A co-worker and I took an extended lunch Friday to watch 300; I read that it was pretty much a frame for frame translation of the graphic novel of the same name by Frank Miller. Miller’s work is always visually captivating, but I knew going in that there likely wouldn’t be much more behind the visuals. The film did not even attempt to prove me wrong, making for an enjoyable “shut the brain off” adventure.
The film takes the historical events of the Battle of Thermopylae but bends it towards something more akin to the various myths of ancient Greece. However, the film goes beyond the fantastic with Xerxes and his retinue; they looked like a bad leather show on acid and were more comical than threatening. Visually, the effects for each battle were amazing with blood splattering about in bullet time; more amazing was the use of audio to accompany the spraying blood. It made this sickening wet, spurting sound as limbs and flesh were sliced and an equally impressive “splat” when it “hit” something. Oscar will likely give a nod for best visual effects, but the Razzies will certainly have to put this up for worst costumes involving sexually ambiguous Persian rulers.
It plays very fast and loose with the historical record, and the fantasy elements do go over the top at times. However, I think the film does a decent job of illuminating some important facts of the actual events. The Greeks knew the terrain, and the Persians did not resulting in heavy losses for the invaders. It also showed that the Spartans understood the mental and physical discipline and training it took to create a force willing to march to certain death. To a certain extent, this made for a fitting reason for the fantasy elements. Spartan armies were so fearless, so legendary that the foes that brought them down must have been equally fantastic.
Is this movie worth the price of admission? If you pay matinée prices, yes, it is a fun action film with plenty of eye candy. However, this is one of those films sure to be played to death on cable, so you might want to save your money if you have a decent home theater rig.