Revisited: 300

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

One year after the famed Battle of Thermopylae, Dilios, a hoplite in the Spartan Army, begins his story by depicting the life of Leonidas I from childhood to kingship via Spartan doctrine. Dilios’s story continues and Persian messengers arrive at the gates of Sparta demanding “earth and water” as a token of submission to King Xerxes; the Spartans reply by killing and kicking the messengers into a well. Leonidas then visits the Ephors, proposing a strategy to drive back the numerically superior Persians through the Hot Gates; his plan involves building a wall in order to funnel the Persians into a narrow pass between the rocks and the sea. The Ephors consult the Oracle, who decrees that Sparta will not go to war during the Carneia. As Leonidas angrily departs, a messenger from Xerxes appears, rewarding them for their covert support.

Although the Ephors have denied him permission to mobilize Sparta’s army, Leonidas gathers three hundred of his best soldiers in the guise of his personal bodyguard; they are joined along the way by Arcadians. At Thermopylae, they construct the wall made up of stones and slain Persian scouts as mortar, angering the Persian Emissary. Stelios, an elite Spartan soldier, orders him to go back to the Persian lines and warn Xerxes after cutting off his whipping arm. Meanwhile, Leonidas encounters Ephialtes, a deformed Spartan whose parents fled Sparta to spare him certain infanticide. Ephialtes asks to redeem his father’s name by joining Leonidas’ army, warning him of a secret (goat) path the Persians could use to outflank and surround the Spartans. Though sympathetic, Leonidas rejects him since his deformity physically prevents him from properly holding his shield; this could compromise the phalanx formation. Ephialtes is enraged.

The battle begins soon after the Spartans’ refusal to lay down their weapons. Using the Hot Gates to their advantage, plus their superior fighting skills, the Spartans repel wave upon wave of the advancing Persian army. During a lull in the battle, Xerxes personally approaches Leonidas to persuade him to surrender, offering him wealth and power in exchange for his allegiance; Leonidas declines and mocks Xerxes for the inferior quality of his fanatical warriors. In response, Xerxes sends in his elite guard, the Immortals later that night. Despite some Spartans being killed, they heroically defeat the Immortals (with slight help from the Arcadians). On the second day, Xerxes sends in new waves of armies from Asia and other Persian city-states, including war elephants, to crush the Spartans once and for all, but to no avail. Meanwhile, Ephialtes defects to Xerxes to whom he reveals the secret path in exchange for wealth, luxury, and (especially) a uniform. The Arcadians retreat upon learning of Ephialtes’ betrayal, but the Spartans stay. Leonidas orders an injured but reluctant Dilios to return to Sparta and tell them of what has happened, a “tale of victory”.

In Sparta, Queen Gorgo is persuaded by the Spartan Council to send reinforcements to aid the 300. Theron, a corrupt politician, claims that he “owns” the Council and threatens the Queen, who reluctantly submits to his sexual demands in return for his help. When Theron disgraces her in front of the Council, Gorgo kills him out of rage, revealing within his robe a bag of Xerxes’ gold. Marking his betrayal, the Council unanimously agrees to send reinforcements. On the third day, the Persians, led by Ephialtes, traverse the secret path, encircling the Spartans. Xerxes’ general again demands their surrender. Leonidas seemingly kneels in submission, allowing Stelios to leap over him and kill the general. A furious Xerxes orders his troops to attack. Leonidas rises and throws his spear at Xerxes; barely missing him, the spear cuts across and wounds his face, proving the God-King’s mortality. Leonidas and the remaining Spartans fight to the last man until they finally succumb to an arrow barrage.

Dilios, now back at Sparta, concludes his tale before the Council. Inspired by their King’s sacrifice, the Persians will now face a larger Greek army 40,000 strong, led by 10,000 Spartans. After one final speech commemorating the 300, Dilios, now head of the Spartan Army, leads them into battle against the Persians across the fields of Plataea, ending the film.

