Battle of Thermopylae Revisited in Alamo-Like War Epic
In mid-September of 480 BC, a force of 300 Spartans, led by King Leonidas (Gerard Butler), along with 700 Thespians volunteers, defended Greece against a massive horde of marauders from Persia at the epic Battle of Thermopylae. Though badly outnumbered by adversaries whose strength was said to be in the hundreds of thousands, the Greeks made one of the most famous last stands in the annals of military engagements, right up there along with Custer’s and The Alamo.
Leonidas’ ingenious strategy was to station his soldiers at the narrowest point of the road through the treacherous terrain the Persians would have to pass in order to conquer the federation of city-states. As a consequence of this cleverly-conceived tactic, his small, but determined army could not be quickly overwhelmed.
In fact, it managed to hold the thundering herd at bay for three days, exacting a heavy toll on rival King Xerxes’ (Rodrigo Santoro) troops in the process. And the only reason that the Persians even prevailed that quickly was because a local yokel named Ephialtes (Andrew Tiernan) turned traitor, and pointed out a path through the mountains, thus, allowing the enemy to attack the front lines from behind.
Although the ill-fated Spartans fought to the death, they were nonetheless credited with saving the day, because they created a delay which enabled Athens to prevail ultimately against the savage invaders. Perhaps more significantly, historians generally agree that had Greece fallen, the course of Western Civilization would have been irreversibly altered, since it was considered to be the gateway to a Persian conquest of all of Europe.
The 300 Spartans (1962) was the first full-length feature to pay tribute to Leonidas and his loyalists for sacrificing their lives, and now Hollywood has again decided to revisit the classic standoff with another action adventure. 300 was written and directed by Zach Snyder, whose last offering, another remake, Dawn of the Dead (2004), landed on this critic’s Annual 10 Best List.
This picture is based on the graphic comic book series of the same name written and illustrated by Frank Miller, who also happens to have created Sin City (2005). Not surprisingly, then, 300, shares Sin’s unapologetically sadistic bent, littering the screen with scads of computer-generated sprays and spurting of blood with every stab in the chest, chop of a limb and hacking off of a head. Such an incessant assault on the senses is clearly designed with the Joystick Generation in mind, those video gamers raised on wave after wave of grisly displays of gratuitous dismemberment.
But before the vivisection can start, there’s the obligatory mythology lesson during which Leonidas learns from a topless Oracle (Kelly Craig) that souls as black as Hell are approaching and that he will only be able to save either himself or his homeland. Then, after accepting a good luck charm from his gorgeous Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey), he bids her adieu, knowing full well that the talisman will be of no use, given his overriding sense of patriotism.
A monochromatic, testosterone-sodden cross of Gladiator and Sin City strictly for the bloodlust demographic.
Good (2 stars)
Rated R for sexuality, nudity, and relentless graphic battle sequences.
Running time: 117 minutes
Studio: Warner Brothers