In a business where most authors consider themselves lucky to have even a shadow of their work brought intact to the screen, comic artist Frank Miller somehow rang the cherries. 2005’s Sin City, the first real adaptation of Miller’s work (we’ll all agree to forget Daredevil, okay?) set new standards for adherence to its source material, right down to Xeroxing the placement of individual blood droplets. While such faithfulness was great in theory, it quickly proved itself wearying in practice. The thing is (and this is speaking as a fan), Miller’s work is such a jacked-up, overly cinematic compendium of high points, that transferring it to a moving image runs the risk of blowing the circuits.
Zack Snyder’s 300, an adaptation of Miller's celebrated mid-’90s miniseries, might be even more devoted to its source material than Sin City. Visceral, splatter-tastic, and screamingly homoerotic, it’s basically a splash-panel money shot sustained for two solid hours.
After a while, all of the excess, however glorious, just gets, well, excessive. (For the definitive piss-take on Miller’s particular brand of barely clad macho, look no further than Seattle cartoonist Jim Massey’s gloriously condensed version). By the end, I didn't know which I wanted more: a cigarette; or, like, a whole bottle of aspirin.
Shot almost entirely against blue-screen—all the better to replicate Miller’s signature tiger-stripe color schemes—300 takes a wildly expressionistic recounting of 480 B.C.’s Battle of Thermopylae, where a bare handful of Spartans took a stand against the invading Persian hordes. Led by King Leonidis (Gerard Butler, channeling Sean Connery like mad), they fend off legions of ever-more-freakish attackers, until the seas and sands run tan with bronzer. Director/co-writer Snyder (previously responsible for the surprisingly cool remake of Dawn of the Dead) fleshes out the material a tad, mainly with a subplot involving the political machinations of Leonidis’s Queen (Lena Headey) back in Sparta, but otherwise remains totally locked into Miller’s cranked-to-11 conception of ultimate combat, where the manliest of men—all buffed, shaved, and simonized within an inch of their lives—took on all comers and asked, pantingly, for more. Stand down, Showgirls; a new shining star of queer cinema has been erected.