300: A Review from Darcy

So, about a week ago I and Sarah found ourselves in the new Apollo cinema on Regent Street, about to see one of the first showings of 300 in the country. I don’t usually recommend films. My taste is not the same as everyone else’s, but DAMN! Go and see this film. Its one of the most rock hard movies that I have watched in a long time and best of all, for its type, it’s not a film full of testosterone. What it has, in vast amounts, is the epitome of the heroic ideal. Stand up for what is right and be prepared to fight to the death for it. Even better, it’s one of the most faithful adaptations of a graphic novel I will probably ever see on the big screen.
You all know the story of the 300 (shame upon you if you don’t) and director Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead) brings it to life in all its bloody glory. The Greeks quite rightly regard it as their Alamo and Snyder has done them proud. The tale may seem slight, but that’s because in reality it was. The Persians invade Greece, Greeks gather armies to repel. What’s so hard to understand about that? Some reviewers have called it one-note, but so what? It’s the simplicity of the film that I like. Make a stand or our way of life is over. I don’t need something full of bleeding hearts or faux-liberalism in a film like this; the politicians get the short shrift they deserve. I want the heroic ideal, and please, don’t give anyone who tries to equate to what’s happening in Iraq today any credence. Christianity and Islam were not even abstract concepts when the Battle of Thermopylae occurred.

Everybody in the film acquits themselves fully, even if Gerard Butlers’ Scottish accent can be something to behold at times (I can just imagine him in Taggart, in full Spartan getup shouting “There’s beena murderrrr in Spartaaa”). Perhaps the only false note is Andrew Tiernan’s Ephialtes. The would-be Spartan hunchback feels a little underdeveloped, at odds with the graphic novel version, wherein he is given more motives for his betrayal of the Spartans. Mentioning which, having not read the graphic novel for a while I reread it and was amazed to find that it’s even harder than the movie. The splash page style, at the time I first read it, I felt was Miller being simply lazy after the tight panels of Ronin and Bat-Man: DKR. But now, with hindsight, I can see the epic portrayal he was trying to put across, especially in the pages where Leonidas tells the Persians to come and get their spears, and the last battle. I also feel it’s a shame that Snyder didn’t include the scene where the Spartans are playfully diving off the wall of enemy bodies into the sea whilst ignoring the Persian messenger. That’s hardcore.

At the Q&A afterwards Snyder was given a rapturous applause and not in a fanboy worshipping way. It is a good movie and we all knew that. Snyder was a little excitable (“awesome” and “cool” were the catch-phrases of the night), but his answers were funny and to the point. He gave little hints about Watchmen (“Taxi Driver style”) that the movie is the finished version and will not have had extended cut, and about the inclusion of the subplot featuring Lena Headey’s Queen Gorgo which is not in the novel (“you have to remind the audience about what the Spartans are fighting for”).

The texture, music and (considering it was all done in a studio) CGI are perfect for the film. Whereas Sin City was mostly flat and came across dull, 300 is an amazing tour-de-force. But I must say that if I ever see another golden cornfield in an epic film then, aarrrgghhh, it will be time to go 300 on some art director’s arse.

No doubt, some historians will huff and tut about some of the historical veracity of the movie. But you know what? I DON’T CARE! I don’t care that the Spartans practised infanticide, or that for all their protestations of freedom, they were a slave-owning society. I’m not the least bit bothered that hundreds of other soldiers from other Greek armies stuck with the Spartans to the very end and don’t even get a mention in the film. I don’t care that the Spartan society could be described as fascist (and this concept also did not exist then) or that the Spartans did not go into war with just their loincloths. What I care about is the heroic ideal that the movie conveys fully and something that people should be more aware of today.

300 is the Zulu for this generation, and that’s a good thing.

8 thoughts on “300: A Review from Darcy”

  1. So, at the end of the article, you say that the brutal and unfair truth shouldn’t be thought about if there’s a conforting fantasy with high-minded ideas and lots of ass-kickery? Also, does the Athenian victory over the Persian navy get mentioned in the movie?
    Not that I entirely dislike the movie. At least now people will see that homosexuals fight just as well as anyone else.

