April 13, 2007

Movie Review: 300

There was a time when the movie 300 would have been a perfect movie for me. I would have loooved this movie back in the day. "The day" meaning when I loved the gore movies. I used to be a huge horror movie fan, and although 300 is not a horror movie, it is filmed like one. Each scene is meant to shock and make the audience squirm.

There is this really great short story I remember, but I can't remember who wrote it. It was written by an Asian writer. Anyway, it's about this man who sees a painting of a tree. He doesn't purchase it but later wishes he had. He spends his whole life trying to find it and raise enough money to buy it. Then when he finally has it in his grasp, the painting is unveiled, and he is disappointed that it is not the same painting. The point of the story is that the painting WAS the same. It wasn't the painting that had changed; it was the man himself. He was not the same person when he saw the painting the second time, and the painting had lost its beauty.

I think that story has a very important point. What might be a great movie to one person will fizzle for another. For me, 300 did not dazzle, but I can assume it thrilled many a viewer.

For the historical information about this battle, I will send you to wikipedia. For purposes of reading this review, I will say that the movie covers a famous series of battles where a small Spartan army of 300 soldiers fights with a much larger army and kicks butt.

You don't have to understand history to enjoy this movie, but it helps to know some of the background when the King says a line like, "This is Sparta!" to explain why he is justified in pushing an unarmed messenger down a deep hole to his death. This bring great meaning to the phrase, "Don't shoot the messenger." The messenger has come to demand that Sparta pay tribute to Xerxes, the King of Persia. Sparta is very proud and they react strongly to this demand. But unless you remember all of those wonderful Western Civilization lectures you received in college you might be scanning the hollows of your brain to remember why Sparta was so proud.


The King leads his small army of 300 soldiers to a narrow pass in a mountain. There he and his men are able to deliver a massive kill count that lasts several days. They do this by forming a battle formation of shield to shield. In between holding the shields, they deliver synchronized jabs with their spears. The result is an impenetrable wall that holds longer than the Persians expect. I think the first movie I remember seeing with a ton of battlefield violence was Mel Gibson's Braveheart. That movie had a lot of bloody battles, but it also had a wonderful plot. The plot of 300 was paper thin. There were moments in the film where I would say "huh?" It seemed like there were large gaps in the chronology. In one scene, the men were cheering because Persian ships were being turned over by tumultuous waters. The next moment, this Persian scout was showing up and tons of Persian corpses were piled on top of each other. When did the Spartans have time to build this wall?

But, I don't think you really come to a movie like 300 for a chronological history lesson. Those that go to watch it are looking for blood, blood, blood. And you get it in large quantities.

The acting was okay. But again, this movie was not about wonderful acting performances. The people in this movie had to look gorgeous and gaze soulfully at the camera. Script is kept to a minimum. A lot of the script is voice-over narration straight from the graphic novel.

The one thing that really bothered me is that the power-hungry King of Persia who was intent on destroying these Spartans was named Xerxes. Apparently some scholars believe this may be the Xerxes in the book of Esther from the Bible. If it is the same, it would be difficult to make sense of the Bible's account of Xerxes and the Xerxes in portrayed in this movie. There has been a lot of debate on how accurate the historical facts in 300 are. But, again, are viewers really watching it for a history lesson? Let's hope not.
Here's an alternate review from Fuel the Rebellion, a new movie blogging friend!

3 comments:

alexgirl said...

I didn't have much desire to see this, and your review has prompted me to DEFINITELY wait for video.
I liked the story of the painting!
Hope you had a lovely weekend.
-A

zeelibrarian said...

Alex,
Truthfully, if you are going to see it, you should see it on the big screen. One of the main positive things about the movie, is the cinematography. I guess I didn't mention that in the review. But it was beautiful to watch.

Val said...

Yes, it was a beautifully FILMED movie which was the only thing which made it watchable for me (although I, too, was a big horror-movie fan "back in the days"...)