Friday, March 16, 2007

300


Historically based films aren’t the most exciting. We all know this, especially during the Holy Week, when we experience that same old same old feeling watching movie line-ups on TV.

I was expecting that same old feeling when I went to watch the movie 300, the present big screen adaptation of King Leonidas and his 300 men. I am pleased to say I was wrong.
Sure the story went on – for the most part – as it has always been written in books and shown on the Discovery Channel. 

King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) of Sparta went to battle against the Persians barely having an army. The Persian army, who legends say, numbered a million; capable of drinking “rivers dry”; and can unleash waves of arrows that can “block out the sun.” 

Normally, mere word of the potential of the Persian army was enough to threaten nations into slavery, without so much of a fight. Leonidas, however, had deaf ears. Without a second thought, he called for war but because of a festival he could only assemble 300 men; a number far below than what was needed. 

Only 300 men. It wasn’t a war, but suicide. For most people fighting would be pointless, but not for Spartans who value a glorious death; and especially not for a king who has seen his people threatened. 

But it was not too hopeless because King Leonidas had the perfect defensive position in his favor. With the help of huge mountain walls forming a small pass called the Hot Gates, and conscripts from neighboring Greek cities he made a fight out of it. The Hot Gates provided a bottle-neck, which neutralized the Persian numbers, making them move in formations small enough for the Greek army. 

Results were impressive because the Greek army lasted for three days. As inevitable as the setting of the sun, the third day saw the numbers of the Persians bearing fruit as the Greek army were showing signs of fatigue. What really clinched the day for Persia was the traitor Ephialtes who lead the Persians through a secret pass around the Greek formation. 

Robbed of the advantage that has served them for days the conscripts retreated; Leonidas and the Spartans stayed – dead to the last man.

Whether the story is accurate or not, films of this sort do not have the luxury of new twists and new endings. What surprised me is that I left Greenbelt 3 (where I watched) feeling relatively energized. 

The cause for the energy spurt can be credited to the cinematography. Watching it gives you a feeling that you are watching moving paintings. The style tries to emulate much of the graphic novel of Frank Miller. It was a visual treat.

Perhaps also inspired from Miller, hero and villain had distinct physical differences. Heroes were the epitome of Greek physiology; with washboard abs and everything. The villains were either hideous or beautifully satanic in their looks. Perhaps to illustrate his divinity the Persian king Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) even sounded like a ghoul from Stargate SG1.

Overall 300 is not a movie that requires much thinking to watch. History wise it is not accurate, but then I don’t always watch movies for the mental exercise. Movies are, above all else, a form of entertainment. For that 300 was a complete success.