Bound for glory
Category: 300 News | Posted by: maryp
Article Date: April 5, 2007 | Publication: The Daily Telegraph | Author: Vicky Roach
THERMOPYLAE, 480 BC. A wild and dangerous place where menare men and rhinoceroses are nervous. A 250,000-strong Persian army is massing on the horizon, but even that's not enough to make Spartan King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) or his equally feisty wife Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) lose their nerve.
Unlike those soft-bellied Athenians, this lot thrive on a good stoush. And the bloodier the better.
Being a man of action, Leonidas slays the Persian emissary when he calls to demand a surrender.
Sparta's priests, a horribly disfigured bunch of in-breeds, then refuse to sanction his defence of his people.
While the politicians stand around debating the merits or otherwise of taking up arms, Leonidas hand-picks 300 of his best soldiers, and together they march off to meet the enemy. En route, they pass a Breugel-inspired tree of dead bodies, which only serves to whet their appetite for revenge.
300 is the story of how this vastly outnumbered bunch of men used their fighting and tactical superiority to hold the Persian army at bay for three days - giving the Greek forces time to regroup and thus changing the face of history.
Part of it is told in a voice-over narration by Dilios (David Wenham channelling the ghost of Richard Burton), who is using it to motivate his troops on the eve of a new battle. Like most storytellers, the charismatic orator is not afraid to embellish the truth. Nor is director Zack Snyder.
He and Frank Miller, who wrote the graphic novel upon which 300 is based, play fast and loose with some of the historical details of the original battle.
There weren't any elephants or rhinos at Thermopylae as far as any reliable historian has been able to make out. The presence of armless concubines, giants-on-a-leash and rejected, revenge-driven hunchbacks is also open to debate.
But several catch-phrases in the movie, such as, "Tonight we dine in hell!" come from the Greek historian Herodotus and other sources.
And many of the more exotic characters - such as the God-king Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) - could have walked straight out of a Greek myth.
The Spartans, too, exhibit almost superhuman characteristics. But the actors, all of whom are working with remarkably sculpted bodies, deliver the sort of solid, flesh-and-blood performances that help to ground the film's highly stylised backdrop. And they handle their swords and shields with surprising skill and dexterity.
300 is probably a pretty fair approximation of antiquity on steroids - as filtered through the feverish imagination of a paid-up member of the Star Wars generation.
Matinee idol heroes do battle in Greek antiquity by way of contemporary computer-generated effects.
Countless heads fly in 300, but Snyder has kept his. A bloody, blokey, brutal and strangely beautiful adaptation of the comic upon which it is based.