Commentary Commentary

Sunday, February 10, 2008


Plot synopsis: Half-naked bodybuilders slash, stab, maim, and dismember a whole lot of people. Oh yeah, and some token speeches about freedom are given. But really, we’re all just here for the carnage.

Voices behind the commentary curtain: director Zach Snyder, writer Kurt Johnstad and director of photography Larry Fong.

Summary: Director Zach Snyder and friends take us on an in-depth technical discussion of how the visual magic of 300 was accomplished.

Commentary: Let’s face it – most people probably didn’t go to see 300 for the plot. They went for the amazing visual effects and general testosterone pumping action. And 300 delivers that in spades.

Zach Snyder leads the commentary, with Kurt Johnstad and Larry Fong occasionally contributing. The group focuses almost exclusively on the technical challenges of bringing Frank Miller’s vision to the screen, with little to no discussion of storyline or characters. Normally that would be off-putting, but since a large part of this movie’s appeal revolves around the stunning visual effects it makes sense in this case. The first time I saw this movie, a lot of my comments were “How did they DO that?” so it was certainly interesting to hear which scenes were CGI only, how they accomplished visual tricks like making Xerxes a giant, and so forth.

Snyder does a capable job discussing these matters, though the tone is largely academic. The commentary feels a bit dry, and after 2 hours, it feels a bit repetitive. For example, the director discusses composing the sky in the background on at least 5 different occasions. While they do on occasion mention the historical story that inspired the graphic novel and film, it’s mostly quick comments such as “Oh, that line really was said, according the historians.” I would have like to hear more reflection on where the story deviated from history, especially since the film has a strong sentiment of “Let’s fight for freedom for all men!” which is ironic, given that the criteria for Spartan citizenship meant that most people living had no rights of citizenship (there were 8 slaves for every 1 Spartan man). Overall, the commentary was interesting in spots, but ultimately not riveting.

The Verdict: A decent and informative, if dry, commentary. Recommended only for fans who enjoy learning about the technical aspects of filmmaking. Final Grade: B


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