Jingoistic Martial Values
Release Date: March 09, 2007
Starring: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey,
David Wenham, and Dominic West
Genre: War Movie/Historical Epic
Audience: Older teenagers and adults
Runtime: 117 minutes
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Director: Zack Snyder
Executive Producer: Deborah Snyder, Frank Miller,
Craig J. Flores, Thomas Tull,
William Fay, and Benjamin
Producer: Gianni Nunnari, Mark Canton,
Bernie Goldman, and Jeffrey
Writer: Zack Snyder, Kurt Johnstad and
Michael B. Gordon
Address Comments To:Barry M. Meyer, Chairman/CEO
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
4000 Warner Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91522-0001
Phone: (818) 954-6000
The movie opens with Leonidas as a little baby being inspected at the edge of a cliff to see whether he should be thrown away or allowed to remain and grow up a Spartan. The camera lingers over the skulls and bones of babies who had been thrown over the cliff. The narrator, whom the audience meets as one of the soldiers later in the movie, describes how little Leonidas is taught to be a true Spartan. Leonidas engages in battles with a powerful adult Spartan at a very young age. Leonidas is bloodied and whipped until he no longer responds to pain. Hauled off from his mother as a young child, Leonidas is raised in a militaristic environment and eventually sent out as a teenager to face the wolves. He survives by forcing the wolf to pursue him down a narrow passage, where the wolf gets caught, so Leonidas can kill him.
Leonidas grows up to be the King of Sparta. When King Xerxes of Persia's ambassadors come to ask Leonidas to submit to Xerxes, Leonidas tells the ambassadors that Spartans are free and then he kills the ambassadors. The Spartan men and women are a good-looking, well-endowed people, whereas Xerxes and his ambassadors are asexual, transsexual, perverse, grotesque, and repulsive.
It is revealed that one of the leaders of the Spartan Council has been paid off by Xerxes to turn the council against Leonidas. Furthermore, the ruling ephors, a debauched bunch of old men who delight in ravishing the most beautiful women in Sparta, tell Leonidas not to fight the Persians. Since Leonidas must obey the ruling ephors, he cannot take the Spartan army to war. As a clever alternative, he recruits the 300 top Spartan warriors and heads off to Thermopylae, where he plans to confront Xerxes’ million-man army and fight them in a narrow pass that gives the Spartans advantage.
On the battlefield, the Spartans are superb military strategists and decimate many Persians, including the king’s famed immortals. Xerxes eventually tempts an outcast Spartan hunchback with an orgy that features lesbian sex so that the hunchback will reveal a secret passageway through the mountains so Xerxes can surround the Spartans. The Spartans believe that the greatest thing that can happen to you is to die in battle, so their death is a victory. The history of this battle is well known.
Based on a graphic novel by Frank Miller, the creator of SIN CITY, 300 is very dramatic, emotional and spectacular. A few people in the audience left early because of the carnage. The people who stayed cheered at the end. This is a very ultra-violent movie. The few dramatic scenes of spurting blood in earlier movies like the WILD BUNCH become a torrent of blood and guts, decapitations and mutilations in 300.
The story is actually very militaristically right wing. The Spartans are good-looking people. The enemy is a bunch of perverse-looking Persians. The message is clear, it's better to fight them than have them come and destroy us. If it weren't for the excessive blood and sex, 300 could be used as a recruiting movie for Iraq and possible Iran, modern Persia. The messages are not obtuse. They are clear and consistent.
That said, there are few Judeo-Christian virtues in 300. The Spartans see the world as a humanist, materialistic place, and divine judgment seems far from their minds. The vivid, licentious sex scenes alone could fill a couple issues of contemporary pornographic magazines. And, did I mention the blood, which flows all the way to the credits and splatters up against the screen?
It should be noted that 300 is based on the vain imaginings of Frank Miller's graphic novel, not on history. One could spend a long time looking at the real Sparta of history. In Sparta, men and women did not live together like they do in the movie. Men lived in barracks, and marriage was purely a means to propagate. The family unit in the movie did not exist in Sparta. Ancient was communalistic in the extreme and very “spartan.” Men ate simple food. The Spartans did not like book learning. They looked down on the Athenians. They had two kings, not one as in the movie. They had two deliberative councils. They had slaves, who were consistently oppressed and reviled. And, so forth and so on. Their society was so rigid that it atrophied over time. Sparta would make Stalin’s Soviet Union look like a free society.
That said, the Battle of Thermopylae is one of the great turning points in history. The Greeks came into their own after the battle, and Western history, culture, and religion developed. The Persians won but were ultimately defeated. There are elements of the first great Greek historian Herodotus' perspective in the movie. He saw the Persians as decadent and the Spartans as free, but beyond that, 300 is revisionist history, more of a comic book than anything else. However, children will think that it's history and that's always distressing. Americans know so little history that we are infected by these false visions of the past.
300 is a very ultra-violent movie. The few scenes of spurting blood in other violent movies become a torrent of blood and guts, decapitations and mutilations. There are few Judeo-Christian virtues in 300. The worldview is very militaristic and humanist. Religion is dismissed and despised. The movie also contains extreme sexual content.