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300 (DVD) (WS)
In this ferocious retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae based on the epic graphic novel by Sin City creator Frank Miller, King Xerxes of Persia (Rodrigo Santoro -- Lost) amasses an army of hundreds of thousands, drawn from Asia and Africa, to invade and conquer the tiny, divided nation of Greece in 481 B.C. But when the advancing Persian forces enter the treacherous mountain pass of Thermopylae, they encounter Spartan King Leonidas (Gerard Butler -- The Phantom of the Opera) and his royal guard of soldiers numbering just 300. According to legend, their valor and sacrifice inspired all of Greece to unite against the Persian foe, planting the seeds of democracy and ushering in the Golden Age of Greece.With nonstop action and awe-inspiring visual effects, director Zack Snyder creates a breathtaking vision of one of history's most legendary battles ... and an epic tale of sacrifice and heroism.]]>
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300, based on Frank Miller's graphic novel, is kind of ridiculous. It's completely over-the-top. It seems like an homage to masculinity. And yet, as much as I want to laugh at it and dismiss it as stupid fun (which is easily done with the sequel, Rise of an Empire), this is actually an excellent film with some amount of depth to it.
No, King Leonidas probably didn't fight a giant CGI wolf as a boy, but this film is extremely successful in conveying the mindset of the ancients--their perceptions of an enemy, their need for honor and glory, their dedication to their nations, their struggle to understand the world around them, and their devotion to camaraderie and brotherhood. As the film portrays, this ancient mindset was often forged in conjunction with death, battle, and sacrifice. The style used in this film helps, rather than hinders, the conveyance of an ancient Spartan worldview.
That the movie managed to convey these themes while being entertaining, quotable, heavily stylized, and overall cheesily awesome is what makes it a success.
Sure the history here is about as accurate as the science in Star Wars, but that's fine. We all know Xerxes was not 10' tall and probably did not have access to hand grenades. And it's kind of funny to hear the slave-owning Greeks going on (and on) about freedom. But that's fine, this is over-the-top music video cartoon of a movie.
I hesitated between 4 and 5 stars. I genuinely enjoyed it, and watched it along with its unnecessary sequel (1-star for that one) as well as the two Sin City films for a Frank Miller weekend. This is the best of the four.
Mature men loved it for the traditional "male" things of honor and glory and lets beat the bad guys.
Women loved it for Gerry and his extraordinary body and the true love he shows for his strong, smart wife.
Anyone, regardless of age or gender, can find something appealing in this unusual, interesting, completely different movie. Yes, the special effects are eye-popping, even today when we're inundated with effects. These are quieter and stranger. There is a surreal quality to them that works. Yes, the story (although not strictly historically accurate) is a classic tale of sacrifice and honor to which any thinking person will respond to with pride and sadness. Yes, Gerard is gorgeous and the perfect King for his time, but he is more: he is the personification of the noble warrior, the reluctant warrior, who would rather make love to his wife and raise his son than fight the invaders, but does what "a free man" has to do to stay free.
There is some gratuitous violence and grossness - I could have done without the leprosy-ridden priests and the malformed Persians. And, yes, there is no attempt at political correctness. Thank goodness. That was not a popular concept in ancient Sparta and would have been ridiculous if it had been inserted into this movie.
This is a film that grows on you. A film that is better at the 2nd viewing and will surprise you with things you missed at the 3rd viewing. It's not for everyone but, if your mind is open, you can enjoy it on whatever level works for you.