Director/screenwriter Zack Snyder delivers exactly what is expected in the "300", two hours of unrelenting violence bathed in spectacular, monochromatic visual effects. The plot, and I use that term loosely, is based on the legendary Battle of Thermopylae in ancient Greece. The Spartan king, Leonidas (Gerard Butler), leads three hundred men against the million plus army of Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), the Persian king. Leonidas refuses to bow before Xerxes and takes a stand for all of Greece. He traps the Persians in a narrow pass, inflecting tremendous casualties on the invading horde.
Based on Frank Miller's graphic novel, the "300" has enough hideous monsters, stabbing, beheading, and disemboweling to satisfy the most bloodthirsty action fan. The problem is that the action is basically the same throughout the entire film. This is compounded by Snyder's overuse of slow motion. I like sword fights as much as the next guy, but every sword fight in the "300" is incredibly similar. It becomes tedious to see the same fight played over and over again by different characters. There's simply no build-up to a climactic scene. Snyder tries to break up the monotony with a semblance of storyline concerning Leonidas's wife, but he's overly committed to the action and makes no effort for real drama.
The color saturation effect gives the "300" a unique look that is truly brilliant. Cinematographer Larry Fong and his production design team are really the stars of this film. Every CGI image is seamlessly blended into the dark hues of Sparta. They do an incredible job of recreating Frank Miller's bloody vision. Fans of the graphic novel will not be disappointed by the special effects and make-up. Xerxes in particular is a wonder to behold. Clad in metal and covered in piercings, Rodrigo Santoro's sinewy frame is enhanced to tower over every actor and creature in the film.
My lukewarm response to the "300" lies in Zack Snyder's waste of his lead actor's talent. Gerard Butler is the star of this film. His ultra-ripped physique is astonishing and he swings a mighty sword; but I can't help but feel his acting prowess was criminally underused here. Butler's a very good actor. His performance is basically one note because that is what Snyder wanted. There's so much more that could have been done to add humanity and complexity to Leonidas. This is the reason why the "300" will only appeal to the die-hard action fan. Snyder could have had a wider audience if he'd bothered to work on the inherent drama of the situation with as much vigor as the action. "300" explodes off the screen in IMAX. It is the only way to see this epic picture.