Movie Review: 300

This film, adapted from the graphic novel by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley, presents a fantasy game version of ancient history. It entertains on the visceral level, but does not bear thoughtful scrutiny.

Directed by Zack Snyder

Written by Zack Snyder, Kurt Johnstad,
Michael Gordon, adapted from the graphic novel by
Frank Miller and
Lynn Varley.

Set design by Frédéric Amblard.

Cast

Gerard Butler as King Leonidas
Vincent Regan as Captain
Lena Heady as Queen Gorgo
Dominic West as Theron
David Wenham as Delios
Andrew Pleavin as Daxos
Andrew Tiernan as Ephialtes
Robert Picardo as Howard
Rodrigo Santoro as Xerxes the Drag Queen King of Persia

Premise:

Leonidas I of Sparta leads 300 men and some Greek allies against the far larger Persian army. In reality, Leonidas had more support than the film suggests. Oh yeah: the role-playing-game mutants and cool armoured pachyderms are artistic embellishments.

High Points:

The CGI visuals make for spectacular eye-candy, and very impressive sandal epic battles. If you’re seeing 300 for these, you’re seeing it for the right reasons.

Low Points:

1. I know this is mythologized, stylized history, and I recognize that Hollywood rarely gets history right in any case. However, the whitewashing goes as over the top here as the action sequences. The film’s Spartans regularly mouth Bushisms about fighting for freedom and being free men, in contrast with the welt-marked slave-armies of the Persians. We get no mention of the fact that Spartans had no problem owning slaves who were treated with noteworthy brutality. Various other unpleasant aspects of their society get downplayed or ignored outright. And what would a sandal epic be without a woman made up according to contemporary Cover Girl standards?

2. I accepted most of the ancient/modern fusion music as entirely suited to the film’s videogame-epic feel. However, the jock-rock guitar riffs which suddenly appear distracted me; my wife had to stifle laughter.

The Scores:

Originality: 1/6 This faithfully adapts a graphic novel inspired by a sandal epic, which retells history as filtered through myth, videogames, and the Lord of the Rings film adaptations.

Effects: 6/6. Filmed almost entirely in a studio, 300 features gorgeous virtual sets and effects.

Story: 4/6 The basic plot holds, but it lacks significant developments. One of the twists seems to exist to justify the Spartans’ tradition of killing the deformed and the weak. Other inventions of the film make little sense. Why not build another wall to block the goat-path?1 Why was the Spartan revealed to be a traitor conveniently carrying Persian coin? Why am I asking these questions about something that was obviously meant to be pure macho spectacle?

Acting: 4/6. The actors fare reasonably well in their stylized roles, but the absence of character development or credible dialogue makes real audience involvement difficult.Production: 6/6 Again, the film features a spectacular, obviously stylized world. Several of the extras and all of the fauna would be comfortably at home in Middle Earth.

Emotional Response: 4/6. One engages this film as one does a videogame, on the visceral level.

Overall: 4/6.

300 receives a total score of 29/42

1. I know the goat-path actually is part of the recorded account, but the movie still needs to make the decisions seem reasonable.

6 replies on “Movie Review: 300”

  1. rickyjames says:

    Check Brain At Door
    Just saw 300 in a packed and hushed theatre…that audience was ENGAGED. As was I.

    Most of all, this film presents a view of death that is so totally alien to us yet so totally hungered for, still so primal and resonant that deep inside we geeks have created our own Spartans today and call them Klingons. Death For Country! Death With Honor! Death With Comrades! Death With Meaning!

    Just be thankful this film wasn’t made in Germany in 1944 or World War II would have lasted another two years. This film almost literally is a mash-up of the Leni Riefenstahl masterpieces Triumph of the Will and Olympia.

    300 is THAT good.

  2. y42 says:

    Low score?
    This barely beats the score for teenage mutant ninja turtles 3… I haven’t seen either of these, but I bellyfeel that this isn’t right.

    • Timeshredder says:

      Re: Low score?

      This barely beats the score for teenage mutant ninja turtles 3… I haven’t seen either of these, but I bellyfeel that this isn’t right.

      The "originality" score really brings this one down. I might have given it higher even though it is an adaptation, but the execution really is derivative. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it hurts the score.

      However, I note this morning at Rotten Tomatoes that this has received a decidedly mixed response from the critics. Next to many of these guys, my review is glowing.

      • Timeshredder says:

        Re: Low score?
        I think the measure of what a review is saying is to look at, well, what it is saying, rather than the final score.

        (and that assumes you accept the reviewer has something of value to say in the first place).

  3. octa says:

    .
    I loved it. This movie is the very definition of a "guy’s flick," all testosterone, boobs, and gore. For every 3 movies like the "Last Kiss," I get to drag my girlfriend to something like this, and I revel in it :D

    I was pretty well versed in the actual events prior to watching the movie but I didn’t think any of the changes made it less enjoyable. My only regret is they didn’t show any of the naval battles which were very significant in preventing the Persians from flanking the Spartans.

    Oh and bonus points for Persian ninjas!!

  4. mbourgon says:

    Enjoyed thoroughly.
    Deep thought? Nope. Enjoyed immensely? Yup. Stylized and a whole lot of fun.

Comments are closed.