My piece on 300 is in this week’s Time. You can shell out for the print edition, or you can enjoy its pallid digital ghost here.
I knew I wanted to write about 300 the minute I saw the trailer — the minute I saw the shot where the Spartans are slowly, inexorably backing the Persians off a seaside ledge — bodies tumble off the ledge in slow motion, backlit by a big white sun, as if you’re watching some kind of Indonesia shadow-puppetry. It’s both horrifying and hypnotically beautiful at the same time. It was just too weird not to write about.
Plus I’m interested in digital backlot filmmaking. I really think we’re watching a fundamental change in the way cinematic images get made. There’s just a handful of extreme examples now — the Star Wars prequels (esp the second two), Sky Captain, Sin City, and now 300. (Not to mention Star Wreck.) But it’s only getting cheaper and easier and better. I don’t actually think this stuff produces better movies — they have an odd, glossy, almost too-perfect feel to them — but it definitely produces different ones. And sure, a lot of ink has been spilled about this stuff already — but is it enough, I asked myself. And have the people heard my take?
[On a personal, embarrassing note. You’ll note that I only quote one actor in the piece, Lena Headey, who plays Queen Gorgo. I also interviewed Gerard Butler, the Scottish guy who plays Leonidas, King of the Spartans. He was a great interview, very funny and smart. Physically imposing though he is, he’s actually something of a fanboy, and he talked to me for way longer than he had to. Anyway, afterwards I did something I’ve never done since I became a journalist: I deleted the audio file off my cheap, crappy old digital recorder. My attempts to recover the data failed. I’m trying to be resilient and move past this humiliating tragedy, but it still dogs me.]