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300 (R) (graphic battle sequences throughout, some sexuality and nudity) (2006)

Warner Brothers

Official Site

Director: Zack Snyder

Producers: Mark Canton, Gianni Nunnari

Written by: Zack Snyder, Kurt Johnstad, Michael B. Gordon

Cast: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, David Wenham


300 is based on the Frank Miller graphic novel of the same name and it follows the valiant stand of 300 Spartans under the command of King Leonidas (Butler) against the invading horde of Persian King Xerxes. Director Zack Snyder’s most recent work was the gory and entertaining Dawn Of The Dead remake. Miller and Snyder collaborated and used computers to fill in the background to make the movie as true to the look of the graphic novel as possible.

300 paints a lot of very pretty slow motion pictures as the statuesque Spartans thrust their big pointy spears over and over, releasing sprays of CGI blood. The movie uses this trick more than once, and after the 300th, time even hot stuff like this leaves the audience unsatisfied and bored by repetition. The 300 fight against a horde of adversaries—men, beasts, and magic—dispatching all in pretty much the same way (spear thrusting), while the Persians’ attacks bounce harmlessly off the Spartans’ abs of steel.

King Leonidas preaches to his men more than a few times about an age of freedom he and his men are trying to create/preserve. To offset King Leonidas’ idealism, the soldiers serving under him appear to be nothing more than a bunch of kill-crazy psychos ready to fight and die just for the fun of it. Most of Gerard Butler’s performance is snarling or shouting at the camera, but when he told his men to “Prepare for Glory,” I almost ripped off my shirt and joined the Spartan ranks to do battle with the enemy.

Not too long into the movie, über-buff King Leonidas and his scrumptious wife Gorgo (Headey) get down for some of the “sexuality and nudity” that helped this movie earn its R rating. This scene exists for reasons beyond merely titillating the audience; it proves beyond any shadow of a doubt that King Leonidas (and by implication all Spartan men) is not homosexual.

To help break up the non-stop action, the movie follows two subplots. In one the camera lingers on Gorgo a little more while she reminds the Spartan council that “Freedom isn’t free, and it is worth paying the highest cost for!” and anyone who doesn’t agree with her is in fact a traitor to the very ideals of freedom. The other involves the most sympathetic character in the entire movie, Ephialtes, a deformed man whose most fervent desire is to fight alongside the Spartans. The super-model Spartans react to his offer with revulsion and scorn and even wise King Leonidas can only give him a job as a janitor. King Xerxes may have offered Ephialtes women and wealth, but the seduction was complete with a few kind words. Given this choice it is little wonder Ephialtes chose to be a star in hell rather than a slave in heaven.

300 promised “graphic battle sequences throughout” and with all these distractions does it deliver? Yes! When the 300 charge forward directly into the camera, the film has its proverbial “money shot” as the invincible Spartans crush all who would dare take the field against them. The Spartans’ true motivations may be lost with them, but the pondering of those things is better left to the “boy-loving Athenians.” The Spartans’ stand at Thermopylae is a thing of legend and 300 does justice to that legend with larger-than-life effects and a lot of pointy sticks.

—Woodrow Bogucki

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