300

300 is an American film based on the historic battle of Thermopylae, and the graphic novel of the same name. This bloody battle was waged over three days in which a band of three hundred Spartan warriors held off an army of ten thousand Persians until the rest of Greece could mobilize for war. With this context in mind, it makes complete sense for the opening title sequence to be as action packed and intense as the rest of the film. Intense almost seems like an understatement when describing this sequence. Suffice it to say that if you did not know what the film was about you would at least understand the tone within five seconds of seeing the title sequence. There are many design elements that help to enforce the idea of war within the sequence and all of them serve to intrigue and enamor the audience.

The first of these design elements I noticed was the use of figure ground within the sequence. All the characters and land are showcased as flat black colors over a background of orange and red hued sky. There are many reasons for this. One, and arguably the most important reason, is that this is an homage to the graphic novel from which it is based. There were multiple times in the novel that the artist chose to portray the characters in this way. The second reason is that the director is trying to show us that war is a pit in which everyone involved is left changed and a shell of their former self. The people are shown as flat black because for all intents and purposes they are shadows of what they used to be before war was all they knew.

I would be remiss and blind to neglect to notice the sheer amount of blood that is placed throughout the sequence. The blood is highlighted in the sequence to accompany the director’s last point. War is not clean and it is not easy. It is gruesome, grotesque, and terrifying. Rivers of blood are showcased because the amount of blood shed in Thermopylae was mind boggling. There is so much blood being utilized in the sequence that the title screen of the film is not even safe from the bloodshed. In fact, the title in the sequence is blood red and unrefined. The typography is not clean and well kept, but instead seems to splatter on the screen much like blood on the ground. Just like war is full of anarchy and chaos, the title text seems chaotic and brutal. Even the credits are blood red to match the overall theme of the sequence.

A major portion of the sequence has to be the music that accompanies it. Without the intense and quick score, the sequence would not have nearly as much urgency as it does. Being that this film is set in ancient Greece, the composition resembles something that we might have heard back then. From the use of thundering bass drums, to the quick and frantic playing of a loot, we are not only transported to a battlefield visually but auditorily as well. The music helps to showcase the sheer shock and awe that war would have inspired. It also showcases the frenzied nature of war by having all these instruments set to a frenetic pace. The thundering bass drum also resembles, or at least brings to mind, the sound of an army marching which is a rather important part of the film in which the Spartans can hear the large number of Persian soldiers marching before they can even see them.

In addition to helping set the tone of the film, the music also serves to set the pace of the graphics being displayed on the screen. That is to say the quick and frenzied pace of the music is also apparent in the cutting of the illustrations on screen. The illustrations are just slow enough for us to understand what is going on the shot, but does not linger. They give us a taste of what is to come and help to tell the audience that the act of war is a frantic experience in which many things can happen all at once. Think about all the singular events that can occur during a battle. This is overwhelming, much like the title sequence being presented. The director does a marvelous job of balancing all of these components into a singular and cohesive whole that speaks to the unfortunate reality of war.

The final design element I notice is that the director chooses to place short illustrations of actual scenes in the movie all throughout the sequence. Whether it be the illustration of the arrows covering the sky or that of the cliffs of Thermopylae, the director does a great job of layering these subtle nods in without spoiling anything to come in the film. Instead, these illustrations serve to intrigue the audience as to what exactly is going on.

Overall the title sequence of 300 does a great job of showcasing the brutal reality of war. From the copious amounts of blood to the use of figure ground to showcase the characters being shadows of their former selves, we get to see the harsh reality of war that only those who have lived it can fully understand. The sequence does all this while also serving to be an homage to the graphic novel that inspired the film. This is a title sequence that is only bested by the film that follows it.