Bullet Points: 300
300 could have been a film about an overweight loser entering a bowling competition and attempting to bowl the perfect score of 300 to win money for some charitable organization. It sounds like the perfect vehicle for Kevin James, in fact. Fortunately for us, 300 is a re-telling of the Battle of Thermopylae in which 300 Spartan warriors stood against an army of Persian invaders much larger. From what we know the battle happened in August which would mean this stuff happened almost 3000 years ago! I’m sure that nearly 3000 years would bring an end to the Western civilization vs Eastern civilization battle.
- The Gist: 300 tells the story of the Battle of Thermopylae, which was fought between the Greek allies led by the Spartan king Leonidas and the Persian forces led by Xerxes the Great. Upon arriving in Greece, Xerxes begins to claim dominion over every person and place, but the men of Sparta would not be made slaves to anyone. They choose to fight the countless forces of Persian and stage a suicidal defense for the ages.
- The Cast: The cast is pretty much what you would expect from a movie about Ancient times…a bunch of British, Aussies, and Scottish actors. For whatever reason Hollywood has decided that a UK accent is what anyone who lived in ancient or medieval times spoke in. Beyond that, Gerard Butler and the rest of the cast did a great job. Butler and the boys got into exceptional condition for all of the slow motion swinging about and closeups of rippling muscles that Zack Snyder has become known for. There was an intense 8 week training program that got the cast shredded considering they would be spending pretty much the entirety of the movie in their undies. Butler screams with the best of them and Lena Headey gives a good enough performance (shows her boobs) as the Queen. I am not a fan of the story changes they made with her character. I get it; I just think that it takes away from the gloriousness of the battle.
- The Villain: In this version of the story I guess you could say the Persians are the villains. In that case, Xerxes is the main baddie and he is certainly given enough weirdness and monsters to surround him to make the viewer get the heebie-jeebies. The looks of most of the troops have been altered and frankly don’t make a bit of sense except to make them more demonic and evil looking. Xerxes has a scene where he’s surrounded by a bunch of S&M chicks with their faces all jacked up. it’s pretty clear that Snyder and writer Frank Miller took liberties with the material but if you go into the film knowing that it’s ok for you to come out of this with strong hatred for these fictional Persians. Santoro does a good job with Xerxes. They made an ethnic Persian guy look like a shaved Mexican Giant but it certainly adds to the exotic nature of the invaders.
- The Action: The action is pretty fierce. Most of the movie was filmed on the same small set surrounded by blue or green screen so the film-makers were able to change up the scenery a bit and give it a little more flavor. My collection of articles on the missed opportunities of 300 based on the actual Battle of Thermopylae will be released soon and in it I will describe in painful detail some of my thoughts on the parts of the battle covered in the movie. The action in the film, however, is seriously badass and you truly get the feeling that the Greeks, the Spartans in particular, are super soldiers compared to teh Persians.
Take it Home:
- Body Count: 585!
- Realness: In reality there were actually two Spartan survivors of the battle. Both of them were sent away by Leonidas because of severe eye infections. The character Dilios, played by David Wenham in 300, most likely depicts one of the Spartans. One of the men hung himself after returning home in shame and the other had a heroically suicidal death at the Battle of Plataea. This is the character Dilios is most likely representing.
- No shit Sherlock: Director Zack Snyder and writer Frank Miller were both quick to acknowledge that this movie is not a historical piece and should not be taken as such. They both admit to changing history so to make it more exciting when necessary. One such change was that the phalanx formation which the Spartans were famous for fighting in was mostly tossed away as it did not look as cool on screen.
- Not that tub of lard: Michael Mann was also planning a film about the Battle of Thermopylae when 300 was in pre-production.
- Funny stuff: Sarah Silverman joked that the title of the film was a reference to how gay the film was on a scale of 1 to 10.
- Read a book: Historically, Leonidas was married to the eldest daughter of Cleomenes, Gorgon. Upon the death of King Cleomenes, Leonidas was the oldest surviving half-brother of Cleomenes and took over as King. This would mean that Leonidas had married his niece, which was pretty normal for ancient Greece.
The Verdict: This movie kicks ass….just don’t take it as historical fact!
The Spartans stand in front of a literal mountain of dead bodies.