MOVIE REVIEW ★★★ ½ The Epitome of Epic
'300' a Mix of Violence, Gore, and Gratuitous Nudity
Directed by Zach Snyder
Written by Zach Snyder and Kurt Johnstad
Starring: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, and Dominic West
300 is like watching low budget pornography: you know that it's terrible and generally degrading to the human race, but you can't help loving it. A lot.
300 is the most epic of rampages, featuring more testosterone than the lovechild of a Superbowl party and a WWE title match. It is kick-you-in-the-tonsils violent, blending the brutal drama of Gladiator with all the viciousness of Quentin Tarantino's films. Movie theaters showing it should be required to hand out diapers when you buy your ticket. The oodles of combat sequences leave absolutely nothing to be desired: they are exciting, enthralling, and generally satisfy every repressed urge that we have accumulated in a society that discourages poking holes in one another with sharp sticks. 300 is nothing if not a reminder of simpler times, when men and women stood, fought, and died for their beliefs, and everybody had a perfect six-pack.
Based on a graphic novel of the same name, the film describes one of the greatest moments in human history: the Battle of Thermopylae. Ancient historians tell of a battle where a handful of Greeks, notably some 300 Spartans, sacrificed themselves to delay an army of hundreds of thousands of Persian invaders. 300 follows two main plot lines: one at Thermopylae, the other back in Sparta. The majority of the movie tracks the exploits of the warriors headed by King Leonidas as they brutally attack their Persian enemies. The rest of the film focuses on Leonidas' wife Gorgo, as she struggles to convince the Spartan council (led by the corrupt politician Theron) to send aid to her beleaguered husband. There's nothing like a little betrayal to make the good guys seem better, and 300 is no movie to miss an opportunity to make the stakes even more ridiculous.
But these grand historical backdrops are just icing on the cake to the amazing visuals that the film presents. Saying that 300 is "violent" is like saying Bambi is lame; sure it's true, but it doesn't even begin to scratch the surface. The scenes and textures in 300 were digitally enhanced, so one gets a great glimpse of every dismembered limb as it flies off at an angle which the first day of 8.01 could have told you is impossible. The film also cleverly intersperses slow-motion sequences with real time action, giving a nice long view of every gory impalement while skipping over the boring parts, like jumping over Persian corpses. Even more than the Mars landing or the internet, 300 illustrates the true wonders of modern computing: showing exactly what a severed head looks like as it lofts through the air in slow motion.
As an added bonus (and to use those delightful computer-enhanced graphics further), 300 features more unnecessary nudity than I've seen since my last spring break. The Spartans, it seems, were big fans of Speedos. There is nary a scene lacking in copious amounts of exposed flesh — it really does seem that you can't spell "epic" without a "pec." Just to break up the monotony of this nonstop Bowflex infomercial, 300 mercifully includes a plethora of topless women — indeed, no female character with a speaking role goes fully clothed for the duration of the film.
300 does suffer from some flaws, however. A screenplay composed of 90 percent combat and 9.9 percent gratuitous nudity doesn't leave much room for character development, and like a streamlined stealth fighter, 300 dispenses with all unnecessary encumbrances such as meaningful dialogue. Besides Leonidas, Gorgo, Theron and Xerxes, there are virtually no speaking parts, and I confess that I didn't even catch the names of most of the other characters, although that might have been the awesomeness of the fight sequences blasting extraneous details from my brain. Moreover, the film is far from historically accurate — just in case there was any doubt as to who the "good guys" are, the Persian army contains any number of unrealistic baddies, such as a rhino and an executioner who looks like Jabba Chainsaw-Hands. While this detracts a bit from the film — the story was dramatic enough already — what good action movie couldn't use an armor-plated rhino?
All in all, seeing 300 is a more than worthwhile investment of time. Everything about it shrieks "epic." The Spartans, vastly outnumbered yet fighting for the right to freedom, democracy, puppy dogs, and candy-canes, defend their homeland from evil invaders representing tyranny and oppression. 300 is a reverse mirror that shows our modern society the things that we lack: the courage to stand up for our ideals, the strength to defend our families, and perfect bodies to bare at every possible moment. Go see it.