[extropy-chat] FWD [fantasticreality] 300 - Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C.

Terry Colvin fortean1 at mindspring.com
Tue Mar 13 04:05:13 UTC 2007

-----Forwarded Message----- 

>From an another ML. 

Best, Kevin the hapless french guy 

----- Original Message ----- 

Lets see where to begin. I am a history major, soon to be an MA in history and I have always loved war movies. Yes I know very strange for a woman. Shouldnt we be worried about the latest gear from Chanel and what color to paint the bathroom? But alas some of us can do both. One of those women is moi. 

Anyway: The movie does not follow the historical accounts of Herodotus and other Greek historians. It follows Frank Miller's graphic novel. Now some here can snicker. Snicker all you want. The vision Miller had for 300 came from a moment of clarity he had while being on the same ground Leonidas fought with his men. He took it back with him and wrote the book. To Miller, Thermopolae and Leonidas stand with his ragged 300 was the saving moment for everything great about the west and who we are. Their stand did not merely save democracy, it saved a place where Alexander could ride his great Bucephales at the head of an army that to this day still staggers the imagination and Hellenize the world. It saved things like Homer, Ovid and Virgil. It saved things like Aristophanes, and Plato, Socrates and Sappho. That battle preserved a small town in the Italian hills above the River Tiber that would one day realize glory no Spartan could imagine and that city was called Rome, her armies oweing their toughness and discipline to their Spartan forebearers. 

That battle saved Christianity and created a place where Michelangelo, and Leonardo could create the greatest masterpiences the world has ever known. And what of England? What sorts of literature and heroism would have come from that Island had their been no Greece civilization, no Rome? And without England, there would have been no adventerous men to sail west with nothing more than a dream and a power to create something that truly exemplifies what the west and our culture is all about, The United States of America. We are not a Democracy, but a representative republic. But the spirit of freemen standing to fight tyranny be it against a god king like Xerxes, or against a tyrannical terrorist king hiding in a cave in the hills between Afghanistan and Pakistan is still the same. There are turning points in history, moments when an entire world can go one way or another forever and the Spartans at the Hot Gates was a historical turning point. That Victor Davis Hanson gave this film his blessing speaks volumes to me. 

SPOILER if you have not seen 300 read no further. 

Now about the film itself. It was violent and bloody. But I don't bother with violence at a war movie. I never flinched not once except for a decapitation that made me shudder a little. What I liked was the feeling that it was on location and it wasn't. That the CGI was so good that you never noticed it. You were in Sparta, at the Hot Gates, in Xerxes encampment. There was no feeling of artificiality. The set drew you into that world. 

Then there is the story itself. It moved along, you were never bored or tired even though one pock marked teeny bopper girl whined about the talky parts. I could tell her brain was sending out flat lines. The battle plot line was systematic and unrelenting. There is a moment, when Leonidas turns his head and the gleam in his eyes was that of a lion. You knew that the Persians were coming yet again that the boys would have no respite and come the Persians did. And the Persians paid a high price again. The relationships between Leonidas and his men is something else that seemed fresher than the usual offering we get: Tom Hanks listening to his troops whining. It actually, I have to say considering how many military men I know, seemed more realistic. Leonidas is a leader, every ounce of Gerry's ability made that clear. He is aloof, and yet accessible as all Generals must be in order to be do the job they must to protect their men, fight a battle and win a war. He has his right hand men like Delios, played by Dominic West and Captain played by Vincent Regan that know his mind completely. These men are his chiefs of staff as it were. He depends on them, he knows them, and they understand and know him. Those relationships were magnificently portrayed and like I said better than many about modern warfare. I look at Leonidas and his 300 as being a mere Battalion. Leonidas more of a Lieu. Col. rather than a General officer because its a small detachment and these are all men he knows, men he has fought with before and men he can depend on. So in other words these are his staff, he has his adjutant, his executive offier. His company and platoon commanders. And like any Lieu. Col. he is on the field fighting with his men. Facing the enemy toe to toe as is what we see now in Afghanistan and to a certain extent in Iraq. This whole sub plot of how the soldiers relate to each other is as important as any other part of the story. And like I said it's far more realistic than many modern warfare films. 

