Immortals has a 38%.
So, by the numbers, 300 is better. But, of course, numbers don't tell all.
Director: Tarsem Singh
Theseus: Henry Cavil
Bad guy (Hyperion): Mickey Rourke
Attractive female love interest: Freida Pinto
Zeus: Luke Evans
Comes along for the ride for no discernible reason: Stephen Dorff
Actually looks like a Goddess, which is funny because she played Athena: Isabel Lucas
Old guy that stands way too close to the kid at the end of the movie: John Hurt
Whiney, pretentious trader who is really passive when it comes to getting his testicles smashed: Joseph Morgan
Minotaur: Robert Maillet
Poseidon: Kellan Lutz
Helios: Peter Stebbings
Ares: Daniel Sharman
Apollo: Cory Sevier
(I only listed all the Gods because their fight scenes were so awesome)
We'll do this sort of Olympic style.
Event I. Directors
Event II. Story
Event III. Theme
Event IV. Shot Selection
Event V. Violence
Event I: Directors
When left to his own, original devices, Snyder gave us Sucker Punch. I watched 10 minutes and turned it off. I couldn't stand the shot selection. I hated the composition. The pacing. The texture. One day I'll watch the rest, but...I need time to recover first.
And the jury is still out on Man of Steel.
Singh has directed The Cell, The Fall, Immortals, and the forthcoming Mirror Mirror.
Cell was strange enough. It broke out of the typical fare of the serial killer genre by becoming a dark fantasy. Ebert put it in his top 10 list of the year 2000.
I have no idea what Fall is, but I just watched the trailer, and it looks cool.
So if we're going to compare Singh and Snyder, my vote is for Singh.
Event II: Story
The first third of 300 introduced us to a culture, to the Spartan way of life. It showed us what this society prides, its paradigms. We were also given, then, the antithesis of this independent culture: the Persian God-King Xerxes and his desire to dominate everything. The second-third of the film pit these two forces in battle after battle after battle, with the bred-for-this Spartan's winning time and again. The last third is the eventual downfall of the 300. Warriors are lost. Treachery undermines their advantageous position on the narrow pass. They are smote. This is tempered by the twist conclusion: this entire tale is being narrated by one of the 300 who had been sent from the field so he could live to spread word of what had happened, and it just so happens he's telling this story on the eve of the conclusive fight between the full power of the Spartan army and what remained of Xerxes forces. The story is motivation for the soldiers as they wait for the Battle of Plataea to begin.
This structure means 300 has sections we stew in. We're able to familiarize ourself, first, with Sparta. Then with the battle. Then with what the battle MEANT to everyone involved.
Immortals never really pauses. The longest breath it takes is in setting everything up in the first twenty minutes. Where 300 introduces us to a setting and a people and values, Immortals gives us the plot dynamics. This is why the Epirus Bow is important, this is who the bad guy is, look, he's mean, this is who the good guy is, listen, he says the right things. The good guy is a peasant who is really skilled at fighting but refuses to be in the army, the good guy loves his mother, the good guy gets in a fight with someone in the army who insults the good guy's mom. Can you guess what eventually happens? After this initial set-up, the movie is just a series of plot points in reaction to the inciting actions. And whenever a story is simply plot points it can't help but feel linear, one-dimensional. (You would need branches, side quests, various chapters, to avoid the the linear pitfall of Immortals. For instance, watch: The Count of Monte Cristo (2002), The Princess Bride, Monty Python and the Holy Grail.) With that said, some of the moments in Immortals are very cool. Like the first time a God fights, I was like: "HOLY SHIT." And the minotaur scene was fun. But the lack of a dynamic plot--in other words, the plot's rigidity and obviousness--is why critics are knocking Immortals.
Event III: Theme
The movie talks about deeds that history will remember. "The brave three-hundred." Xerxes says something to Leonidas like "No one will remember your name." Or maybe "you ever existed." Which the viewer is supposed to hear and go "HA, jokes on you, because this movie exists, so we all remembered!"
So, ostensibly, the movie thinks it's about having the courage to defend your homeland, to be free and fight for that freedom against tyrants, that, by being strong, by fighting for what's right, you will rouse those around you and they will honor your memory.
But, really, the movie glorifies being an elitist prick. And shows that by being exclusive to-the-max, you bring about your own downfall (Ephialtes betrays the 300 to Xerxes). The film also inspired pack mentality with groups of dudes thinking they were sweet and going "WHOOO WHOOO WHOOO" the way the Spartan warriors would as a sign of unity and strength. One the other hand, it also demonstrates, by means of the political plot of the film, how rules are static, how traditions can interfere with modern situations that demand a fluid response.
The demonstrated theme of Immortals is that the Gods have faith in mortals, and that it's up to mortals to validate that faith. Theseus is the human Zeus has placed the weight of his faith on. He fights for good and is rewarded by becoming a God. Also rewarded with Freida Pinto.
There is, as in 300, but to a much smaller degree, a confrontation with the idea that diplomacy works. The guy who is charge of the wall Hyperion is attacking thinks that he and Hyperion will talk and settle the situation by way of an agreement. This does not happen.
