Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Review: 300

Saw the film a few days ago. It’s pretty recent, and is a stylised take on the epic stand by 300 Spartans at Thermopylae.

Anyone looking for a historically accurate film shouldn’t watch it, but if you just want to suspend intelligent thought for an hour or two and enjoy some gore it should appeal.

It’s similar to the Spartacus TV series, although probably with less gore, far less sex (but still some) and a penchant for the freakish and repulsive lacking in the TV programme (which is better).

Leonidas is the protagonist, and is portrayed as a two-dimensional, uncompromising and heroic chap, entirely accepting of his highly probable death. Xerxes, the antagonist, is a strange character in the film, replete with golden body piercings and other jewellery (I was reminded somewhat of a Goa’uld from Stargate), aspirations of godhood and great height.

The Greeks are painted as mostly heroic (the Spartan 300 dominate airtime) with the odd greedy traitor. The Persians come across as bloodthirsty conquerors led by a man of questionable grooming habits. The path around the Hot Gates is revealed to Xerxes by a malformed Spartan denied the right to fight. Even allowing for artistic licence it seems odd that he would even have been allowed to live, given the practice of exposure (killing infants whose appearance is displeasing). Furthermore, the weird Persian camp featured mutilated and scarred women whose sole purpose seemed to be to disgust. Surely the Great King would just have a large number of lovely ladies attending him and tempting the deformed traitor?

There’s quite a bit of gore splashed about, and the film takes a rather comic book approach to the violence. The drum of saving freedom (ironic, coming as it does from a king of the hegemonic Spartan city-state) is beaten to within an inch of its life.

I’d say it’s passable, but hardly a classic. There was more scope for exploring the irony of Sparta saving democracy and Athens, their ancient enemy, and the long-term contests between the Hellenistic world and Persia. However, in terms of what it sets out to do (be a couple of hours of bloody entertainment) it’s ok.


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