A different take on the legendary story of the 300 Spartans will premiere in two months
The film, starring Scottish actor Gerard Butler as Leonidas, is a frame-by-frame screen adaptation of the comic book of ‘300,’ which circulated in five issues in 1998.
By Panayiotis Panagopoulos - Kathimerini
In another two months, Greeks are sure to witness another clash between the big movie industry and local critics. Following Oliver Stone’s “Alexander,” Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain” and Wolfgang Petersen’s “Troy,” there are plenty of people here who feel they know what should and shouldn’t be allowed to be shown on the silver screen.
This time round the debate will revolve around a number: 300. But, this is not just any number: It refers to the 300 Spartan warriors led by Leonidas in the 480 BC battle of Thermopylae, told in a Gothic heavy-metal version of the tale, directed by Zack Snyder (“Dawn of the Dead”) and designed by Miller, the man behind great comics such as “Sin City.”
How many Greeks are prepared to see a Xerxes who is black, bald and covered in body and face piercings, Ephialtes as a hunchback and rhinos running across Thermopylae to the music of Nine-Inch Nails? The film may not be 100 percent true to history but it is 100 percent true to Miller’s style. He says that despite the liberties he has taken, he is quite familiar with the story of Leonidas and has tremendous respect for it. “There is a scene where the Persian emissary asks for a gift of land and water. A Spartan leads him to a well and throws him in. This scene, like most others in the book, is exactly the same as it is told,” says Miller. “The Spartans behaved this way to tyrants.” Why did he choose to tell this chapter of Greek history? “Because it’s the best story I have ever laid my hands on.”
The comic book of “300” circulated in five issues in 1998. Five years later, it was slated to become a film, with Snyder in the director’s chair and Miller acting as consultant and coproducer. The film is a frame-by-frame screen adaptation of the comic books. This accounts for the fact that the trailer, which has already gone into circulation (on www.300themovie.warnerbros.com), has such a strong sense of being drawn, with effects that resemble video games. The film “300,” starring Scottish actor Gerard Butler, is not aimed at telling a historically accurate story. It is a spectacle, and an impressive one at that, that uses every new technology at its disposal and simply bases itself on the story of Leonidas.
The film’s budget reached an impressive $60 million and it was shot exclusively with the actors performing against digital screens on which the effects were added later. The digitally created image of the film has also been made into a video game titled “300: March to Glory,” which is to be launched on the same date as the film, while stores will soon have action figures of the characters as well.
There is little doubt that “300” will have Greek purists screaming for blood as soon as it hits movie theaters, but whether they like this style of film or not, the genre is here to stay. “Sin City 2,” the sequel to the noir thriller directed by Miller and Robert Rodriguez – with the help of Quentin Tarantino as special guest director – made Miller a household name.
In the world of comics, however, Miller, now aged 49, has nothing to prove; his status is already legendary. World literature and Japanese cinema, especially the masterpieces of Akira Kurosawa, have deeply influenced the American artist’s work and this is reflected in his dark, personalized style of drawing and his references to the art of the manga Japanese comics.
Born in Maryland and raised in Vermont, Miller was like so many other teenagers of his time, growing up on the stories of superheroes such as Batman and Superman. However, even though he loved these comic books, he was annoyed by the heroes’ one-dimensional characters. For several years, he put down comics and began watching movies and reading books instead. Miller’s earliest foray into the world of television was in 1978 for “The Twilight Zone.” His first hit came when he wrote and penciled several series of Marvel Comic’s “Daredevil,” the film version of which, starring Ben Affleck, was a box-office flop. Even though Miller had not created Daredevil himself, he nurtured and developed him further.
Miller’s first independent work was the hit miniseries “Ronin” in the mid-1980s, while in 1986 he relaunched Batman and a series of stories about how the Caped Crusader survives the death of Robin. Ever since, Miller has continued to develop this character, updating him constantly and involving him in contemporary stories.
However, Miller’s success is not just seen in the work he has signed himself, but in the work of others who are inspired by him as well. The new-era Batman, as presented and directed by Christopher Nolan in the 2005 “Batman Begins,” was clearly drawn from Miller’s Gothic atmosphere, in contrast to previous Batman films that were glossier and glitzier.
Last year’s “V for Vendetta,” directed by James McTeigue and based on the comic book by David Lloyd, gives the impression that it would not have reached such a big, wide audience had it not been preceded by “Sin City” by just a year.
Even the clean-cut Spider-Man, whose latest film is coming out in the spring, will this time be a bit darker and moodier, in step with the public demand for a darker atmosphere.