Written by: Jason Wheeler, Film Frenzy Senior Writer & Editor.
In 2007, Zack Snyder released 300, based off the 1998 comic series of the same name by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley which was a retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae. Starring Gerard Butler, David Wenham, Lena Headey, Giovanni Cimmino, Dominic West, Vincent Regan, Tom Wisdom, Andrew Pleavin, Andrew Tiernan, Rodrigo Santoro, Stephen McHattie, Michael Fassbender, Peter Mensah, Kelly Craig, Tyler Neitzel, Robert Mallet, Patrick Sabongui, Leon Laderach, and Tyrone Benskin, the film grossed $456.1 million at the box office. Nominated for the MTV Movie Awards for Best Movie, Best Performance, Best Breakthrough Performance and Best Villain and the Saturn Awards for Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Screenplay, Best Costume Design, Best Score, Best Make-Up, and Best Visual Effects, the film won the Saturn Awards for Best Director and Best Action/Adventure Thriller Film, the MTV Movie Award for Best Fight, and the Golden Icon Awards for Best Dramatic Film and Best Action Film. IGN also named it Movie of the Year 2007 and Best Comic Book Adaptation.
When King Xerxes demands that Sparta submit to the power of his Persian Empire, King Leonidas of Sparta finds that he cannot wage war against the empire. As such, he gathers 300 of Sparta’s best soldiers for a personal bodyguard and sets out for a narrow pass called the Hot Gates of Thermopylae. Their goal is to rebuild an old wall to bottleneck the Persian army so Sparta can have a fighting chance against Xerxes until Sparta is able to fight with a full force. In the meantime, Queen Gorgo works to persuade Sparta’s politicians to support Leonidas.
While it’s heavily stylized and differs from the greater historical record, 300 is a good film that provides for an enjoyable watch. It has an ending that’s practically a foregone conclusion seeing as the entire force of 300 men are killed, save for one who is commanded to head back. What makes the film so enjoyable is seeing how they get to that last stand. In doing so, the film displays the sheer tenacity and fighting prowess that the Spartans were known for, so much so that Leonidas makes the point that his 300 men are more soldiers than 10,000 troops from Greek cities simply because the Greeks were civilians conscripted and the Spartans were professional soldiers.
The film also demonstrates that Xerxes has quite the ego, considering his demands that Sparta submit their loyalty to the Persian Empire as well as his insistency that he’s a god-king. Yet, the film also shows that his ego blinds him to how the Spartans are stronger and more intelligent than he is. It’s seen when he’s facing Leonidas at the very end, with the other Spartan men in a small grouping behind their king. Even after three days of holding out against thousands of men, Xerxes still doesn’t understand that Leonidas is planning to have all his Spartans go out fighting, starting with the latter dropping his helmet and shield so he can have a better chance at skewering the former. Not only does Leonidas cause a man who believes himself to be a god to bleed, but the last stand he led rallies the Greek forces into a formidable army to go against the Persians.
Leonidas is actually a great foil for Xerxes, with him saying that he’d die for his own men after Xerxes said that he would kill his own men if it meant victory. That’s also proven as Xerxes is also seen commanding behind all his forces until the very end, compared to Leonidas who is on the front lines with his. There’s also how Xerxes is going to war in order to conquer all the land before him while Leonidas is doing the same, but instead of doing so to conquer the land, he’s doing it to keep the land free for the Spartans and Greeks.
The most interesting aspect of the film is its stylization, especially in regards to all of Sparta’s enemies and wolf that Leonidas fought in the beginning as a young man, which doesn’t look realistic at all. As for Sparta’s enemies, they range from simple humans to frightening figures that look nothing like humans at all, like the Immortals who have the appearance of monsters under their mask. There’s also the grotesqueness of Ephialtes. However, this all makes sense within the context of the film as it’s a story Dilios is telling to boost morale and patriotism as well as build up the sacrifice that Leonidas and the other men made at the pass. Further, he’s seen telling the story at different locations whenever the film cuts to him telling it, only further showing that this film depicts his latest embellishments.
It may not have been a cinematic great or an accurate representation of what actually happened at Thermopylae, but it wasn’t trying to be. What it was trying to be, on the other hand, was a fun and enjoyable way to kill about two hours and it succeeded at doing so.
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