First, the good news: Zack Snyder's 300 arrives today on DVD, where its amazing visual scheme meshes more seamlessly in the home digital realm than it did with that pesky analog film element getting in the way. Like a more colorful, daylit Sin City, Snyder lacquers a computer-generated sheen over the film, thereby rendering the humans and the special effects on the same plane. No more actors glossily staring into the distance while an imaginary bad guy hovers over them; now everyone plays on an equal field. To that end, Snyder wisely avoids the usual shaky-cam technique that most directors use for their action sequences. Generally, untrained, untalented directors use this to purposely obscure their action sequences, lest the audience realize that they don't know what they're doing. With complete control of every blow, slice and decapitation, Snyder shoots with a clean, slick, almost graceful energy, highlighting and celebrating the movement of battle. My hope is that, if this movie inspires anyone to do anything, it will be to give up the shaky-cam forever and shoot more action sequences this clearly.
Onto the bad news: 300 is dangerously stupid, and its overwhelming popularity takes a disturbing x-ray of the country's mood at the moment. Its painful dialogue -- by Snyder, Kurt Johnstad and Michael B. Gordon, based on Frank Miller and Lynn Varley's comic book -- blurts forth with a swaggering, self-important bluster, like so many humorless frat boys challenging one another at drinking contests. Everything that's said comes across as earth-shatteringly important, as if these characters from the year B.C. 480 were fully aware of how they would place in history books (even though, arguably, none of them ever saw a history book). To be certain of that, David Wenham is on hand as a soldier who narrates the tale with pomp and bravado. It's a pretty simplistic tortoise-versus-hare story: three hundred Spartan warriors, led by King Leonidas (Gerard Butler), face off against thousands of Persian soldiers, led by the evil Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro). The bravery of the few manages (for the most part) to ward off the arrogance of the many.