The world of swords and sandals is pumped up to the extreme with 300, a testosterone-tinged tale that's been operatically translated from the page to the screen for the action-hungry masses by director Zack Snyder. Adapting Frank Miller's comic series must not have been easy. First and foremost, the books were pure eye candy. Printed in full horizontal splash pages brought to breathtaking life by Lynn Varley's brush strokes, each issue demanded your eye-time first, then paid it off with Miller's typical tough prose later. That same dialogue figures prominently in the film -- in fact, much of the screen and page line up wondrously, even if the film does include its share of deviations. The extra bits of action are welcomed -- armored rhinos are a nice touch, as is the giant chained Persian that's unleashed on the Spartans. However, the added subplot involving the queen has raised a few eyebrows, if only because of the questionable pro-right-wing politics it contains. Snyder himself has shrugged off much of this criticism, although even he cannot deny that this is one of the lone Hollywood products of its time to align itself to such a troubled administration.
Some moviegoers might also feel a bit uninvolved in the action simply because the tale is as direct as it is. With little context for most of the characters, the whole thing runs the chance of simply being a song-and-dance number made up of quick-to-slow shots of steel, blood, and open-throated yelling. But really, there's not much wrong with that, just as long as that's something the ticket holders are craving. Stodgy critics have compared it to video-game filmmaking, but it's far better to view it as a stylish exercise in how to bring Miller's work to the big screen in a way that's never been seen before -- just as Robert Rodriguez did with Sin City. In that way, Snyder has achieved what he set out to do. Now it's time for him to apply the skills learned here on something that will ignite the same kind of fire in audiences that Leonidas instilled in his troops.