review: The 300

I went to see “The 300” tonight at a sold out theater in Manhattan. The movie is based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller, which I managed to read just an hour or so before the movie.

The primary things I want to say about the film are:

  • Stylistically, it is very much like the graphic novel. In fact, a very many scenes are almost exactly what I imagined when I read the novel. This is a good thing. Lots of beautifully bloody and bad-ass slow-motion battle shots.
  • They made up some battle scenes with big ogrey guys for the movie. No problems here.
  • Oddly, the massive amounts of violence didn’t bother me much. However,
    there were a few scenes where they went a bit too far.
  • There’s not a whole lot of story in either the book or the movie. However, there’s more in the movie than the book. Primarily, the filmmakers added a side story about Leonidas’ wife (Leonidas being the king, the main character). They also added a political agenda: discourse along the lines of “freedom isn’t free”, “support the troops”, “finish the job”, “congress sucks for opposing the increase of troops in Iraq”.. well they obviously didn’t say that last bit but they might as well have. This particularly bothered me because I felt it subtracted significantly from Frank Miller’s original portrayal of the reason, freedom, and justice pose struck by the Spartans.
  • (minor spoiler) One interesting detail conspicuously missing from the movie: in the book, when Ephialtes, the betrayer, finds out by speaking with the king that he is not worthy of being a Spartan warrior, he jumps off a cliff in an effort to kill himself. He does not quite die, and then drags himself to his feet again to perform his betrayal. In the film, he does not try to kill himself at all–he instead immediately turns bitter and gets the idea to betray the Spartans. I thought the suicide was an important illustration of the depth of the warrior Spartan image. I’m not sure why it was left out–perhaps because they wanted to make Ephialtes more clearly a badguy.

In conclusion, I have to say that the made up plot points and political agenda turned me off significantly to what could have been a truly original and fine piece of work. Read the graphic novel; I felt that part was a valuable experience. Stay away from the film, or at least wait until it’s netflixed. It doesn’t deserve your $10.

2 thoughts on “review: The 300”

  1. Did you ever see Sin City? I haven’t read the graphic novel, but i loved the movie — also very violent, and very stylistically like a comic book.

  2. Yep, I saw it. I was bothered more by Sin City because the violence kinda seemed like it had no point (either that or I just missed the point). In The 300, the comic book, there’s this whole righteous reason the Spartans are fighting, and that makes the violence easier for me to take. Unfortunately the movie spoiled some of the righteousness for me.

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