Translating a graphic novel into the world of cinema can be a tricky business.
And the first step is concept art -- creating basic images of the characters, costumes, and important, visually-striking scenes. "300: The Art Of The Film" is crammed with such images, detailing virtually every part of the movie... but it's very skimpy on explanations and information.
It starts off with a couple of prefaces -- one by an expert on military history, and the other explaining the purpose of revealing the concept art. Then concept art itself: it basically outlines the story, beginning with the "inspection" of newborn Spartan boys and ending with another battle brewing between the Spartans and Persians.
These include pages and pages of rough sketches and detailed drawings for the cinematogrpahers, some representing only a few seconds (a fist hitting a slave's face). Then there are plenty of costume sketches, depictions of unreal-looking monsters, tents, and the gorgeous sets for things like Xerxes' opulant golden litter. Actually, it's more of a portable house.
But it has more than just concept art -- there are clay models, special effects shots, elaborate makeup and costume for things like the hunchbacked traitor, Xerxes' chain-porn costume, and things like knives stuck in a eye, and even green-screen shots before the CGI gloss was put on. And there are shots showing how they managed certain effects, like the people who controlled the animatronic "wolf."
And with every sketch and behind-the-scene shot, they show the finished result as it appears in the movie. A lot of them have the original art by Frank Miller as well, to show us how close the movie actually is to its source material. Visually speaking, it's a feast of behind-the-scenes information.
"300: The Art Of The Film" suffers from a lack of background information -- they show us loads of information, but don't tell WHY they were done, or even the intricacies of HOW. Come on, they must have had some trial-and-error in this film. While we can see the art for ourselves, we're rarely told much about why they chose this costume, or that monster, and how they created some of the weirder visuals.
So while the book is visually rich, it feels incomplete, like they left a lot of the text out to keep the guide from getting too long. Sometimes pages and pages will go by with only a few sparely-written paragraphs describing the intricacies of the movie. "300" is a visual movie, but come on, there's more to it than that.
"300: The Art Of The Film" has loads of art, but not much explanation in how it got from art to movie. It stumbles badly as a behind-the-scenes guide, but it's still an intriguing visual read.