Sunday, October 21, 2007

300 (2006)

300 was not high on my list of movies to be viewed but a co-worker lent it to me after she raved about how much she liked it. I was a bit put-off by the cover (quite gory) and by the comments of another coworker about how the film was filled with "half-naked women". When I told him that wasn't really a problem for me (lol), he countered with the statement that there were plenty of "half-naked men" as well.

So I began the film with a bit of trepidation, having had such diverse comments beforehand. We had studied the Battle of Thermopylae in our history lessons last year and so I was vaguely familiar with the plot line. I also knew that Gerard Butler was in it, and I had much enjoyed him in Dear Frankie (although not so much in Phantom of the Opera).

I think a bit of a history lesson is called for before I give my reactions to the film. "In the Battle of Thermopylae of 480 BC, an alliance of Greek city-states fought the invading Persian Empire at the pass of Thermopylae (Hot Gates) in central Greece. Vastly outnumbered, the Greeks held back the Persians for three days in one of history's most famous last stands. A small force led by King Leonidas of Sparta blocked the only road through which the massive army of Xerxes I of Persia (Xerxes the Great) could pass. In the final battle, when it became clear that the Persians were going to win, most of the Greek allies retreated but Leonidas and 300 Spartan soldiers stayed to fight."

I do not know how historically accurate the film might be, but I would guess it was much simplified for the sake of a two hour movie, as well as filtered through modern sensibilities and political correctness. HERE are some interesting FAQ's about the movie's historical accurateness.

The style of the film was reminiscent of The Matrix, with the "bullet time" stop-action and the look of a graphic novel. Indeed the film is based on the graphic novel of the same name by Frank Miller. The stop-action allowed for lots of blood spattering gore, which may be accurate in a battle situation (or maybe not - I am guessing real war is much bloodier and not as artistic). Either way, it's not much to my own personal preferences. I did close my eyes at quite a few places just because I do not want those images in my mind. I found I did not close them quite LONG enough in a couple instances though, so keep in mind that the gory scenes are lingered over much longer than one might expect.

The characters were well-defined, but I don't think the love portrayed between father and son and between husband and wife was much in evidence in ancient Sparta. What I understand of Spartan culture, although it is admittedly not a lot, is that violence was the norm and that family relationships were discouraged rather than encouraged. I also appreciated the fact that the soldiers who were main characters, although obviously much similar in appearance, were easy to distinguish from one another.

The characters were fighting for "Freedom" which is a high ideal in much of modern entertainment. I would offer that obedience to God is a much higher ideal for Christians, and we should keep that in mind when watching movies with the "freedom" ideal from this one all the way down to children's films such as Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. Freedom at all costs is not what God calls us to; rather it is obedience at all costs. Also, keep in mind that the Spartan society was possible because of its reliance on (and mistreatment of) slaves.

When the 300 men were lining up before leaving for battle, I was surprised to recognize David Wenham (LOTR's Faramir) in the Spartan uniform. A while later, I realized that his character provided the narration throughout the film.

There are four areas of sensuality in the movie that I feel are worth a caution. One is a husband-wife sex scene and I used the chapter skip to skip this scene. Another is the teenage female "oracle" doing a drug-induced dance. A third is an adulterous liaison between a woman and a man. This was not explicit and was important for understanding what happens near the end of the film. The last occurred in the scene where the traitor comes to Xerxes; there are many sensually dressed women gyrating and the camera lingers on these women. There is also a lesbian kiss in this scene. This is an important scene for content, however, as the traitor makes a deal with Xerxes here. But now that you know that, you can use the chapter skip. ;-)

Ok, I am losing my momentum and if I try to perfect this review, it will probably never get published, so you will get my half-finished thoughts and ideas instead of nothing at all. :-)

Do I recommend seeing 300? Only if you love gore (or don't mind shutting your eyes through a lot of the movie) and if you take the time to find out what really happened instead of taking this movie as historical fact.