The leadership displayed by Gerry is outstanding. He said once he didn't know he had that inner lion but the lion definetly roared. I was watching him and thinking, there is a man the guys around me would follow to hell and back. And what was so great is that I think we all saw something of an epiphany in him. I believe he really stepped into a far more comfortable area of himself because of this role. He amazed me. He was Leonidas. Nothing of the lady killer, goof ball with the bad boy grin was there but this gigantic and magnificent man who was fearless, strong and a force to be reckoned with. This man would never surrender or back down. He would never kneel or bow down to anyone. Like I said this was a guy who played a disfigured genius haunting the Paris Opera in one film and a magnificent solder King fighting to protect his country, his wife and his child from tyranny. Now if you think about it that is a stretch for an actor, especially an actor with leading man looks. OK, no more hero worship. 

The relationship between Leonidas and Gorgo was amazing. It was one of the things that brought me to tears because that is something that normally isn't portrayed realistically in film. Even in We Were Soldiers, a film I loved Mel's relationship with Madeline Stowe seemed disingenuine. But this was altogether something different. The love scene (I refuse to call a husband and wife making love on screen like that in a beautiful film like this a sex scene.Xerxes and the hunchback maybe...snicker) was so beautiful. I didn't feel it was pornographic, or forced. Very natural. Very romantic and quiet. They said it took a whole day to film because of the angles etc. So what we see here is probably as much work to come out right as any of the battle scenes. All I can say is it worked. It solidified the relationship between Leonidas and Gorgo right there. Wow. And for the girls that tushy scene is worth every dime spent. WOW. WOW. WOW. 

And Gorgo herself, after Leonidas marches away to certain doom takes on a role that goes beyond what you would expect. Her speech to the council was powerful and her actions when Theron screws her over are justified. She does what she has to to help her husband, and protect him. People always seem to dis the roles that military wives play but Gorgo is the epitomy of the military wife. She takes care of what's at home. She does what is nessasary and she is as strong as her husband is. She has to be. As she said Spartan women give birth to real men. She knows what is expected. Protect his back. Take care of him at home while he takes on the Persian vulture at the gates. Her bargining, her deal making its all understandable. She knows what she has to say, her words are inspired. But she is also naive and when she realizes the deal she made with Theron is broken she does again what she has to and proves he is a coward, a cheat and a traitor. 

Rodrigo Santoro was unrecognizable as Xerxes. He was neither man nor woman but this ambisexual being that could pull a person in and repel them all at the same time. He did a great job capturing that bizarre character trait. When one first sees him one thinks: Now I have finally seen a person who could set off an air port metal detector from 85 feet away. He frankly grossed me out. I know thats the way that Miller protrayed him, all piercings and bald, like Tutankamun on red bull or some freaky 80s punk rocker and I know what Xerxes sort of did look like, think Ahmadinajad with an afro and a beard. However for the movie the bald, shim look works. It makes you understand just where Xerxes sits in his own mind as well as the people he controls. But be prepared to shudder the moment you see him. 

Why do I think Zack Snyder is a genius. So here we go: Lets just say I wasn't distracted by the CGI. I never felt like it was fake. I was pulled in by what he put up there on the screen. I was pulled into the story and the flow of it. There were no moments when I said what's going on or where is he going with this? There were two things that bothered me. The Rhino and the Elephants. He could have cut those scenes and the movie would not have changed. Of course it was cool watching the Elephants fall off the cliff. The other wierd monsterous beings were a bit much but they do add to the mystique that the Persians felt themselves invinceable and that mere sight of their terrorizing monstrosities would make Leonidas and his 300 flee. None of that Made any sense in historical context but again one cannot let themselves be weighed down by historical knowledge with a film like this. One has to walk in and suspend reality for two hours. Its part mythology and part history and part lesson of what it takes to be a free man walking the earth. 

So thats my review. Yes I loved this movie. I go beyond Harrys recommendation and give it 4 stars. Because its what movies are supposed to be about. It is what Hollywood has lost. And its what I think a few rogue film makers are recapuring. I say God speed all of them.

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Terry W. Colvin
Sierra Vista, Arizona

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