U.S. director Zack Snyder uses cutting edge technology to tell an ancient tale in his new film "300," an ultra-violent depiction of the legendary battle between Spartans and Persians at Thermopylae in 480 B.C.
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Severed limbs fly, decapitations get the slow motion treatment, Persians get gorged by a charging rhinoceros, elephants are dashed on the rocks and blood is everywhere.
And it is all achieved thanks to computer generated special effects through the almost exclusive use of blue screens behind actors on which the background is later superimposed.
Based on a graphic novel of the same name by Frank Miller, "300" does not pretend to be realistic or historically accurate, Snyder told reporters in Berlin, where the film had its world premiere this week.
"What I wanted to do was take the graphic novel and say this is the movie experience that I want the viewer to have," said the director, whose only previous feature film was the 2004 horror hit "Dawn of the Dead."
"That's the gift of cinema, that you get a perspective that may be you don't normally take."
Critics in Berlin enthused about the quality of the action, although the comic book approach left central character Leonidas "a two-dimensional creature in this 3D world," according to an otherwise glowing Hollywood Reporter review.
Warner Brothers, the studio behind "300," will hope Snyder can repeat the box office success of another Miller adaptation "Sin City," which made $160 million worldwide from a $40 million budget, according to movie site www.boxofficemojo.com.
But it was not easy getting the project off the ground, according to producer Gianni Nunnari, especially because the release of "Troy" in 2004 led to what he called "sandal fatigue" in Hollywood.
Miller's inspiration for the novel came from watching the 1962 movie "The 300 Spartans" as a boy, when he first encountered the idea that heroes do not always have to win.
Inspired by the tale of a group of 300 Spartans under King Leonidas holding out against the advancing Persian masses led by Xerxes, he traveled to Greece to the site of one of the most famous last stands in history.
"All my life I wanted to tell this story because it's the best story I've ever encountered," Miller said in production notes distributed to promote the movie.
"There's a reason why we are as free as we are, and a lot of it begins with the story of 300 young men holding a very narrow pass long enough to inspire the rest of Greece."
Gerard Butler, the Scottish actor who plays Leonidas, and Brazil's Rodrigo Santoro, playing Xerxes, were peppered with questions about their chiseled physiques in the torso-revealing capes and shorts that they wore.
"I started training about four months before the film started, pretty much six hours a day," Butler said.
"Basically, I screwed myself up. It was phenomenal for me to have the conditioning of the mind as well, and really get into the Spartan way. And I have to say I did, by the time the film started, feel like a lion."