300 (2006)

(In theaters, March 2007) Prepare to be overwhelmed by manufactured cool! This fantasy action film is a rarity in how it glorifies war and aggression by making it look neater than it’s ever been. Even splatters of blood are used as design elements in a film that’s more a series of violent tableaux than a sustained narrative. (The credit sequence alone is wonderful.) The images, almost all post-processed digitally, show how it’s now possible to film even a wide-screen war epic in a warehouse. The effect is a bit claustrophobic, but the film won’t let you realize that until far too late: the rest of the time, you’ll be pummelled into submission by the loud soundtrack, macho sound bites, constant special effects and almost unbearable self-importance. There’s certainly something here for all the boys and the girls: naked torsos, dripping violence and simple subplots will do much to compensate for the quasi-constant decapitations, shaky-cam cinematography and dumb anachronistic details (such as, ahem, a pre-Roman mention of the month of “August”). It’s all very loud and big and impressive, but I can’t help but reflect that 300 is now a watershed of sorts in my evolution as a moviegoer: For the first time, I’m feeling left behind by a marketing effort addressed to the younger ones. I was never cool, but this film drives the point that I’m forever leaving that particular demographic behind. I’m not sure I’m sad about it if the alternative is movies like 300.

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