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March 16, 2010

Film Fatale: 300

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Written by: The Movie Lady
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300 is an awesomely entertaining movie with great visuals, action, dialogue, and acting. Released in 2007 and directed by Zack Snyder it became 24th on the box office history list. Despite this fact many people are divided on this film. This is a little puzzling given all the movie has to offer. For anyone who likes fantasy/fairy tale-ish movies this one’s a gem. It was shot in the same frame-for-frame style as Sin City and is also derived from a Frank Miller comic. The visuals are realistic with gore/dreamy qualities. Loosely based on the Battle of Thermopylae, this gruesome fairy tale is narrated by David Wenham who also plays Spartan soldier Dilios. Wenham is mostly known for his roles in two other fantasy movies, Lord of the Rings and Van Helsing. By use of his narration all manner of strange and magical creatures are added to the story. Some we recognize as everyday creatures and some are disturbing to say the least. Scottish actor Gerard Butler does a bang up job playing Greek King Leonidas and the rest of the cast does a great job as well.

Begin spoilers

Right off the bat you realize this movie means business and you don’t know what you’re going to see next. It is explained that when babies are born in Sparta they are inspected for sickness or deformities. The ones who don’t pass the test are cast off the side of a cliff and we even get to see the pile of baby bones to prove it. The dialogue and narration is by far my favorite part of this movie with the action and visuals being a close second. Male children who are kept alive are “baptized in the fire of combat” and each told that “service to Sparta was the greatest glory he could achieve in his life.” After getting to see King Leonides grow up, a messenger of King Xerxes arrives. He comes with the heads of conquered kings to strike fear, then is polite and tries to persuade Leonides that Xerxes is merely asking for an offering of earth and water. Leonides readies to attack the messenger who believes it is “Madness!” that anyone would threaten him, even though only moments ago he threatened Leonides with slavery. Leonides responds with “Madness? This! Is! Sparta!” i.e. we don’t suffer no fools here, and kicks him into a well.

In true fairy tale style King Leonides travels to consult with the Ephors, a corrupt group of priests with leprosy, about preparing for war against Xerxes. The prettiest girls are the ones who are cursed to stay with the priests and are used as Oracles who speak with the Gods. You get to see one such girl nude floating through the air though it looks like she’s floating in water. After all that the Ephors deny his request to go to war, so he decides to go alone with 300 “bodyguards”.

If the universal theme of fighting for freedom from oppression isn’t enough to draw you in, women might enjoy the love story that continues throughout the entire movie. Due to the impending threat of danger the king and queen don’t have a lot of time left together hence the early love scene, which has been one of the better ones that I’ve seen in awhile. Next comes one of my favorite snippets of dialogue from the movie – “Goodbye my love. He doesn’t say it. There’s no room for softness, not in Sparta. No place for weakness. Only the hard and strong may call themselves Spartans. Only the hard, only the strong.

Now comes the bulk of the movie, which is basically fighting and talking. As Dilios puts it “We do what we were trained to do, what we were bred to do, what we were born to do.” Xerxes tries to reason with Leonides saying “It isn’t wise to step against me Leonides. Imagine what horrible fate awaits my enemies when I would gladly kill any of my own men for victory.” Leonides responds “And I would die for any one of mine.” This is the source of Leonides’ power. Everyone knows that a man fighting for freedom counts for more in a fight than a slave being made to fight by his master. Leonides expresses this very sentiment “You have many slaves, Xerxes, but few warriors. It won’t be long before they fear my spears more than your whips.”

The battle continues until the captain’s son is killed. Dilios narrates “The day wears on. We lose few but each felled is a friend, or dearest blood, and upon seeing the headless body of his own young son, the captain breaks rank. He goes wild, blood drunk. The captain’s cries of pain at the loss of his son are more frightening to the enemy than the deepest battle drums.” We get to see all kinds of monsters and creepy creatures during the battle including a disturbing executioner who’s had his arms removed and replaced with blades. It almost seems like Leonides can manage to pull off a victory, but after denying Ephialtes participation in the battle (because his deformities affected his fighting abilities) he is betrayed. Ephialtes goes to Xerxes who tells him “Unlike the cruel Leonides who demands that you stand. I require only, that you kneel.” After being tempted by tons of variously deformed women Ephialtes is sold. He tells Xerxes of a secret path which spells Leonides’ downfall.

Back in Sparta Queen Gorgo makes plans to speak to the council about sending the army to aid Leonides. Corrupt politician Theron tells her “Don’t think that you, a woman, even a Queen, can walk into the council chamber and sway the minds of men.” In compensation for his help in convincing the council the Queen has to sleep with him. In the council chamber Theron completely changes his tune and basically says she’s crazy and she tried to sleep with him. Queen Gorgo stabs him and from his robes fall gold coins bearing the mark of Xerxes. She leaves the chamber with the councilmen shouting “Traitor!”

