Skip to main content

Empire Magazine Greatest Movies List - #337: 300

Now here is a movie that was both incredibly macho and incredibly gay at the same time. On the one hand, Zach Snyder’s “300” features a group of Spartan soldiers fighting a bloody battle against a Persian army that vastly outnumbers them, all in order to protect their home. On the other hand, each of those soldiers had rock-solid eight packs and spends most of the movie half-naked wearing tight leather pants. I don’t care if you spend three hours at the gym every day, no straight man is that cut. But on the other hand, you cannot deny these guys looked ready to go kick ass. Between the Spartan soldiers, the gratuitous sex, the constant spilling of blood and the speeches the get the troops pumped, this movie oozes machismo.

Released in early 2007, “300” was considered an early summer movie because of its success which caught people by surprise. The visuals from the trailer were stunning, so I asked for the graphic novel on which it is based for Christmas. When you compare what is onscreen to what is on the pages, it is as though the filmmakers lifted some images directly, much like for Frank Miller’s other graphic novel adaptation “Sin City.” Ideally I should have gone to see the film adaptation with a couple of friends from university, but it came out during my week off and my mom really wanted to spend as much time with me as possible, even if I wanted to go see a film filled with blood, gore and explosions. On the plus side for her, she got to see Gerard Butler’s eight-pack.

Butler plays legendary King Leonidas ruler of the ancient Greek City State of Sparta. The Spartans as depicted by Frank Miller are the fiercest warrior in all of Greece, if not the entire world. Not only are their children sent into the wilderness to fend for themselves as part of their initiation into manhood, but also if their babies are born with any defect, they are thrown off a cliff. Talk about putting pressure on your kids.

Their resolve is tested when a messenger from the massive Persian army of the god-king Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) rides into Sparta. The messenger warns Xerxes’ army numbers in the hundreds of thousands and requests Sparta surrenders to the Persian Empire now to avoid bloodshed. Negotiations stop abruptly when Leonidas decides to kick the messenger down a well, yelling the much-parodied scream “THIS…IS…SPARTA!” This also means war.

Actually it would mean war if the Ephors, ugly Spartan priests, had not been bribed by the Persians into denying Leonidas’ request for war. Since surrender is not part of his vocabulary, Leonidas sets out to meet the Persian army himself along with his personal guard of 300 warriors. That is of course a small number against an army that numbers in the thousands, but Leonidas believes his men may gain an advantage by fighting at the Hot Gates, a narrow pass between the rocks and the sea.

This story of 300 warriors against a massive army is factually based on the battle of Thermopylae. I am no historian, but it becomes clear very fast that both Frank Miller and director Zach Snyder took a few historical liberties. That the Persian army would have enough archers to blot out the sun I will grant as a possibility. That they had an elite guard known as the Immortals, that’s cool. But that they would have elephants, rhinos, powder bombs and some sort of Uber immortal? Now Miller and Snyder are just going hog wild.

But then again given the look and bombastic dialogue of “300,” that is pretty much the idea. This is first and foremost a visual experience. The film was shot entirely on green screen in order to bring to life the extraordinary images and battles imagined by Miller. When the Spartans go into full battle mode, it sometimes feels like a video game as they hack their way through Persian soldiers, spreading blood across the screen in slow motion.

The movie was criticized for focusing more on action than character development, but the film actually expands the storyline of Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey), wife of Leonidas. In the book she stoically tells her husband to come back victorious or dead, but in the movie she must also contend with Theron (Dominic West) a traitorous politician.

This leads to a scene that portrays the Spartan women to be just as deadly as the men. Again, I don’t know if that is historically accurate, but it was just as fun as watching the guys on the battlefield. 


Popular posts from this blog

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #85: Blue Velvet

Exactly how do you describe a David Lynch movie? He is one of the few directors whose style is so distinctive that his last name has become an adjective. According to Urban Dictionary, the definition of Lynchian is: “having the same balance between the macabre and the mundane found in the works of filmmaker David Lynch.” To see a prime example of that adjective film lovers need look no further than Lynch’s Blue Velvet (1986), which does indeed begin in the mundane before slowly sinking in macabre violence.
My first introduction to the world of David Lynch was through his ground breaking, but unfortunately interrupted, early 1990s TV series Twin Peaks. This was one of the first television shows to grab viewers with a series-long mystery: who killed Laura Palmer? A mix of soap opera, police procedural, and the supernatural, it is a unique show that showed the darkness hidden in suburbia and remains influential to this day. Featuring Kyle MacLachlan as an FBI investigator with a love for …

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #90: When Harry Met Sally...

There is an age-old question regarding whether single men and women can be just friends. In real life the answer is obviously “yes,” but in movies and TV the answer always has to be that at some point two single characters will get attracted to each other and move beyond friendship. On TV I find this to be contrived and overused, but some movies can have a lot of fun with the concept, most notably Rob Reiner’s comedy classic When Harry Met Sally…(1989). It may not change your view on love and friendship, but it forever changed the meaning of the phrase “I’ll have what she’s having.”
On paper this film’s premise sounds like another rom-com, but seen by oneself during an evening of Netflix binging it does make you think about deep stuff like the long-term impact of your decisions on your life. A person you meet during a tense trip might turn up again sometime later down the road in the most unexpected ways. If there is one thing I believe in it is infinite possibilities, and Nora Ephron…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #83: Brazil

Dystopian movies from the 1980s are a funny thing since we now live in the future of those movies and if you look at the news for more than five minutes it will feel as though we are one bad day away from being into a dystopia. On the plus side, if it ends up looking like the dystopia portrayed in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985) at least we will have lovely architecture to look at while the government is busy telling us how to think. This might not be a movie that will cheer you up, but the production design is amazing, the performances are great throughout, and you get to see Robert DeNiro play a maintenance man/freedom fighter.
I first saw Brazil as a Terry Gilliam double feature at the Universit√© de Sherbrooke’s movie club paired along with 12 Monkeys around ten years ago. Those two films are similar in that they both feature a rather dour future and, as with most Gilliam movies, incredibly intricate sets. However the dystopian future in Brazil is somewhat scarier than the disease-ra…