By Ray Bennett
Federico Fellini famously made his glorious films with no sound and added voices and Foley in post-production. In his new comic-book film “300,” director Zack Snyder apparently has shot only the actors and added everything else in post.
The result is a cold and sterile piece of work that resembles a series of those glossy painted plates that are sold on TV as keepsakes except these show people with spears and arrows sticking out of them and bits missing, such as heads.
Because it’s so completely artificial, the violence is not repulsive as it is in Martin Scorcese’s grubby little gangster picture “The Departed,” nor is it visceral as in Mel Gibson’s thrilling chase film “Apocalypto.” And it’s not scary at all. It’s just silly.
Teenaged boys obviously flocked en masse to see “300” when it opened in the U.S. on the weekend but watching it on London’s vast IMAX screen tonight suggested it’s not something for grownups.
There’s nothing a computer graphics person can do to fill a frame the way nature does and the clumsy swathes of sea, mountains and battlefields look crude and lifeless compared to even oil paintings.
It’s all of a piece, however. The acting is as bad as the music. Gerard Butler (below left with Rodrigo Santoro as Xerxes) keeps screaming about being a Spartan but the angrier his King Leonidas gets, the more he sounds like a Glaswegian on a rowdy Saturday night. And when his soldiers chant their war cry in unison, they sound just like soccer hooligans on a tear. There are some truly ugly characters including one scarred, grunting giant (Robert Maillet as Uber Immortal, left) whose breath looks as blood curdling as his swirling blades.
It might be fun, perhaps, if it weren’t so boring. I was very pleased that I didn’t have to write a formal review of “300,” which Warner Bros. releases in the U.K. on March 23. The seats in the rafters at IMAX are very comfortable and perfect for a snooze.
One thing that’s not come up much in the film’s publicity is that with all those near-naked male bodies bonding in battle and death, “300” is also quite camp, as The Hollywood Reporter’s Gregg Kilday points out in THR’s Risky Biz blog:
“It probably passed over the heads of many of the fan boys, but before you could say “Don’t ask, don’t tell the Spartans,” a debate began percolating up all over the web over just how gay “300” is … now that the movie’s open, a lot of gay reaction has been positively ecstatic.”