Back on the battlefield Dilios injures an eye after which Leonides says “Dilios, I trust that scratch hasn’t made you useless.” In true Spartan spirit Dilios replies “Hardly my lord. It’s just an eye. The Gods saw fit to grace me with a spare.” At this point it’s clear that defeat is inevitable. Leonides tells Dilios that he must go back to Sparta and make sure everyone knows what happened at the battle. The King gathers everyone around and says “A new age has begun. An age of freedom. And all will know, that 300 Spartans, gave there last breath to defend it.”ย His last words very romantically speak of his wife and all of Sparta finally rallies and goes to war against Xerxes.

End spoilers

If you like drama, fantasy, action, horror, humor, amazing visuals, great dialogue, romance, or pretty much anything you can find in great movies, this one’s got it.

“It’s been more than thirty years since the wolf and the winter cold. And now, as then, a beast approaches; patient and confident, savoring the meal to come. This beast is made of men and horses, swords and spears. An army of slaves vast beyond imagining ready to devour tiny Greece, ready to snuff out the world’s one hope for reason and justice. A beast approaches…”

The Movie Lady



  1. I’ve seen this film several times and just can’t get enough of the great art direction (those sepia tones), the action scenes (now overexposed) and every other damn thing about it. Frazetta in action.

  2. It was a really pretty movie (also, hot guys). Story was decent too. But it was soooo overhyped, and it was, honestly, overdone. It’s a gimmick, and it works sometimes, and it’s really pretty…and sometimes you’re just like…augh AGAIN with the slow motion.

  3. infinite speech

    I hadn’t read the book before I saw the movie which is something I try to do but I was actually impressed with how well the movie was done from story to effects. Movies like this do start a bunch of copy cat films who overuse their effects kind of like the Matrix did when it came out. I’ve seen this movie many times and just can’t get enough of it. However I’m a little skeptical of the possible sequal

    “we don’t suffer no fools here” lol

  4. billy

    Always wanted to see this but never did ๐Ÿ™

  5. Billy you need to take some time out and treat yourself. This is truly a GOOD comic movie and those my friend are very rare!

  6. Well, I guess I’m in the minority here but I thought this movie was pretty laughable.

    I mean, how many times do we need to see half naked men murder each other in blood spattered slow-mo?

    The beginning scene, where Leonides kicked the messengers into that giant well- wouldn’t those guys have realized that they were standing in front of a GIANT GAPING WELL!?

    And the scene where the father loses his son: isn’t the greatest honor for a Spartan to be killed in battle? Then why was he so sad!?!?!? I didn’t get it.

    The final thing that really bugged me was how it ended: the surviving Spartans were killed by a flurry of arrows…yet earlier in the film they entire army was attacked by ALL of Xerces archers: the sky went black with arrows. All the Spartans had to do to prevent from getting hit was create a dome of shields, which they did and they all survived…so why not pull that maneuver again in the final battle!?!?!?


  7. The Movie Lady

    @ Billy – I agree with InfiniteSpeech. I think you know what to do! ๐Ÿ™‚

    @ Andy – I don’t think you would have complained if they were women and I’m sure you like seeing fully clothed men murder each other.

    I don’t think the slow-mo was that bad. There is one lengthy stretch near the beginning of the fighting but it still looks cool.

    The messenger was outraged and shocked that Leonides would even threaten a messenger. He says “No man, Persian or Greek, NO MAN threatens a messenger!” And even if the well wasn’t there, the messenger and his men were outnumbered with swords drawn on them. I don’t think he was expecting Leonides to kill him. That’s why it’s so powerful when he says “This! Is! Sparta!” Because in other places they wouldn’t have done that.

    The scene where the father loses the son? Seriously? Of course it’s an honor but that doesn’t mean you try to get killed, they were trying to win. I’m sure he would have rather had his son live longer before he died, it was only his first battle. Plus, anyone who watches their son’s head get chopped off in front of them and not react to that isn’t human.

    In the beginning they were attacked by long range archers. This can only be used when the enemy is far away because it’s not precise. If your guys are out there too they’ll get hit by the arrows as well. At the end of the movie they were betrayed by Ephialtes who told Xerxes about the hidden path behind them. They were surrounded (leaving their fighting strategy – the phalanx – useless) and they were outnumbered. They can’t crouch hiding behind their shields all day so they got up and died fighting. Soldiers or short range archers took them out. Leonides said earlier “The world will know that free men stood against a tyrant, that few stood against many, and before this battle was over, even a god-king can bleed.” Which is exactly what he accomplished before he died.

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