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300 (R)
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Okay, so... I'm sure there are a number of categories where I could've put this review, most obviously "comic book movies," since it was based on a graphic novel... although one I never read, and which isn't exactly in the super-hero genre. (It's by Frank Miller, who's written a number of comic books that've been made into movies.) I originally put my review under "action/adventure," later moved it to "badass," and later still moved it to "war movies" (a category I didn't have until much more recently, but which I thought I'd probably put this review in if I did have one, so... now I do). Oh, I should also mention the movie is directed by Zack Snyder, who also directed Watchmen, and the movies clearly share a certain cinematic sensibility.

Anyway, the movie (and the comic book) is based on the historical Battle of Thermopylae, in which 300 Spartans, led by King Leonidas (Gerard Butler), held off the Persian army of the "god-king" Xerxes, who commanded, like, hundreds of thousands of soldiers. Which is certainly an inspiring story, and quite impressive, even given the terrain advantage the Spartans had. But I have to say, the movie starts out by giving us an idea of what it's like to be Spartan, and while it makes for some understandably awesome soldiers, I can't say it endeared the culture to me. On the other hand, Sparta was just one part of Greece, and I suppose just because I (strongly) disapprove of certain traditions of the Spartans, doesn't mean they didn't serve a useful purpose for the country as a whole, of which I generally do approve. More importantly, the Persians are presented as much worse, as Xerxes's soldiers are all slaves, apparently. In fact, as far as I could ascertain from the movie, Xerxes saw pretty much everyone on the planet as a slave, even if he did offer some of them positions of power. Also, their society is presented much more hedonistically than Spartan society. So basically, we can root for the Spartans because they represent "freedom."

I should say that the 300 were just a small part of the Spartan army, but there was a reason the whole army didn't go to face the Persians. I don't want to get into that in detail, but basically, Leonidas was breaking one of his country's (unreasonable) laws by going to war (in this instance). I should also say that the 300 were joined by a larger group of Arcadians, though they weren't professional soldiers, so they're really not quite as useful as the smaller number of Spartans. Meanwhile, back in Sparta, Leonidas's wife, Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey), tries to sway the council to go against their laws, and send the rest of the army to fight the Persians. (Though even then, the Greeks would still be vastly outnumbered.)

Well, the battles were pretty exciting (and gory), and filmed mostly in a rather stylized, comic-booky fashion, with lots of slo-mo, almost Matrix-y shots. So it was pretty cool, I guess. There was also a bit of humor, which I enjoyed. And I did like Leonidas's brash and defiant attitude. It's always fun to see someone refuse to treat a self-proclaimed god like a god. Especially if the dude is as imposing as Xerxes. Seriously, that guy was big. Like, really hard to believe (he reminded me of Dr. Manhattan). But perhaps it's fitting, because almost any animals you see in the movie (from the wolf at the beginning to the elephants and such employed by the Persians) seemed to me to be bigger than such animals would be in real life. Also there were unbelievable people... I mean, a few monsters, almost like ogres or something. Plus a hunchback with a much more pronounced and grotesque hunch than your average hunchback would have. Honestly, this is more like a fantasy epic than a historical epic. Still... like I said, cool battles, humor, camaraderie, and also some fanservice for dudes (including both an oracle girl and, more importantly, Queen Gorgo), and a ton for chicks (pretty much every Spartan male). Though I'm afraid I never really remembered most of the characters' names while watching the movie... in fact I think the only ones I ever really had fixed in my head were Leonidas and Xerxes. There was a captain, who was a friend of Leonidas, and the captain's son, and surely a few other important soldiers, including the one who narrated the entire movie. But I never really learned to remember their names or their faces. Anyway, I did enjoy the very end of the movie, which was a crowning moment of awesome (actually, the whole movie is made of such moments, which I think kind of dilutes their value). But for the most part, I thought the movie was just sort of okay, and not something I need to ever see again.

There's a sequel called "300: Rise of an Empire," which I have no particular interest in seeing.

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