Review: 300

Published 7 years ago by , Updated March 5th, 2009 at 10:37 pm,

By Vic Holtreman

Short version: Pretty close to being the ultimate “guy movie.”

300 Review: 300I’ve waited a long time to see 300, the movie inspired by Frank Miller’s graphic novel about the Spartans. If nothing else, based on the trailers I was expecting a movie that at least visually, would blow me away. My only concern going in was that I had heard that there were WAY too many slow-motion scenes… in fact that every single battle sequence was in slow-mo. On the plus side, if ever there seemed to be a film that would connect directly into the testosterone center of the male brain this looked like it was going to be it.

For the most part, it delivers big time.

300 tells the (no doubt highly romanticized) story of the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C., where King Leonidas of Sparta made a stand against the self-proclaimed god-king of Persia and his massive army. Leonidas had 300 Spartan warriors and a few hundred other Greek conscripts as back up to go up against an army purported to be one million men strong.


Via narration the film opens with a short history lesson about Sparta and it’s people, and you immediately get a sense of who they are. There are no wimps or physically inferior people in this civilization… only the strong are allowed to live. Both the men and women are forceful, proud people, with some male children destined to become ultimate warriors who begin training as soon as they can walk.

We see Leonidas (played with great gusto by Gerard Butler) as a seven year old in combat training where his instructor pulls no punches, and then at about 10 or 12 years old where he undergoes the rite of passage in the wild. He will either return as a man or he will not return at all. Cut to him at 40 and as king, where he and his beautiful wife Queen Gorgo (played by Lena Headey) obviously rule together. A messenger from the king of Persia comes to tell Leonidas he must kneel before King Xerxes (played by the insanely tall Rodrigo Santoro) and submit to Persian rule. Leonidas gives a typical Spartan response when he refuses… with feeling.

Sure, there is some political maneuvering going on as part of the story back in Sparta, where the Queen tries to convince the council to send the rest of the Spartan army to reinforce the 300, and there are a couple of erotic nude scenes to keep the male audience happy (that Oracle… woah). And the reason for the politics is that King Leonidas went against the wishes of the council and the creepy, lecherous and leperous high priests in deciding to attack the Persian army. He takes 300 men to face King Xerxes at Thermopylae, where a narrow canyon will allow him to hold off the hordes of invaders with relatively few men. And this, my friends is why you go see this movie.

But the BATTLE is what 300 is all about.

The fight scenes in this movie are incredible… the word “glorious” comes to mind. Yes, there is a lot of slow motion but it serves to accentuate the battle. It’s mesmerizing to watch this small band of men go against everything Xerxes throws at them. No matter what, they don’t back down. They take on regular foot soldiers, archers, creepy “immortals” who are Xerxes elite fighting force, a wierd giant mutant guy who apparently doesn’t understand that getting stabbed hurts and is supposed to stop you, and on up from there. These men led by King Leonidas are the very definition of “Never Say Die.”

The only thing that kept this movie from getting a NC-17 rating for violence is the fact that it’s shot in sepia tones and the blood that appears onscreen look black (as it did in Lord of the Rings). And there is a LOT of blood.

Now I’m not a big critic of the MPAA, but there are some things they decide that are just plain silly as far as I’m concerned. You can have gore galore in a movie, but as long as the blood isn’t red they’ll cut it some slack. Wierd, but I digress.

Aside from the amazing battles, I enjoyed the performances of the leads. Butler was intense and feral when required, yet still had a quiet side as Leonidas. David Wenham (who played Faramir in Lord of the Rings) does a somber job as Leonidas friend and the narrator, and Lena Headey as Leonidas’ queen was both beautiful and strong onscreen, plus with an outfit or two that rivals the famous Princess Leia metal “slave bikini.” icon smile Review: 300

I’ve also never seen such a huge collection of six-pack abs outside of a bodybuilder competition. I imagine that Gold’s Gym and 24 Hour Fitness are going to see spikes in new membership numbers for the next couple of weeks as this movie makes millions of coach potato men feel physically insignificant as they stuff popcorn in their faces.

On the negative side, I thought the film went on a bit too long and started to run out of steam towards the end. The political aspect of the film that takes place back in Sparta was not compelling when compared to what was going on at the battlefield. Much like watching an American Idol performance where a big finish can make you forget the mediocre beginning and middle, I had to remember how great the first 80% of 300 was and not judge it only on how it felt towards the end.

