A whole lot of blue screen aint so bad anymore. Toronto's premiere screening of 300 was last night at the Scotiabank Theatre and Sheila, along with the AnimeXtreme gang, was there to see it.
The screening was set for 9pm but a huge lineup had formed inside the theatre by 7pm. At the same time, a car outside with a huge 300 poster ad did its rounds, cruising past the theatre. The movie passes said something along the lines of, "come dressed as a Spartan and get in for free!" but with the snowy weather we've been having, nobody was able to come in a toga or armor.
At 8:30pm everyone was finally let in and around 9pm free t-shirts were thrown into the audience. Hungry freeloaders quickly snapped them up. UFC Light Heavyweight Champion "The Iceman" Chuck Lidell was also there to check out the premiere.
Based on Frank Miller's graphic novel of the same title, 300 tells the story of the battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. where King Leonidas of Sparta took 300 of his best men to fight the Persian armies. But the story behind this movie is not what we were there for.
300 combines live action with special effects and backgrounds that render the film to emulate the original comic artwork. With a soundtrack that combines haunting vocals and heavy metal to punctuate scenes as necessary, the result is a visual and aural masterpiece that makes this the must-see-ten-times movie of the year.
You'd think that a movie shot entirely in blue screen would be easy to make. Minutes into 300, I was stunned by how polished the choreography and special effects were. To say that the movie was a comic book coming to life on the screen would be an understatement. A lot of great comic book adaptations have been made but none have ever so faithfully captured the visual direction and paneling. Director Zack Snyder wasn't joking when he said that making this movie was hard.
During battles, everyone in the audience had no trouble keeping up with what was going on. In several long seamless takes that captured the action, dozens of warriors fought at the same time. The camera would speed up, slow down, rotate, and change zoom levels to help the audience focus on exactly what the director wanted.
I must say that this is the most recent action film that allowed me to have an appetite. I had popcorn while people's heads were being cut off, grotesque looking monsters were being stabbed in the eye and various other "ew" things were happening. Most of the gore in 300 was implied and not in your face, letting you focus on the movie rather than your gag reflexes.
With Dilios narrating the picturesque scenes as necessary, nothing went unexplained. In minutes we watched as King Leonidas transformed from newborn baby to certified bad ass - and not once did we spend time trying to figure out what had just happened. We were only anticipating what would happen next. We were completely enthralled.
The pace quickly built up and the audience grew accustomed to the world of 300. What was considered pandemonium a moment ago is soon forgotten because things would just get crazier. Spartans would be making mince meat out of dead Persians one minute and pushing huge elephants off a cliff the next. Whenever something inconceivably insane happened, we would just want more.
And 300 gave more. The enemies were getting bigger, the women were getting freakier, and King Xerxes' piercings were grossing us out. For every crazy beast the Persians would bring, we just wanted to see Team Sparta in Phalanx formation tearing it to pieces.
If I had to choose, my favorite sequence has to be the Oracle Girl. The whole audience was fixated by the drunken redhead who danced to seek the will of the gods. She moved in a hypnotic gravity-defying way, the scene was shot underwater but it was made to look like it was not.
Conversations during the movie were to the point but some of it was oddly modernized. This often shattered the image of 300 being a historical retelling. It's more likely that certain modern phrases were left in on purpose to get the right reactions out of the audience. On the bright side, the dialogue had some noteworthy dark humor to ease the tension.
Most of the talking in the movie was during scenes with King Leonidas' wife, Queen Gorgo. We expected Gorgo's character to be a modern feminist who was out of place. Instead, we were surprised when she turned out to be a supportive Sparta Queen who knew her place very well. We couldn't help but cheer when she took matters into her own hands.
I just wish the movie went on longer. At 117 minutes in, everyone was anticipating another epic battle as the scene shifted to 10,000 Spartans who were preparing to war. Instead we got the ending credits.
Still, everyone in the audience nodded their heads in agreement when the flashy credits sequence rolled. The general consensus was "it rocked."
Zack Snyder said he wanted to make something cool. I beg to differ. He made something awesome.
300 will be released in both conventional and IMAX theaters on March 9, 2007.