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300 (2007)
Rated R

Starring: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, and Dominic West

out of

300 is based on the story of the Battle of Thermopylae, where 300 Spartan soldiers faced the much larger forces of Xerxes, the ruler of Persia, in a battle that has captured the imagination of many since it occurred in 480 BC. In particular, this film's re-telling is based on "300," a graphic novel by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley. Miller, who is best-known for his "Sin City" series, which was also successfully translated to film in 2005, was inspired by the 1962 film The 300 Spartans as a child. In other words, expecting this to be an accurate representation of history is foolish.

300's version goes something like this: A Persian messenger arrives at Sparta carrying the crown-bearing skulls of those who have dared to defy Xerxes. All Sparta has to do to avoid being crushed is to make an offering of "earth and water" to show they will submit to Persia. King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) is outraged that the messenger would dare to threaten Sparta and throws him into a pit, sending a message back to Xerxes that Sparta will not kneel to him.

Realizing that Sparta will soon be attacked, Leonidas leads 300 Spartan warriors to the "Hot Gates" where they will attempt to hold off the Persian forces. He does so without the support of the Spartan council, who controls the bulk of the Spartan army and, as such, the ability to send reinforcements. As Leonidas leads his forces into what is most likely certain death, his wife, Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey), tries to convince the council to send the army to his aid.

That summary is as complicated as the film ever gets. The bulk of 300's 2 hour running time is comprised of various scenes of the Spartan warriors dismembering the Persian forces in one form or another. Due to the use of mostly computer-generated sets and backgrounds, 300 looks like a giant, sprawling videogame. If you've ever watched someone play an action-packed videogame, you'll have déjà vu watching 300. I wanted to grab a controller and start helping the Spartans out. Once I realized I couldn't, I became painfully aware of how uninvolving the movie actually is, despite the fantastic visuals.

Gerard Butler, as Leonidas, makes a great soldier and warrior. He comes across as someone for whom you wouldn't hesitate suiting up for battle and charging an enemy. He is the sole character in the film that is fleshed-out enough to care about. Everyone else, aside from Queen Gorgo, who provides him with some moral support, is basically expendable. King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santora) is enigmatic and visually impressive but he doesn't provide a worthy or interesting adversary for Leonidas.

Where 300 differs from truly rousing period action movies -- like Braveheart or Gladiator -- is that you don't care much about anyone in the film, save Leonidas. If you don't care much about the characters, you're not going to feel anything when they slay an enemy or get slain themselves. Ultimately, 300 is stylish and action-filled but it feels empty and soulless.

Trivia: According to an interview with, Director Zack Snyder says that fighting styles and formations (particularly the Spartan's phalanx) were purposefully changed - making them historically inaccurate - so they'd "look cool" and work better for movie purposes. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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