Overall, a great ride that will get you fired up if you’re a guy, and although it’s very bloody I suppose there is lots of eye candy for the ladies. icon smile Review: 300

Our Rating:

4 out of 5
(Excellent)

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TAGS: 300, 4 star movies

30 Comments

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  1. I get the pleasure of seeing this movie tonight. It will just be the guys, sense we can’t talk the ladies into joining us for such movie (my wife could barely handle The Gladiator), so this will serve as a great night out for the guys

  2. I loved watching the 300 – I even enjoyed the slo-mo, giving me time to just absorb the scene. The sheer movement was awesome, conveying the immovable Spartans and the irresistible force of the Persians. Snyder did a very good job cimeatically IMO.

    What I haven’t liked are the reviews – one calling the dialogue “bombastic tripe” and one comparing the US to Xerxes and the Persians. But that’s more of a subject for your LifeRant.

    As a side note, why do professional movie reviewers not seem to enjoy movies?

  3. *cinematically

  4. I think in general that movie reviewers are just “pickier”, or to risk sounding obnoxious, hold movies to a higher standard than the average person.

    I do think that there are some “elitist” reviewers out there that are a bit haughty in their opinions, but I try to judge movies from more of a “regular guy” point of view. That’s not to say that I’ll give anything at all a high rating, but I try to judge movies within the context of the genre or what they’re trying to accomplish.

    Vic

  5. I wasn’t including you, Vic. The question came to mind after reading the Boston Globe review of the 300.

    I was thinking more like the reviewers that go to see a horror movie and then tear it apart for not having a deeper meaning. It’s a horror movie, not a treatise on the human condition.

    I put more weight in the reviews by people who seem to enjoy whatever genre the movie best fits.

  6. Whyskey,

    Dont’ worry, I didn’t take it personally.

    I hear what you’re saying, but sometime a movie just plain sucks, regardless of the genre. :-)

    The premise of a story can be just plain stupid, the characters can act in ways that just don’t make sense (there’s a scary sound outside the cabin in the woods in the middle of the night and I’m a girl… I’d better go see what it is), characters are written in a way that makes you not care what happens to them (kiss of death IMHO), etc.

    Vic

  7. I liked it just fine. It made me mad that Leonidas had to deal with all the betrayal when he was just trying to do the right thing. Vic mentioned the slow motion battle scenes before I saw the movie, and frankly I didn’t even notice it during the movie. I was very frustrated that the Spartans repeatedly broke ranks to fight as individuals. It was like they thought they were movie heros instead foot soldiers in a real battle. A female friend pointed out that she has yet to meet a Greek who didn’t have a hairy chest. Yet, according to her there wasn’t a chest hair in the entire Spartan Army. I didn’t notice myself. But, I’m going to ask Vic if he will see it with me again just so we can find out.

    Someone mentioned Xerexes being compared to modern US forces. I saw it the other way; insane evilness from the East threatening the rest of the world to kneel to their ways or die. A small group of people put themselves between the danger and their homes/families/country. Instead of support from the people who owe such thanks, the soldiers are undermined by politicians who use the situation as nothing but a venue to jockey for a better position.

  8. “A female friend pointed out that she has yet to meet a Greek who didn’t have a hairy chest. Yet, according to her there wasn’t a chest hair in the entire Spartan Army. I didn’t notice myself. But, I’m going to ask Vic if he will see it with me again just so we can find out.”

    LMAO!!! :-D

    As a matter of fact I *did* notice that… should I be worried? ;-)

    Vic

  9. Saw it on IMAX and OH MY GERARD!!!!! ;)

  10. LOL! It’s great to have you back! :-D

    Vic

  11. I am always around Vic, but usually just lurking. I will post more from now on! :)

  12. I hated the movie. I feel that it was a huge waste of my time. It was like taking Bravehart, removing the story line, and spray everything with fake tanner. Just my $.02

    Stan-Lee
    http://www.movieguys.org

  13. No worries. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Of course I just popped over to your site for a second and saw a highly favorable review of “Talladega Nights” which I found so god-awful that I only made through about 30 minutes of it. :-)

    Vic

  14. As you said vic, everyone is entitled to their opinion. You should see his latest movie. I think you will find that Heder and Ferrell balance each other out quite well.