REVIEW:

Sword and sandal epics are a dime a dozen, especially if you go back to the mid-late 60s or so. Those things came out like every weekend. In order to stand out in a genre that is clouded with masterpieces, flops, and mediocrity, something innovative must be done. Does 300 do this? I don’t know about all that, but one thing is for certain, it does have a unique look.

What is this about?

In a conflict pitting the ancient Greeks against the Persians in 480 B.C., Spartan King Leonidas leads his small band of 300 soldiers against an army of more than 1 million during the Battle of Thermopylae.

What did I like?

Elegant in its simplicity. Please don’t go into this film with any kind of expectations for an epic story, because it is just not there. While it is based on actual events from history, the true source material for this film is a comic book that took liberties with those facts. Does that make this a bad film? No, for someone like me, taking out all the drama and exposition in favor of action was a brilliant decision. Others may feel the opposite, so it is a matter of personal opinion.

Distinctive look. Despite your stance on the plot, you cannot deny that this flick has a distinctive look. Well, it did at the time it was released. Now it has been copied to death, much like the bullet time effect from The Matrix. What do I think of the look? Well, the fact that is not in full color, but rather some sepia tones and red is an interesting choice. Given the graphic nature of this film, though, it works very well, not to mention puts you in the mindset of watching the comic on screen.

The Butler. Gerard Butler is an actor that perplexes me. In all the action films I’ve seen him in, he seems to be a perfect fit (this includes the much reviled Gamer). However, I think this was the last action film he did before he went to rom-coms. I’m not saying the guy shouldn’t branch out, but every one of those films just felt like he was itching to do something more. Eventually he did get back into action with one of those movies about the White House being taken over that came out last year or the year before. I forgot which one he was in. At any rate, Butler as King Leonidas deliver a performance that is, well worthy of a king. He is eloquent and moving in his speech, showing that he is indeed a great actor, but also kicks ass in the fighting scenes.

What didn’t I like?

Queen. A king must have a queen. This is why we have Lena Headey. For her role, she does a decent job. I’ve never really been a fan of her, even today when I watch Game of Thrones, though. If I recall, she isn’t a major factor in the books, which means that some screenwriter beefed up her role to give us a strong female character. Ok, that would be fine, except for the fact that she in the only female character, save for some whores and concubines the Persians have. So, why do this? Just cast some random hot chick to fawn all over Butler as his doting queen and save the powerful women for the sequel. This is not a film aimed at women, at least in that way, so no real reason to attempt to give them someone to relate to, I’m sorry.

Sparta = Scotland. I don’t know what it is with me and accents, but I have to point this out. Gerard Butler uses his natural Scottish accent as the king of Sparta, a country in Greece. I could overlook that, except none of the other Spartans spoke with the same accent. I think Michael Fassbender’s character might have had his Irish come out, but I think he was doing his American, like everybody else. The Spartans weren’t the only one with accent issues. Over on the Persian side, Xerxes has a vaguely Hispanic accent, while the other are a gumbo of everything from British to ebonics. If nothing else, you major characters should agree on the dialect, right?

Darkness falls. This is a dark film. Not because of the subject matter, but because of the lighting…or lack thereof. Throw in the way they decided to use color and it makes it very hard to know what is going on. I can imagine that this looked even worse sitting in theaters with 3D glasses on. Should the darkness be taken away? No, this is a war film, after all, but I do think turning the brightness up a hair would help.

Much has been said about 300 since its release. Some good and some bad. I find that you either love or hate this movie. What side am I on? I love it! The action, the sword and sandal epicness, the blood…all come together to make a fun watch. Is this a film for everyone? No, not by a longshot, but for the audience that this appeals to, we will all love and enjoy it. Give it a shot and see which side you fall on!

4 out of 5 stars

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One Response to “Revisited: 300”

  1. […] clip. When we are first introduced to Xerxes in 300, he is this giant freak of a man with piercings, chains, and gold all over his body. I’m sure […]

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