Directed by Zack Snyder and released to cinemas in late 2006, ‘300’ is the extreme telling of the ‘Battle of Thermopylae’, an ancient battle that saw ‘Leonidas I – King of Sparta’, lead three-hundred of his finest warriors to fight against ‘Xerxes’ and his unrelenting ‘Persian’ army, ‘The Immortals’.
Perhaps one of the most imitated and parodied properties of the 2000s due to its intensity, 300 was a film that put Snyder on map in Hollywood. Its unique fore-ground blurred style, matched with a neutral colour palette, sets the stage for the Spartans’ bright crimson capes just as much the blood that is continuously drawn. Such a violent film from beginning to end, it is safe to say this not an intended experience for the faint of heart. For those who can stomach the gore however, and have somewhat an interest in Ancient Greece, will and most likely already do enjoy this film. Gerard Butler plays Leonidas, a ferocious, yet intelligent king, who’s passion for Sparta and his wife ‘Queen Gorgo’ (Lena Headey) is like nothing you’ve ever seen. His strong example unites the Spartan warriors and wider society under the one guiding law. Spartans never surrender, never retreat and never show mercy. Butler’s great level of enthusiasm for his regal character truly sold this level of passion to audiences, whilst also paving the way for newcomers such as Michael Fassbender (who played ‘Stelios’) and experienced performers alike such as Dominic West (‘Theron’), David Wenham (‘Dilios’) and Vincent Regan (‘Captain’), to portray their larger-than-life characters with intensity without appearing too ridiculous.
Arguably what this film is most remembered and beloved for, is the stylised killing. Amounting to an enormous death toll, 300 wastes little time before spilling blood across the heavily CGI’d screen. The battles are brutal and make use of many ancient weapons such as spears, shields and even weaponised elephants at one point in the film. The close-quarter combat sequences are fantastic and great fun to watch, a true credit to those involved in the movie’s stunts; just as much as the actors who bring to life the Spartan warriors with so much physicality and grit in their own movement and expressions. Similar to the performances, the film’s scale is also over-the-top, yet it fits to the style Snyder went for. Gargantuan fights deserve expansive battlefields, and that is exactly what’s delivered with the film’s use of CGI. Although dated now and perhaps even a little lacklustre at the time when comparing it to films that came before it, including ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Matrix’ trilogies, the technology does a solid job in painting the fantastical ancient world of Greece. These imageries play host to a mostly coherent story, one that does suffer from pacing issues but overall is enjoyable to watch unfold, again largely thanks to the enthusiasm of the cast.
Although 300 is not as visually spectacular as films that came before it and certainly films years later, this Ancient Greek epic wowed audiences in 2006 with its bold style, interesting premise and dramatic characters. Having only spawned the one disappointing sequel in 2014 with ‘300: Rise of an Empire’, it is unlikely that we’ll ever see the 300 franchise evolve into anything more; however it is comforting to know that this original film’s great action and energy will ensure many replays across the future. If you’ve been reluctant to see this movie for the last fourteen years, why not take a chance on it. You just might like the carnage.
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