The View From Here

Spartans, serial killers and superheroes

Michael Bonner

The big film this week is 300, director Zack Snyder’s gory and rabid retelling of the battle of Thermopylae, where 300 brave Spartan soldiers faced down the massed ranks of the mighty Persian Empire in 480BC.

300 is based on a graphic novel by Frank Miller, who also created Sin City. Here, Snyder opts for a similar stylistic treatment, replicating Miller’s original comic book almost shot for shot.

UNCUT contributor Jonathan Romney nailed it when he described 300 as “the kind of film Leni Riefenshtahl would have made if she had access to CGI.” It’s buffed, pumped-up chaps armed to the teeth with swords, spears and arrows killing each other in the most brutal and sadistic manner possible. Despite the bodycount and liberal blood-letting, you can’t quite take it entirely seriously – there’s a certain campery behind the carnage, Snyder’s increasingly beserk direction lending the whole thing a decidedly preposterous air. Needless to say, it’s great fun, if rather silly – there’s something pre-pubscent about the gleeful manner Snyder (and Miller) approach the Spartans’ suicide mission.

As a comic book writer, Miller’s responsible for one of the genre’s stone-cold greats. The Dark Knight Returns, which reimagined Batman as a testosterone-fuelled psycho driving round an apocalyptic Gotham City in what basically passed for a tank. It's equalled only by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen, a vast, conspiracy-laden whodunit featuring a cast of fucked-up superheroes - which is Snyder’s next project. An onerous task, as it’s lain in development hell for over a decade now.

Gerard Butler, who plays Spartan king Leonidas in 300, is rumoured to be playing as Snake Plissken in a prequel to John Carpenter’s Escape From New York. I’ll let you know more about that soon as.

I caught an early preview of Zodiac this week, the new film from Fight Club and Seven director David Fincher. It’s based on the Zodiac killings in San Francisco that began in the late Sixties. It’s a serial killer film like Seven, sure, but Fincher claims to have some personal investment here – he was raised in nearby Marin County when the killings began.

What’s good: Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jnr as the two newspaper men, and Mark Ruffalo as the cop assigned to the case, who gradually develop extreme obsessions with the case. Great performances, especially Downey, who looks uncannily like Pacino in Serpico. In fact, the attention to period detail – and the keynote movies of that time – are fantastic.

What’s not: the historical circumstances behind the police investigation, sadly, don’t lend themselves to a punchy, third act confrontation and easy narrative resolution.

Anway, next week I’ll let you know how 28 Weeks Later shapes up – the sequel to Danny Boyle’s zombie film 28 Days Later. And there’s also the small matter of Boyle’s latest – Sunshine


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