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300, Film Review

In 480bc an alliance of Greek city-states fought the invading Persian Empire at the pass of Thermopylae in central Greece. History states that although vastly outnumbered, a small force led by King Leonidas of Sparta blocked the only passable road against the massive army of Xerxes I of Persia, resulting in three days of battle before the Greeks were supposedly betrayed by a local resident named Ephialtes.

Gerard Butler in 300

The Persians took the pass but only after heavy losses compared to those of the Greeks. The fierce resistance of the Spartan-led army offered Athens time to prepare for a decisive naval battle at the Battle of Salamis where the Persian Empire’s navy was destroyed and Xerxes I retreated back to Asia.

The Spartans finally assembled a full strength army and defeated the Persians decisively at the Battle of Plataea, ending the Greco-Persian War and the expansion of the Persian Empire. This was a pivotal moment in history stopping the Persian empire at the height of it’s power, and the spread of their religion and culture into Europe.

Frank Miller’s graphic novel is based on this true-life story (somewhat embellishing of course) and the film 300 is basically a shot-for-shot adaptation of the comic book. Even Zack Snyder the director photocopied pages from it and planned exact screen shots using the illustrations.

Shot almost entirely with bluescreen to enable exact duplication of the imagery of the graphic novel, 300 is also framed by a voice-over narrative by the Spartan soldier Dilios. This soldier is revealed at the end of the film as telling the story to a Spartan audience before the Battle of Plataea, and allows the film makers to make the film so fantastical as it’s through his storytelling that the film is told.

The film is a macho action-packed blood-fest with plenty of gore, and to do this effectively CGI is heavily used – a total of ten special effects companies handled post production of the film which lasted for an entire year. Colours were manipulated (the contrast was increased and colours tinted) to give the film a gritty illustrative feel to match the graphic novel.

The ‘West’ (goodies) vs ‘East’ (baddies) polarization of the film was jumped upon, especially in Iran where they labelled it an attack on their historical identity. It doesn’t help that Xerxes is portrayed as a 8ft androgynous Kemal from Big Brother 6 (UK version). It is however missing the point as it’s just a heavily stylised film that is basically about guys slaying and kicking the crap out of one another. There’s no political agenda behind it.

The characters are one dimensional and the ultra-aggressive Spartans all sport bodies that would put the Chippendales to shame – they jump around easily slaying grey clothed Persians who look like they’re all on a deathwish. The spraying blood and lost limbs all add to the constant action and feel of the film. It’s not really shocking, but more entertaining in the way Tarantino’s Kill Bill action sequences are.

As such it’s very much stuck in that genre, but is one of the best in that category (better than Kill Bill anyway). A macho, heavily stylised film, it’s one that dazzles with it’s action sequences and battle scenes.

Go watch it if you haven’t seen it! Sparta!!!!!!!

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Categories: Film Reviews
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