    Stan-Lee
    http://www.movieguys.org

  15. Stan,

    I just don’t think it’ll be my cup or tea. I’m not a big fan of Ferrell when he’s doing his “stupid and egomaniacal” characters. I prefer his more muted ones. “Legend of Ron Burgundy” was about the limit of that type of character portrayal that I could stand, and the trailers for “Blades of Glory” made him seem even more over the line than that.

    Vic

  16. Yeah, I guess I’m just not a fan of that particular type of humour. :-\

    Vic

  17. Vic,

    I could not agree with you more. I would have to say that Ferrell is the most over rated comedy actor in recent years. I would say that his best role is in Elf and that is even a stretch. He is much better in bit roles like Wedding Crashers (Glorified Chick Flick) and Old School. Maybe the scripts he is working are just not that good but I just don’t think he is that funny.

    Jim
    http://www.kajatm.com

  18. omg!the movie was so freakin awsome,ive honestly never seen a movie like that before,and by the way,OMG STAN LEE HII LOL!anyways hey stan can u send me and email about the origon of venom,i dont really get it.

  19. Oh, I don’t mind dialog and a plot driven story if it’s done WELL, although I understand what you’re saying. Where I have an issue is when a studio puts out a film that SHOULD make you feel like “300″ does, but instead it’s just lame garbage. IMHO that’s the case with a lot of the action flicks that come out.

    Vic

  20. I’ve seen the 300 three times now and each time I feel that rush that only truly cinematic films give you. After a diet of chick flicks, feelgood movies, relationship weepies and lame crime capers, my movie taste buds have gone numb. For too long now, films coming from Hollywood have become talkier and over-reliant on dialogue- and plot-driven narrative. Going to the movies has become the equivalent of going to the theatre or reading a book. The 300 has rejuvenated the cinematic senses and put the juice back into screen warfare with its in-your-face testosterone muscle power. Visually speaking, the film is a masterpiece of art direction, post-production and cinematography, its deep blacks and distressed textures remain imbedded in the mind long afterwards.
    We need more movies like this, movies that rely on visceral and passionate themes portrayed in emotional colours.

  21. Watch a Kevin Spacey movie, Shipping News, for example, to truly understand what I’m getting at when I say a non-cinematic experience. I think the rise and popularity of reality TV shows, Jackass TV and gonzo porn is giving us a glimpse into where tastes are going as regards new film formats. Personally, I’d like to watch a few trailers, a couple of three or four minute Youtube-type movies, a half-hour short and then a feature film when I go to the movies. Cramming or extending a plot so it fits into a matinee slot has killed off a lot of talent that can’t afford to make a feature but still wants to make films.
    Check out http://www.increasethepiss.blogspot.com to see some of our BogArt films.
    Nice one Vic.

  22. The release of 300 this past Tuesday prompted me to seclude myself from the general public in order to relish Hollywood’s artistry. It is by far one of the best written films I ever seen.

    (Spoilers ahead but then again I do not know anyone who has not seen 300 yet)

    The tale of heroism resonate through my mind for days as I recollect the 302 men that marched towards Thermopylae to battle the massive Persian army of Xerxes. Unfortunately, one of the men lost an eye in combat prompting Leonidas to send him back to Sparta. Hence, 301 men were left behind to find themselves surrounded after bring betrayed by Ephialtes. They died.

    Dilios, the narrator of the film, recollects for Athenians the bravery of King Leonidas and the brave 300 and how all 301 of them died as freed men. Okay, this is the worse movie review ever.

    My point is, can you imagine marketing 301? Or, King Leonidas and the brave 299? And is anyone else having trouble annuciating Sparta without taking on the accent of Gerard Butler.

  23. It’s definitely an awesome movie. I just purchased the DVD and watched it again. Great, great stuff.

    However I’d prefer that they do not revisit this and leave it as a stand alone movie.

    Vic

  24. greatly shot. narration i could have done without. something about it being so heroic and epic raised the cheese meter though i can live with. maybe if it was different actor? heh. however, i must give it to them. this movie was based on a vague 5 comic series that focused mainly on an epic battle. one hell of a movie… with some mushy/cheesy parts that any “man’s man” can rightfully deal with. =)

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