The movie is cliche good versus evil. But when Theseus delivers his speech to the warriors that are scared of facing Hyperion's forces, the movie demonstrates that you don't have to be Theseus to do your part. That we all have to stand up for what we think is right, to protect what we think is right. But the plot of the movie undermines this speech since only those who have been handpicked by the Gods themselves will do anything that's noteworthy.
So both movies render the common individual as less-than-capable. Unless you've been brought up in an extreme warrior culture where you survive all their attempts to kill you at a young age, or unless the God of Gods, Zeus, trains you from childhood, you're not going to contribute all that much to the world.
Tie. I consider both fails. 300 has nice explicit themes, but the implicit themes annoy me. And Immortals undercuts its own theme by having Hyperion succeed and necessitating the Gods coming down to save the humans (like the parent that has to clean up the child's mess). The Gods fight scene is cool, but it's also, in a thematic sense, to me, insulting.
Event IV: Shot Selection
If we forget the fact that 300 was originally a graphic novel, so the movie has gorgeous shots because it's based on the work of an artist, I say 300 wins.
Singh is good--his schtick is "gorgeous" shot selection--but I didn't think Immortals had any shots that topped 300. Both used profile, side-scrolling shots for action sequences: 300 when Leonidas mows through like 35 Persians as he moves deeper into their ranks; Immortals when Theseus is in the tunnel and slaughters about 90 of Hyperion's soldiers, also as he moves deeper into their ranks. Both used bluescreen technology.
Singh uses several top-down shots. He also has three unique, graphic match transitions (a graphic match transition is like if the camera were on two people talking, and one person makes a fist, close-up on the first, then a transition (a cut, dissolve, wipe, fade, etc.) to a close-up on an apple that someone is eating. The fist and apple are similar in shape and size.).
But, I will give this to 300. There's little flare to the world of Immortals. Lots of cliffs. Lots of muted colors. The Gods wear gold. So while Singh has good camera angles, what's in the frame was sort of consistently ugly and uninteresting to me. Until the end. For some reason the shots with Theseus's son were 100 times more interesting to me than anything else in the rest of the movie.
"Wait, why is 300 winning this round?" Because I thought Immortals felt too derivative of 300. Also, because 300 has the winter training section, it has Sparta, the slaughtered village, it is has the sea against Thermopylae, Thermopylae. In other words: there's varied landscapes and color schemes. A more extensive palette than what Immortals chose to work with.
Round V: Violence
So, yeah, 300 was graphic. It was cool. But fuck if it ever rises to the ultra-violence of Immortals.
The winner is:
I think 300 is a more steady film. I would argue that, overall, it is better than Immortals. But I can't get over the negative implications in its plot. Also, while Immortals has some plot blunders (like, there's this giant wall to keep people out, and a long tunnel under the wall, so that no matter the enemy's numbers they will have to funnel in to a narrow corridor. Two great ideas. Except, right when you first enter the tunnel from the front of the wall, there's a stairwell that goes right to the top of the wall and into the heart of the community there????????????? Hyperion destroys the gate to the tunnel, takes the stairs, and bypasses all the soldiers that are defending the other end of the tunnel. Lame...) it had moments I thought were better than anything in 300. And this mostly has to do with the content of the films: 300 has humans and fantastic creatures. Immortals has humans, creature-like humans, and Gods. Of course an action sequence involving a God has more potential than an action sequence involving a human. And Immortals, I thought, capitalized on that potential spectacularly. And these spikes of cool-factor are why I give the nod to Immortals. I'd rather re-watch it than 300. '
Did I Like It:
Yeah. I enjoyed Henry Cavill's screen presence. The shot selection was varied enough. And the Gods were cool. I liked Luke Evans. I liked what they did with the Minotaur. And I thought that action was smashing.
The plot was meh. But, I'm to the point where I can ignore silly plots and just accept them for what they are: cliche. To me, cliche plot points are like commercials during a TV show. I just wait for them to end. And whenever there's one that is amusing, like the Mayhem ads, I appreciate it. Luckily, Immortals had enough interesting moments surrounding the plot points that I was entertained.
I wish I wouldn't have paid for the 3D. The 3D wasn't bad. I just don't think it did anything.
I would go see the sequel if there is a sequel.
Tarsem is supposed to be this visual master. I don't get it. To me he's good. But I don't think his camera work is anywhere close to something like Blade Runner. I don't think it's better than Another Earth. I don't think it's better than anything found in your average best picture candidate. No way as stupendous as There Will Be Blood. So. Meh. Saying Tarsem is a "visionary director" is, to me, like saying Tony Romo is an "elite quarterback".
What It's Good For:
-cool fight scenes
-not having to think
-predictable plot points
-if you don't like heads exploding
-if the bastardization of Greek mythology upsets you
-if you're merely a Singh fan; from what I can tell, most Singh fans think this isn't his best work
% Character / % Actor's personality
Cavill: 90/10 (he's in character)
Rourke: 10/90 (he's just Mickey Rourke speaking)
Pinto: 95/5 (she doesn't have much to do, except one great scream, but is in character the whole time)
(listen to Cavill's answer to the first question and Evans' answer.)
-Singh: The Cell
-Cavill: The Count of Monte Cristo
-Dorff: Somewhere; Blade; Cecil B. Demented
-300: Zack Snyder; Gerard Butler
-Cool fighting movie: read all of this, it's incredible