Zack Snyder’s brilliant adaptation of the classic Frank Miller comic goes above and beyond to capture the true spirit of the original work. If one can look through the haze of blood sprayed about by the gratuitous scenes of war and gore Snyder plucks scenes straight out of the comic and generates absolutely stunning visuals. The one page-to-screen transition that truly sticks out to me is the almost effortless grace with which Snyder handles filming a particularly vague and symbolic scene from the comic: young Leonidas’ confrontation with the wolf. He beautifully relies on the stark contrast of the shots of this dark, grisly and almost mystical creature juxtaposed against the swirling snow and blending into the background of the rocky mountainside to evoke in the viewer the simultaneous sense of the imminent danger of the situation, this creature’s terrible power, and Leonidas’ astounding sense of calm and oneness with his environment.
As I watch the movie I couldn’t help but be taken aback by the striking landscape wide shots which were produced for the movie, most of which were a fantastic attempt by Snyder to recreate stills and panels from the comic. In these moments, he utilizes the color and contour of the setting itself (jagged, foreboding cliffs, reddish orange hues of a sunrise over Greece, etc.) to give the viewer the same emotional experience that they would receive from reading the comic. Aside from the visuals, Snyder manages to keep a movie that could have easily become an orgy of senseless violence and self-indulgent gore rooted in Frank Miller’s core theme of the selfless Spartan devotion to the ideals and values of a society based not on the fearful obedience of slaves but on the ingenuity, willpower, and strength of free men.