I was half-tempted to write this entire review in all capital letters, the ol’ interweb’s equivalent of shouting, since that is how virtually every line of dialog is delivered. Watching 300 is similar in effect to being beaten over the head for two hours by a large, very drunk, very angry man. Make that several very large, very drunk, very angry men.
I loved it.
I don’t know what that says about me, but I’m past caring. This adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel is a loving ode to all things unabashedly masculine, so awash in testosterone you almost have to tread water to keep your head above it. And it’s testament to this film that 300 fantastically fit men can walk around in little more than a leather Speedo and still seem unquestionably heterosexual. Of course, the swords and the screaming and rivers of blood certainly help.
In case you hadn’t heard, the story is loosely based on the very real stand of the Spartans against the Persian Empire at Thermopylae. I say loosely because this is very much a fantasy film with one foot in history and the other standing ankle deep in computer-generated blood. It adheres to the general outline of the actual battle but isn’t afraid to take whatever liberties it feels necessary for sheer entertainment value.
The opening follows King Leonidas (Gerald Butler) through a typically brutal Spartan boyhood and quickly establishes him as the king of the Greek city-state. When a representative of the Persian Empire comes to demand Sparta’s submission to Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), Leonida’s reaction to this insult is to throw the man down a well.
Before long, Xerxes’ massive army is bearing down on all of Greece, but political maneuvering by a corrupt politician named Theron (Dominic West) prevents Leonidas from dispatching the Spartan army to meet them. In defiance, he takes 300 “personal bodyguards” out for a “stroll.” Staying behind, his wife, Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) attempts to rally the rest of Greece behind him.
Leonidas, his “bodyguards” and 1,400 other “free Greeks” meet Xerxes’ forces at a narrow pass where the massive army is funneled down and their numerical superiority useless. That’s when the real fun begins and 300 wisely wastes little time in getting to this point.
Nothing here is small or quiet. This is a film of high, unabashed melodrama. It’s corny at points and dares you to complain about it. Using Frank Miller’s original graphic novel as a ready-made storyboard, the visuals are bold and colorful. The performances are oversized and don’t bother with subtlety.
Yes, this is a very violent film, with spearings and slashings, arms, legs and heads flying all over the screen, but the blood is mostly CGI, darkened to the point of almost being black, which mutes the effect of the gore and lets you enjoy the non-stop action.
This is the perfect movie for everybody who thought Gladiator was too long and talky. For the rest of us, it’s still a hell of a lot of fun.