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300

Long ago there reigned a clan of Speedo-wearing, militaristic psychopaths called the Spartans. They lived beneath a copper-colored sky, on a copper-colored land, amid copper-colored fields, in copper-colored homes made from copper-colored stone. Legend has it they would outline their copper-colored pecs and abs with ash to enhance their manly buffness, and yet these were men of action and honor, not “philosophers and boy lovers” like their namby-pamby rivals the Athenians. Such machismo was memorialized by Frank Miller in 300, his graphic-novel retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae, in which the titular quantity of Spartan studs fended off a billion gazillion Persian invaders. Marshaling the full resources of high-end computer imaging and the full capacities of hardcore fan-boy nerditude, writer-director Zack Snyder (he of the unexpectedly decent Dawn of the Dead remake) has now brought Miller’s book to “life.” Slathering pancake makeup on its actors, then pasting them into digital backgrounds, 300 takes the synthetic blockbuster one step closer to total animation; its bland, weightless monochromatics make Sin City look like the grungiest neo-realism. It’s a ponderous, plodding, visually dull picture that escapes inertia only in certain action scenes, of which there are enough to satisfy the action-buff blood lust the film seeks to aggravate and sate. Here and there, Snyder makes good use of the lesson of The Matrix, slowing the slices, dices and decapitations to a digitally calibrated crawl, the better to relish all 360 degrees of their stupendous ass-kickery. Tolerate the lobotomized dialogue and some half-assed political intrigues and you’ll find a good 10 minutes of 300 worth posting on YouTube. Delicacies of dismemberment aside, 300 is notable for its outrageous sexual confusion. At first glance, the terms couldn’t be clearer: macho white guys vs. effeminate Orientals. Yet aside from the fact that the Spartans come across as pinched, pinheaded gym bunnies, it’s their flesh the movie worships. At once homophobic and homoerotic, 300 is finally, and hilariously, just hysterical. (Citywide)

—Nathan Lee


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