Zack Snyder brings Frank Miller’s graphic novel “300” based on the Battle of Thermopylae onto the big screen. This movie is oozing with glistening manly chests (not one chest hair to be found) and (you may have guessed this much) 300 stout Spartan warriors from tip to toe clad in only the most necessary garments, wielding a hefty spear and shield.
Do not look for character development or historical accuracy here, if you want that go see the 1962 version “The 300 Spartans“. Here you get digitally enhanced muscles, lots and lots of slow motion battle scenes tinted in Sepia, severing of heads and limbs in slow motion and some heterosexual activities.
If you accept that this is all you will see then you will be content as the movie does deliver on those accounts. 300 is indeed very much like the comic book filmed as Live-Action. As such it has some major limitations, mainly that there is no character development and that the dialogue consists of one liners all through the movie, if they speak at all, most of the time they just roar, bleed, hack, slash and die and all that very graphically and heroically.
King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) takes 300 of his finest soldiers to battle the Persian invader Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) at the pass of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. There they stood their ground against wave after wave of Xerxes army for three days until finally betrayed by a local Greek called Ephialtes (Andrew Tiernan), who showed Xerxes a secret mountain path that led behind the Greek lines.
Never mind that historically speaking this was the point where Leonidas stayed behind with 300 Spartans and 700 Thespians to defend the pass to the last man and that they did and even though the Persians were able to take the pass they suffered heavy losses. Now that would have been something to see but no, instead we get the spear throwing scene which basically is the weakest point in the whole movie.
In a last (historically unfounded and utterly silly) effort to kill Xerxes (who conveniently happens to be just within spear throwing distance) Leonidas pretends to surrender only to wait for the best moment to throw his spear at Xerxes. He throws it like a real Spartan… the spear is still flying… Xerxes is standing… spear flying… Xerxes watching spear… Leonidas watching spear… spear flying… Xerxes standing still… Leonidas snickering – OK not snickering but still watching spear fly… Xerxes still not moving… spear cutting Xerxes at the cheek! Oh noes! Leonias missed. Now Xerxes is really pissed and scared at the same time. Good thing Xerxes brought 10,000 Archers to shoot at Leonidas all at once to be sure not to miss.
Anyhow, you get the point I guess. At times this “heroism” theme is getting a little bit out of hand and drifts into ridicule which probably is why there are countless videos making fun of the movie on youtube and elsewhere such as the “PG Cut” or “It’s raining 300 Men” and the infamous “flying crotch attack” scene. Take your pick.
The movie lives from Frank Miller’s visuals from the comics and is shot completely with a strong Sepia tint making frequent use of slow motion technique in almost every scene. Visually this film is very well done and the modern soundtrack adds to that visual component making it even more attractive to watch as a mere fighting spectacle, which is basically all there is.
To be fair, “300” is a good movie and fun to watch if you are clear on what it is, 117 minutes of half naked men with digitally enhanced abdomen killing anything that comes at them, everyone a hero, all dead heroes in the end.