Great artistic effects, pretty good spectacle...
Warner Bros. Home Video has released the Full-Screen edition of the stunning movie 300. Frank Miller adaptations are on a roll. First we got "Sin City," and now we have the story of three hundred Spartans who repelled a massive invasion.
And the adaptation of "300" is a stunning one -- literally stunning, since it bombards the viewer with larger-than-life characters, smashing visuals and tight direction. It goes a bit too fast for its own good, but it's a truly epic film that takes the historical war movie to another level -- all the more so because it actually happened.
As the introduction tells us, the Spartans were the ultimate warrior people. Babies were inspected for weakness or faults, and killed if they had any; as they were growing up, they were taught and toughened by a savage regimen. Their only true hope was to "die beautifully" for their land. A Persian messenger arrives, telling King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) that the god-king Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) wants the Spartans to bow to him. Leonidas' response: shove the Persians into a pit. But before he can go to war, he must consult the corrupt priesthood of Ephors and their beautiful Oracle. She predicts that Sparta will fall and the gods forbid war at the approach of the Carneaian festival -- courtesy of a hefty bribe from a Spartan traitor.
Listening to this soundtrack at full blast one often feels as if the Spartan and Persian forces are coming right at you, then ferociously pummeling your eardrums--and this is meant as a compliment. Tyler Bates's score is basically a modern update of the battle classic to end all battle classics: Carl Orff's Carmina Burana. On the opening cue "To Victory," Bates throws in everything he's got: powerful choral singing, massive percussion (you can almost feel the weight of those Japanese taiko drums), and of course an otherworldly female voice. All these elements are then parceled out over the following tracks, taking turns to dominate the cues, and sometimes coming together again in majestic shows of force--the music can sound absolutely humongous at times ("Submission," "Come and Get Them," "A God King Bleeds"). The most interesting development is the use throughout of electronic treatment; even when the technique is applied subtly, it's very efficient in adding a spooky dimension to the album's very sonic texture. And while you'd think an electric guitar would feel incongruous in a movie set in 480 BC, it actually injects a screaming sense of urgency into a track such as "The Hot Gates." As for that aforementioned female voice, it belongs to Iranian-born, L.A.-based Azam Ali (of the duo Vas), who makes essential contributions on tracks like "Cursed by Beauty" and "Goodbye My Love."
Epic, emotional and inventive describe the action drama 300 and also its score. Written and produced by Tyler Bates (Dawn of the Dead, Rob Zombie's The Devil's Rejects, and Slither), Music From The Motion Picture 300 boasts a sweeping palette, embracing a tonal foundation unfamiliar to studio films. Orchestral and choral, 300 features the haunting, exotic vocals of Azam Ali, featured in world music groups Niyaz and Vas.
The Warner Bros. Home Video release 300 is available from Amazon.com.
The soundtrack on Warner Bros. Records is also availble on Amazon.com.