300 (USA, 2007)

Category: 300 News | Posted by: DaisyMay
Article Date: April 6, 2007 | Publication: Dragons Mind Blog | Author: Tabula Rasa
Publication/Article Link:Dragons Mind

I didn’t like 300. I’d go so far as to say that I hated it. In fact I was absolutely fucking disgusted by the whole film. It wasn’t the violence though nor the poetic liberties that they took with the historical accuracies of the film (more of which in a moment) nor the fact that the entire film was computer generated. No. It’s much more straight forward than that. What riled me beyond belief about this film was the fact that I had to sit through the best part of two hours watching a group of 40 something actors who were lean, toned and sporting the type of six pack I have always aspired to. They were so ripped that you could just about see every individual fibre of every single muscle. Not only that but the character’s attitude towards excellence, towards their imminent death and towards loyalty, ambition, family values and standing up for what is good and right made me feel about as small as a gnat’s dick and more cowardly than Dick Cheney dodging his draft call up.

The 300

However, putting my own insecurities and overwhelming sense of inadequacy aside for a moment, the truth of it is that I loved 300. It helps that I’ve always had a soft spot for the subject material and have been fascinated by Greek mythology and ancient history for as long as I can remember. The battle of Thermopylae (literally “The Hot Gates”) is one of the most significant military engagements in modern history and was the turning point of the Persian invasion of Greece in about 480BC and was recounted in detail in the histories of Herodotus who himself would have been about 4 or 5 years old at that time (and would probably have been considered Persian having been born in Halicarnassus which at that time was part of the Achaemenid Empire.) According to the histories, King Leonidas I of Sparta led a force of 6000 Greeks to the pass at Thermopylae where they held off Xerxes’ massive invasion force (estimated to consist of 3.4 million troops) until they were sold out by the traitor Ephialtes and surrounded and slaughtered by the Persian army. But they held the pass for three days which was enough time for the Athenians to put together a fleet that would eventually turn the tide of the invasion at the Battle of Salamis where the Persian fleet was decimated.

Fighting the good fight

But Frank Miller’s graphic novel and Zack Snyder’s subsequent movie adaptation of the about the 300 Spartans doesn’t concern itself with the minutiae of historical detail and nor, in my opinion, should it. The story is a reminder about the sacrifice that King Leonidas and his vastly outnumbered army made and about the valiant stand they made against a tyrannical despot. I can’t really say it’s shot beautifully as most, if not all, of the background scenery is entirely computer generated. But this gives the film a mythical quality and the widespread use of sepia and monochrome colouring of everything except the blood red cloaks of the Spartans enforces the fact that this is a mythical fiction told in a modern format. The photography is generally fantastic. There are very few scenes that do not seem like they have been painted or sculpted and many of the battle scenes invoke comparisons with the friezes on ths sides of ancient Greek pottery that tell the stories of battles and of legendary heroes.

King Leonidas (Gerard Butler)

I really can’t enthuse about this film enough. I know it could be criticised for its (seemingly) poor dialogue and its (seemingly) over the top violence but none of that was an issue for me. And I wager that if you ever sat down and read the Iliad or the Odyssey in the original Greek (or an extremely good translation) then you’d realise that 300 is told in a manner fitting to those classic tales. Trust me on this - the graphic depiction of some of the violence in the film is no different to the several verses of detail that Homer used to describe how Odysseus and his men put out the eye of Polyphemus the cyclops using a burning log. As for the dialogue, some of the cheesier lines that I’ve read and heard being criticised are taken straight from classical texts (”Come home with your shield or on it!” was attributed to the mothers of Spartan warriors by Plutarch, as was Leonidas’ retort to Xerxes’ demand that the Greek armies surrender their weapons “Μολών Λαβέ!” - “Come and get them!”) The music is a wonderful synthesis of heavy guitar rock and classically inspired choral works which I’m currently listening to and am totally loving. Of course, it’s a shame that they didn’t use the Nine Inch Nails track “Just like you imagined” in the film as they did in the trailer but I can live with that.

Stand firm in the face of adversity

All in all, I doubt that everyone is going to like 300. I have favourable tendencies to this type of film and this subject matter and was absolutely gripped throughout. The acting isn’t going to win any awards but it’s solid and convincing enough to work. I can’t stress the mythical qualities of the film enough, such as each wave of the Persian onslaught being more monstrous and more fearsome than the previous, and I know that this won’t appeal to everyone. But for me it works. For me it’s a joy to behold, and visual and aural delight. I might even have to go and see it again.
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