300… was more disappointing than finding out you have 300 days to live
Many people consider their greatest motion picture disappointment of their lives to be Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. I however reserve my greatest theater going movie disappointment to be for a film that I foolishly hyped up for myself, not one that the media hyped up for the whole world (plus I kind of enjoyed the Star Wars prequels).
300 was a film I could not wait for and for good reason. I thought it was going to be a combination of Gladiator, Sin City and the Dawn of the Dead remake. Those are three movies that I absolutely loved when they came out and still feel they hold up very well.
I loved Ridley Scott’s Gladiator. Even though it did not deserve its best picture Oscar it is still a movie I hold in very high regard as a powerful drama with great action and terrific acting. We had many poorer sword-and-sandals “epics” and that word is in quotes for a reason (think Oliver Stone’s Alexander from 2004 just for one example) none had fulfilled the expectation of being as awe-inspiring as Gladiator. What made 300 stand out so much to me was that not only did it look like it had the action and exposition of Gladiator but it was done in the same exciting style of Sin City. In 2005 Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller had created a world inside their motion picture that had a look and style like nothing I had seen before from a film. Add those two elements from movies I loved and put Zack Snyder at the helm and I was sold. Remember, by Spring of 2007 Snyder only had 1 directorial feature film to his credit and it was the very solid update of the zombie classic Dawn of the Dead from 2004. I jumped on the Zack Snyder bandwagon long before most people did as I recognized a very talented commercial filmmaker. With the right talent and script I knew Snyder could deliver the goods as he did with Dawn of the Dead. Unfortunately for me it seemed right as the rest of the world was about to jump on the Snyder bandwagon and make 300 the huge hit that it was, I was ready to jump off and did not care if I broke my legs in a ravine.
On top of all that, it’s theatrical trailer was exactly what spoke to this 23 year old. Great looking action scenes and astounding visuals all set to my favorite Nine Inch Nails (a band I have always loved) instrumental track off my favorite Nine Inch Nails album The Fragile. I was sold.
The fact that going in I knew it was restricted and would have some R-rated violence and nudity was just the icing to the cake. I was expecting Gladiator, with the style and cinematography of Sin City, directed by the man who gave us the frightening and fun Dawn of the Dead remake. I was sold. Ready to see this on opening day, the last thought in my mind was that I would walk out of the theater not happy with 300…
Then the movie started.
Whoever cut the trailer sure knows how to sell a movie. I wish he edited the entire film. What I got was a mean spirited, soulless drag with all style and bad CGI special effects that could not cover up for a bad script.
But the worst part for me was that the whole movie was a guise for republican propaganda in the George W. Bush era to promote the US war on terror. This scene went against all of my principles. Even worse it offended me that it would use a Hollywood movie to justify the deaths of hundreds of innocent young Americans in a war started for unjust reasons. Making this scene even worse was that it was the one original scene in the film that was not in Frank Miller’s graphic novel. This demonstrates the true conservative agenda of this movie and its producers and it did nothing but insult and enrage me. Watch the scene I am describing if you can stomach it.
300 would go onto have a huge opening weekend and become a mammoth hit with audiences at the box office. Zack Snyder is now an auteur of big budget action pictures (most recently last summers Superman reboot Man of Steel) and Gerard Butler is a legitimate movie star.
The “our freedom isn’t free and we must fight and die when out government tells us to” message seemed to go over well with the rest of the country. Even without that scene the movie was sub-par homo-erotic machismo cheese. That was just the moment where I went from being underwhelmed to enraged. To this day 300 remains the most disappointing theater going experience of my life.