trappings of other recent war epics (“Alexander,” “Kingdom of Heaven”), or actually focus the films plot on pretty battle sequences, but luckily “300” is so much more than just a war epic. It’s a study of character. Violence is not the centerpiece, here – it’s politics, ethics and strong performances that are the real life force.

Butler is intense, vulnerable, romantic and unforgiving as Leonidas. Wearing his physique like a costume, he emits the kind of energy reserved for deranged PCP addicts.

It’s easy to see it isn’t just his sense of country and family he is fighting for; it’s his people’s entire way of life.

Santoro is asexual and otherworldly as King Xerxes. Standing almost as tall as the elephants he travels on, he acts without regret or soul, casting a shadow so evil it’s terrifying.

This is easily the best film to have come out so far this year, and you’re only cheating yourself if you buy into some rumor that it’s just some film student’s obsessive project on violence and gore gone horribly wrong.

Instead it’s the best classic study of character and relationship development to come out in recent years.

Oh yeah, and I’d be remiss to not “man up” and mention how much of an adrenaline rush every one-liner and spurt of blood in battle is.

Go see this movie.

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