  2. Mmm. Its not that I’m blind to the truth of what the Spartans practiced, but more that such an thorough examination of their lives would get in the way of what I believe to be the main thrust of the movie:- the heroic ideal. The movie is centered upon what occurred at the Hot Gates and something like the Athenians defeat of the Persian navy would only have complicated things. You see the Persian navy being destroyed, but by bad weather. The heroic ideal sounds high-minded, but I think we could with a little more of it today.
    Ah, the homosexuality question. Homosexuality was banned in Sparta, but does not prevent me from believing that it happened (hypocrite is a Greek word after all). Young boys were expected to find older lovers, but only in a chaste sense, something like a sugar daddy. It’s hard to verify a lot of what happened in Spartan society as they had no written records.

  3. Very true, alot of good points made. I’m mostly just annoyed that I had to explain to my friends who saw it that the events shown were an interpretation, not the actual occurance. Especially that I had to explain to one for five minutes that a war rhino would be practically impossible.

  4. i have to say i loved the movie and i specially liked your review. intelligent, inciteful, accurate, historical. it was da bomb. i DID have my reservations beforehand that the build up to this movie would surpass the actual film itself as many films do, but that wasnt the case with this film. it was everything that i expected and more. seeing frank millers graphic novel put on screen was as visually tantamount as the novel was when it first came out. i’m a huge miller fan. loved sin city also. but that’s a different type of movie, made a different way. i would like to ask your opinion on something i slightly picked up on in the movie. the relationship between king and queen was powerful. almost to the point where queen gorgo was actually in charge of her king. where she states (something to the affect)… bring back your shield, or you on it…. when historically i’m reading that she wouldnt know what to do if he didnt return… and his replay was something like… marry a good man and raise good children. am i the only one that picked up on this woman’s strength and character in this movie? even her scene with the senator and in front of the councel… amazing performance i think anyways. any oscar buzz on that? love your site.

  5. I remember the first time I read 300 and the thrill I felt at that scene and Queen Gorgo. What a wonderful thing to say to a warrior and king. I didn’t know, at the time, that it was something that Spartan women actually said to their husbands and partners before the men went of to war.
    Spartan women are somewhat of an anomaly in Greek history in that they are actually mentioned in the writings of the time. Women at that time were seen as second-class citizens and were firmly in the background. Spartan women were educated, trained as warriors in their own right and owned property. A good reflection of how Greek men and philosophers treated women at the time can be gleaned from the William Messner-Loeb/Sam Keith graphic novel Epicurus The Sage.
    Of course, the subplot concerning Queen Gorgo and the politician Theron does not occur in Miller’s 300. I understand Snyder’s reasoning behind it (see above), but it did strike me as a little false. Would a Queen such as Gorgo, who would have been listened to in council, given herself in the way she does in the film?

  6. i’ll check epicurus the sage out. i dont know how that one escaped me because i DO like william messner-loeb AND i think sam keith is top notch. my understanding of the greek women at that time was much like you said… strong…educated…strong moral character but definately NOT second class citizens. i understand miller’s omission of the theron scene in his graphic novel but i also dont disapprove of her behavior. she felt she had to do ANYTHING she could to get the councel to listen to her. and, as queen, theron was exposed and disbelieved anyways. i kinda wish she had more camera time but it wasnt about queen gorgo. an interesting thought, and one i’ll have to watch the movie a second time to confirm or disavow, were the coins discovered from the stabbing of theron planted by the queen? i’ll check that other graphic novel out. thanks for the tip.

  7. Of course, in reality the whole point is moot as Sparta practiced a dual-kingship monarchy. Whilst Leonidas was at the Hot Gates another king was running things in Sparta.

  8. Comments have now been re-opened, and the general commenting time frame has been increased. Hopefully we won’t get flooded with spam.

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