In a deleted scene of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Faramir (played by David Wenham) looks at a dead Easterling (Eastern mercenaries hired by the villain Sauron) and muses to a fellow warrior, “The enemy? His sense of duty was no less than yours. Do you wonder what his name is? Where he came from? If he was really evil at heart? What lies or threats led him on this long march from home, if he would not rather have stayed there, in peace?”
In 300, David Wenham plays a badass Spartan who suffers from no such crises of conscience. In the world of 300, the only good Easterner is a dead Easterner.
300 can be best described as a mixture of Braveheart and Gladiator. The essence of 300 seems to be contained in a statement by King Leonidas (Gerard Butler): “The world will know that few stood against many.” And that’s pretty much the long and short of it—a small number of troops fights a larger number of troops. Curtain.
I’m a sucker for last stands. For my money, nothing beats Jeff Daniels’ cry for bayonets and the subsequent charge down Little Round Top in Gettysburg, though the last charge of Aragorn and Theoden at Helm’s Deep in the aforementioned Two Towers comes close. Yet, while 300 is arguably all last stand, it somehow left me cold.
There’s a well-remembered scene in Gladiator where Maximus (Russell Crowe), having already defeated a foe by sticking two swords in the chest, pulls out the swords and slices the enemy’s head off. It’s a vicious, gory moment, and when I saw it in the theater, plenty of people cheered. Not because they hated the guy and wanted him to die a gory death, but for the badass-ness of it, the cleverness of it, the sheer rush of the move. I remember being a bit taken aback. But what I like about Gladiator is that, in the next moment, Maximus turns to the bloodthirsty crowd (who have been shocked into silence by the disappointingly swift fight) and shouts, in disgust, “Are you not entertained?”
Take that moment where Maximus cuts off the guy’s head, extend it to an hour and a half, remove the subsequent admonishment and you have 300.
I did enjoy the boss fight with the giant monster, but I was uncertain whether the film was accurate in depicting the Persians as having mastered nuclear fission at that point in history and, thus, generating atomic mutants as a by-product.
But I kid Frank Miller and Zak Snyder! 300 is an astonishing spectacle.
The History Channel ran a two-hour special coordinated with the release of “300”. If it is still running, it would be well worth DVRing and watching. While much of the “300” takes poetic license, it does not veer off as much as you may think. After two hours, the History Channel special concludes that a very strong and reasoned argument can be made that without the stand of the “300”, democracy might well have never survived, and Western Civilization as we have come to know it would not exist. I am leaving out a lot of analysis and documentation, but suffice to say, I hada greater appreciation for the “300” having watched the special on the History Channel. Poetic license…for sure..there were no abs to be seen..the Greek Hoplites wore a woven garment that was likened to today’s kevlar and gave ahuge advantage to the Greeks wearing it…they never broke ranks out of the Phalanx until the very end of the battle when they were finally surrounded…they built no wall of Persian dead…there was a pitched battle at sea with the Greeks surprise victors that prevented teh Persians from trying another landing behind the Greeks…Xerxes had a full head of hair and a beard and was not that close to teh battle…the Persians used no horses, rhinos or elephants. They couldn’t fit them or maneuver in the narrow pass…there were other momenst as well, but, again, the plot is pretty straight-forward and teh accomplishment needed no embellishment… without those “300”, you might not be sitting there today reading this blog…
I’m not trying to take away anything from the historical Spartan 300, who did indeed achieve both a strategic and symbolic victory. And I’ll be sure to check out the History Channel special.
I do wonder how an adaptation of Steven Pressfield’s Gates of Fire would have differed from 300.
@Ronster: In regards to that History channel doc, did they happen to mention if Xerxes has a really smoking harem tent stocked with the finest lipstick lesbos* money could buy? If not, and that was all the invention of Miller and/or Snyder, then I am adding one more Ebert Head to my score. Those guys are frickin’ geniuses.
*I’m not being crude nor crass. This flick is set in Ancient Greece so every single chica in that tent could have been fresh from the Greek Isle of Lesbos.
**At JFCC – You’re welcome for the lipstick lesbos reference. I’m sure I just boosted your Google-directed traffic a hundred fold.
Thanks, Ed. Thanks.
Well, since Gates of Fire is more history, and less mythology, I have to presume that a movie based on it would have been a hell of a lot more accurate.
Gates of Fire is awesome, for the record.
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