Hear the battle cry

Frank Miller strikes again with 300

PITY THE FOO<br> Persian “god king” Xerxes puts Mr. T to shame.

Persian “god king” Xerxes puts Mr. T to shame.

Starring Gerard Butler, Lena Headey and Dominic West. Directed by Zack Snyder.
Rated 4.0

The poster for 300 has the movie title spelled in splattered blood. If that doesn’t give some hint as to its content, I’m not sure what will.

First off, the film is based on a graphic novel by Frank Miller, the same man behind the highly acclaimed Sin City. And 300, about the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C., is stylized in much the same way. The blood (and there’s lots of it) splatters and the rain falls as if on the page. And somehow that transforms otherwise horrific images into something almost beautiful.

The better part of the movie is spent in battle between Sparta’s King Leonidas and his 300 troops and “god king” Xerxes and his more than 100,000 Persian soldiers. In fact, had Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead) not expanded the plotline to include more of Gorgo, the queen of Sparta, the entire movie would have been more or less a series of battle scenes.

It gets a bit tiresome, really, watching Leonidas (played by Scottish actor Gerard Butler) and his well-chiseled crew fight wave after wave of Xerxes’ men. But their passion is unwavering—they were, after all, born to fight—so it’s difficult not to feel some of that passion along with them.

It’s also hard to watch the film and not see some connection to the war in Iraq. The New York Times drew the parallel, but noted that it was difficult to discern whether Leonidas or Xerxes is supposed to represent President Bush. Snyder wouldn’t comment.

Political commentaries aside, 300 tells quite a tale. Adrenaline runs high, blood flows freely, and even situations between the queen (Lena Headey) and council leader Theron (Dominic West) get tense. And the question keeps being asked: Three hundred men versus 100,000? Are they crazy?

It isn’t the storytelling, or the acting that makes 300 good (Butler’s Scottish accent slips through a number of times, though it’s unclear what sort of accent the Spartans were supposed to have). What makes the film good is the editing, the stylization. Without it, the fighting scenes would be too long and the Spartans’ battle cries might seem more silly than valiant.

Most people will like 300 for the same reasons they liked Sin City or Troy—it’s an epic, and it looks cool (but mostly it’s a guy movie). Numbers don’t lie, though—for opening weekend it was the third-highest-grossing R-rated film ever. And I hear it’s playing at the Imax in Sac—now, that would be an experience.